The Essential Companion to Your To Do List: A To-Don't List

Good words from Dan Pink.

Here’s a key paragraph:

“It is the discipline to discard what does not fit – to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort – that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.”

Now, one qualification. I’ve seen people do this wrong — incredibly, horribly, terribly wrong.

The point is not about merely subtracting things. Some people get on this bandwagon and start chopping away, thinking they are being disciplined. They aren’t.

You need to get rid of the right things.

Lack of discipline is not merely doing a lot of things. It’s doing a lot of things outside of your hedgehog concept — the intersection of what you’re passionate about, what you can do with excellence, and (for organizations) what drives your resource engine.

I’ve seen people cut out a lot of great things that were inside their organization’s hedgehog concept and which there was staffing for, and the organization suffered. These people just didn’t know what they were doing. They got a hold of an important management concept, but they didn’t understand it rightly, and so misused it — to the organization’s detriment.

It is valuable to have a lot of things going on — as long as they are inside your hedgehog concept. The key to discipline is to stop doing the things that are outside of the overlap of those three circles.

  • Loren Pinilis

    I cringed at first when reading the title of the article: “Why we all need a ‘To Don’t’ List, just like Moses.” So often, pop culture makes Christianity out to be all about drudgery and prohibitions.
    But when I thought about it, it’s actually a really great comparison. God gives us commandments of what not to do so that we will do something that is better. It’s the same with this not-to-do list.