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On writing and productivity: do you have a Not-To-Do list?

I have a confession: most Monday mornings I wake up in a fog of procrastination. A wall of inertia throws itself up as soon as I open my eyes.

It’s not that I don’t love my work. Because I do. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt this excited. It seems everyone wants to write and publish a book. And Voxie Media is stirring up the secret sauce that empowers up-and-coming business authors to write, publish and promote *short* terrific eBooks.

Stay tuned for updates about new products and programs we’re launching this summer. They will range from affordable group coaching to higher-priced packages where I work with authors intensively 1-on-1.

So what’s with Monday morning inertia? In the spirit of productive procrastination I decided to consult a few of my favorite sources on the inverse topics of productivity and procrastination.

Zen blogger Leo Babauta says take one small step to get started.

Life coach Martha Beck talks about playing halvsies until your goal is ridiculously easy to attain. I.e. keep breaking your goal into smaller and smaller do-able pieces.

Publishing expert Jane Friedman uses Post-It notes to break up the week’s tasks by day.

Over on Karl Staib‘s Work Happy Now, a guest post says to Stop Ordering Yourself Around. Excellent advice – hits home for me.

But the inimitable Tim Ferriss might have the best solution for a Monday morning, whether you’re trying to write something or just get down to work. He calls it the Not-To-Do list. Similarly, Good to Great guru Jim Collins calls it a Stop Doing List.

I thought about that for a while, as it relates to Mondays, and here’s what I came up with for my personal Not To Do on Monday AMs List.

My Monday morning Not-To-Do List

  • Do not be productive. As defined by accomplishing specific tasks. Instead, schedule Monday mornings as thinking and business strategy time. That’s what I usually feel like doing. So why not go with it, instead of labeling this inclination as avoidance.
  • Do not structure your time too tightly.  Instead, revel in being unstructured for a couple of hours. Label it creative regeneration instead of time wasting.
  • Do not sit down at the *!!*!#* computer to check email. Email and how to deal with it figures prominently on Tim’s list.
  • Do not finish writing a blog post. Starting is OK. Mindmapping a new post with pencil and paper is permissible.
  • Do not spin your wheels flagellating yourself. Instead, meditate for 10 minutes or longer to clear the mind and shake off negative feelings. Google’s Chade-Meng Tan has just published a terrific book, Search Inside Yourself, that tells you exactly how to do this.

Resources

I’m reading the excellent Your Brain At Work by David Rock. It provides an understandable scientific explanation for what makes your brain distracted and then offers real life examples (using two personas, Emily and Paul) for how to be more productive.

Addendum

Check out this adorable To Do list written by a little boy. It includes “get dizzy” and “sit down.” Perfect for Monday mornings. Thanks to Pamela Slim for the link.

What’s on your Not-To-Do List?

I’d love to hear.

Photo credit: Emilie Ogez

  • nblades

    This is an excellent post and something I’ve been dealing with for quite some time now. I had never thought of developing a Not-To-Do list and really like the idea of not being “productive” and taking the time to get back into the swing of things. I will definitely be doing this next Monday. Thanks so much!

    • http://voxiemedia.com/ Debbie Weil

      Nailah,

      So glad this was helpful. Felt a little nervous about revealing my Monday morning “secret.” But figure others must be struggling with this too. Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1072808768 Ericka Hines

    This post is so great right now b/c I am really wantting to get the big project out the door. Not the nibbly one. The big one. Thanks for the reminder.

    • http://voxiemedia.com/ Debbie Weil

      Ericka, I guess “small step” To Do’s are especially helpful with big projects. I constantly have to remind myself to bite off just “the next thing” and not the whole thing. I didn’t quote Steven Pressfield on the Resistance. But I could have. Check out his great little book: Do the Work http://www.stevenpressfield.com/do-the-work/

  • http://c-c.com.au/ Jerry Crockford

    Love it! You have put some great links to substantial articles in this one. ESPECIALLY the tip from T Ferris about email. I love his ‘check it just twice a day’ rule — with an appropriate auto-responder to ‘train’ your clients. Great article. Thanks!

  • Debbie Reber

    Love it. I try not to schedule any meetings on Mondays, so I can ease into the work week and re-enter my writing life. I also don’t feel guilty for taking one of my signature naps. They’re oh so good for my body and creative muse!

    • http://voxiemedia.com/ Debbie Weil

      Debbie, I’m a huge nap fan but find I’m too hyped up during the week to take them. Love to nap on the weekends. 🙂

  • http://partybizconnect.com/ Karl Staib

    Thanks for the link! I used to be a big bully to myself, actually at times I still am. This self bullying doesn’t happen nearly as often and when I do catch myself I am much more kind and forgiving than I used to be.

    I thought that if I just had more discipline I would get a lot more work done. The thing is our emotions are a part of our work too. We have to be aware of how they effect us and how we can actually use them to be more productive.

    Improving your mindset will bring the biggest shift in improved productivity than anything else you can do.

  • http://HowToWriteBetter.net Suzan St Maur

    Oh, yes. This is me to a T. Such a good idea to ease yourself gently into the week … trouble is that feels so good, I could keep on doing it until Friday evening. Work has such an infuriating way of infiltrating into your thinking time! 😉 Thanks for the advice Debbie … really cool. xx

    • http://voxiemedia.com/ Debbie Weil

      Suze, I love that: work infiltrating into your thinking time. Says something about so much of what we label “work.”

  • Debbie N.

    On my Not-To-Do List:
    I NEVER reply to chain letters. Period. Calculating the predictions of these letters, I should probably be dead, broke, miserable and/or friendless by now, and yet, I am quite the opposite!

    I set a Do-Not-Work on the Computer time of day, after which, no matter what, I must turn off the computer. If I’m writing, I’ll use paper if it is that important.

    • http://voxiemedia.com/ Debbie Weil

      Debbie,

      Great idea. Have you tried Freedom for Mac to block Internet access via your computer? http://macfreedom.com/

  • Judy Strauss

    Do not sleep with the iPhone by my bed. Why? Because I wake up and grab it and start looking at email and spend entirely too much time answering email with my thumbs. AND do not start my day with the normal stretching and slow wake up that sets the pace for a stress free day.

    • http://voxiemedia.com/ Debbie Weil

      Judy,

      Spot on! I leave my iPhone (and iPad) downstairs in the kitchen for exactly the same reason. Email clutters and distracts the brain in a terrible way. As does too much time at the computer. Eegads – life is complicated.

  • StuckInTheStoneAge

    Interesting idea, but…remember that the subconscious mind doesn’t understand negatives.
    So:

    Do not be productive = Be productive
    Do not structure your time too tightly = Structure your time too tightly
    Do not sit down at the *!!*!#* computer to check email = Sit down at the *!!*!#* computer to check email
    Do not finish writing a blog post = Finish writing a blog post
    Do not spin your wheels flagellating yourself = Spin your wheels flagellating yourself

    You might find it more effective to find a positive way to express what you really want.
    Maybe “Do not structure your time too tightly” could be “Structure your time loosely.”

    Just an idea. I like the concept, and think it could be tweaked a bit to help you even more.

  • Mary Morel

    Not read your website at midnight. It’s too hard to go to sleep now! Such great inspirations. Thank you. Mary

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