10 Things We Don’t Do That Help Us Get Our Important Tasks Done

Oftentimes, the little things we choose not to do are what help us ultimately accomplish the most important tasks.

Nata Bene/ Shutterstock
Nata Bene/ Shutterstock

When we talk about productivity, we typically lean into tips and tricks that help us cross everything off our to-do lists. But oftentimes, the little things we don’t do are what help us ultimately accomplish the most important tasks. 

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the things they don’t do that helps them get the important things done. Which of these will you give up?

Checking email in the morning

“I no longer check email as my first task of the day. I find that it is an instant focus killer, as reading email sweeps your mind off course. Instead, I use the first hour of my working day to plan, read, or review something that is important for me to progress. It makes a huge difference to my productivity and has an impact that lasts throughout the day.”

—Beverly Landais, certified coach, Tunbridge Wells, U.K.

Always saying yes

“One thing I don’t do to help me get important tasks done is say ‘yes’ to everything. I don’t overschedule, and I know how to place the items into my schedule. For example, I know that if a task is related to my writing, I do it best before 5:00 p.m. I also know if it is an interview or something related to my outreach, I only do those things three or four times per week. If it relates to coaching, I accept less than a handful of new clients a month. This helps me stay organized and productive.”

—Kristin Meekhof, author and wellness coach, Royal Oak, MI

Overcrowding our calendars

“I purposefully do not over-schedule my time. I plan my workweek with appointments and commitments first, then add high-level tasks. I do not fill up every 15-minute segment with a task or a to-do. Everything always takes more time than you think it will. And, having this space on my schedule gives me mental breathing room to avoid panic and anxiety or feeling hurried and harried, which interferes with tackling the important tasks. 

—Francine Tone, appellate attorney, CA

Rushing from place to place

“I’ve stopped rushing. I find it stresses me out, so I like to get everywhere super early and sit calmly in a reception area while I await the meeting to start. I always take the earlier train so that I’m not stressed if there are any delays. I’ve also stopped scheduling things back-to-back. All these steps contribute to a sense of well-being, helping me stay productive around the most important things that matter:  relationships, clients, health, and my work.”

—Fiona Parashar, leadership coach, U.K.

Obsessing over our schedules

“I organize my day in advance, but I don’t think too much about it after initially planning it out. This helps me avoid getting worked up by constantly looking at the schedule. I create a plan only to get clarity as to how much I can do in a day. My mantra to get the most important tasks done is ‘plan, but don’t obsess.’”

—Aakriti Agarwal, organizational psychologist and coach, Hyderabad, India

Seeing everything as a priority 

“I used to equate productivity with checking off as much as possible from my to-do list. However, I always felt completely burned out after each day and had nothing left to enjoy my time away from work. In the past year, I started focusing on the top two things I had to get done that day. These tasks were the ones that were either time-sensitive or something that would make the most impact on the business. Once I started focusing on my top two each day, I actually felt more accomplished at the end of each day and still had energy left in the tank.”

—Holly Fowler, health coach, Los Angeles, CA

Scrolling our social media feeds

“I don’t scroll on social media platforms anymore during the day, and that has been a game-changer for my productivity. I no longer jump on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook randomly, which means I don’t get sucked in the black hole of time.”

—Jessica Williams, career consultant, Fairfield, CA

Doing multiple things at a time

“I don’t multitask. Many of us are still filled with the false belief that there is an advantage to divided attention. When it’s time to complete a task, I close down my email and non-essential windows on my computer, and silence my phone. These actions allow me to direct my consciousness to the task at hand with a clear focus so I can put in a concentrated effort. When we choose not to multitask, we stay in the moment, increasing our decision-making, problem-solving, and creativity. After about 90 minutes of work, I notice my concentration begins to fade, so I take a quick break and then get back to the task at hand.” 

—James Petrossi, workplace wellness coach, Austin, TX

Jumping right into work in the morning

“I don’t leave my room in the morning until I go through my morning routine, which includes meditation, knowledge acquisition, and some creative work. My morning hours are the most productive for me, so I’m usually up at 4:00 a.m. and I go through my routine until I ‘emerge’ at 9:00 a.m. or so. If I’m focused, I get a solid two or three hours of deep work, and it sets my day up for success.”

—Bodam Taiwo, marketing manager, Lagos, Nigeria

Comparing ourselves 

“I no longer compare my current productivity to that of the younger me. I focus on the moments. As I’ve become more mindful of and connected to my soul’s mission, I’ve discovered that it is less about a reward and more about the precious moments of the journey accomplishing my desired goal. Living life this way has allowed me to stay focused and get the important tasks done.”

—Karen Quiros, educator and health coach, N.Y.

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