10 Items On My Don’t-Do List

I keep a Don’t-Do list. I spend most of my efforts on my to-do lists, agendas, and getting things done,  but a few years ago I began a list of things I don’t want to do. Managing my time and being effective in my work and personal life lies as much in what I decide NOT to do as in what I decide to do.

Keeping Yourself Accountable

There is a statement in the Bible about not allowing the little foxes to overrun the vineyard. I think this is good advice for creative solopreneurs. We are each accountable to manage our own time. Allowing small, insignificant things to distract and take over is not good for my business, and probably not for yours. I started my list to remind myself to avoid certain actions, behaviors and attitudes that get in my way. Things that distract me from my destination, that take time or that don’t fit, are added to the list.

These are 10 business-related items on my Don’t Do list, not in any particular order.

Don’t answer incoming calls from 800 numbers or numbers not in my contact list. I either decline or let the call go to voicemail. Then I decide whether to call back or not.

Don’t respond to clients’ emails, texts or phone calls outside of my business hours. This guards my time and supports my productivity. There are no design “emergencies.”

Don’t respond to unsolicited emails or sales pitches. Like you, I find myself added to all sorts of email lists I didn’t sign up for. I regularly click the unsubscribe link and then clear the email from my inbox. It’s similar to voicemail. I use folders to sort, bulk-delete irrelevant email without reading it, and aim to zero out my inbox every day.

Don’t obsess over mistakes, problems or negative feedback. Worry slows me down, wastes time, and crams my head with unproductive thinking.

Don’t keep my email open all the time. I set 2 times each day to read, sort and respond to emails. I try to keep these sessions to 10 minutes. By controlling when I manage email, I get more work done because I’m not being interrupted.

Don’t pursue tactics or spend money that do not build income or influence. For this reason, I no longer submit to design awards competitions, join certain groups or promote my work on certain platforms.

Don’t discount my fees. Reduce the scope of work instead.

Don’t accept a new client if there’s even the slightest hint of trouble ahead. Spotting trouble becomes easier the more experience you gain with problem clients, unfortunately. I’ve had my share of those. If, in preliminary conversation with a client something is said, a direct question is not answered directly, or a tone of voice changes in a way that makes me uncomfortable, I politely decline the project.

Don’t continue in a conversation where an ad hominem comment has been launched. Quickly end the discussion. Don’t be concerned about appearing weak by not responding. Ending the conversation is the wise and courageous thing to do.

Don’t say yes to something because someone else thinks I should. Say yes because I think I should. Filter all advice, requests and recommendations through the sieve of my business policies, vision and goals. Does it fit? Does it make sense for me? If not, let it go.

Your turn: What would you put on your Don’t Do list?

Alvalyn Lundgren

Alvalyn Lundgren is the founder and design director at Alvalyn Creative, an independent practice near Thousand Oaks, California. She creates visual branding, publications and books for business, entrepreneurs and authors. She is the creator of Freelance Road Trip — a business roadmap program for creative freelancers. Contact her for your visual branding, graphic and digital design needs. Join her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and subscribe to her free monthly newsletter.

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