The To-Ignore List

Last week I posted a link to Peter Bregman’s Lifehacker article on making two lists: a to-do list, and a to-ignore list. The to-ignore list is just what it sounds like: things you’re not going to spend your precious time and attention dealing with.

Phrased that way, the things on the ignore list sound like they might be clearly negative (I will ignore Facebook during the day; I will not get sucked into my colleague’s drama). But Bregman hinted at something else in his line “What are you willing not to achieve?” This is a very different issue. Because part of being focused on certain goals means you may need to release other very good ideas that could consume your time as well.

Some of these achievements are easy to let go. I’m pretty sure I will never be elected president of a country or win an Olympic medal. I am OK with that. But what about within the writing realm? What am I willing to let go of there? I enjoy reading certain publications that I would be OK with never writing for. Would I be willing to never have a novel published? That I’m not so sure I would — which is giving me a kick to keep going on a manuscript even as I’m trying to hawk the non-fiction that I know has a more available market.

While it sounds a bit morbid to think of things you’re willing not to have in your obituary, in the long run I think it’s smart. It frees up energy for the things you will include. 

What are you willing not to achieve? (by the way, I don’t intend this as an anti-having-it-all post in the sense that I define it “all” as a fulfilling career and thriving personal life. You can do more than one big thing with your time. This is more a question of figuring out professional focus – which are the right avenues to go down, and which are perfectly lovely streets for someone else to explore).

Photo courtesy flickr user koalazymonkey

3 thoughts on “The To-Ignore List

  1. Hmm. This is an interesting question that I’ll have to ponder more.

    I’ve decided that I’m quite ok with not being a professional photographer. I could do it, but I’m happy just taking photos for my family and my blog, and doing very occasional paid sessions.

    I’ve also decided that I’m not going to worry about following all the professional blogging advice out there. For example, I’m not building a newsletter subscriber base, I’m not spending a bunch of time working on SEO, and I’m not selling a bunch of products. I won’t make six figures this way, but I will maintain my sanity.

    1. @Kristen – I am struggling with the blogging best practices too. I did decide to do a newsletter, because it helps me keep in touch with book readers who don’t check blogs. But yeah, there’s no SEO stuff going on.

      1. The hilarious thing is, even though I hardly think about SEO, several of my posts are the top result in google (like, “how to paint wooden furniture”).

        So, I’ve decided this is just not something to stress over, and I am never going to spend hours researching keywords for a post.

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