What Not To Do

Strategic thinking has as much to do with deciding what not to do as it does with deciding what to do. I’ve sat in literally hundreds of planning meetings where the discussion centered on what we should do to increase our success. I’ve seldom, if ever, heard a discussion on things we should not do. 

The reality is that what you don’t do can contribute as much to your success as what you choose to do. When we do not strategize about the “don’t do” activities we end of doing them without any consideration of the cost. 

Many of the costs are “opportunity costs;” when we are doing things we shouldn’t be doing we’re not doing things that we should. It’s at that point we use the always popular “time” excuse as in “we just don’t the time to do everything we planned to do.” 

Well, you might if you stopped doing the things you didn’t plan to do. 

Authentic leaders understand the difference between the “need to do” things and the “nice to do” things and they work hard at NOT doing the nice to do until the need to do things are complete. 

The real challenge is, and this is a big one for me, the “nice to do” things are usually easier and more fun to do than the “need to do.” Because the “nice” things are indeed nice we can fool ourselves into thinking we’ve accomplished something when in fact we’ve skipped over something we had planned to do.  

While doing the “nice” thing might even be productive in some way truly effective leaders know it probably wasn’t the most productive thing they could have done. 

If you want to improve your productivity, and your level of success then stop yourself every now and then and ask, “is this the most productive thing I could be doing at this very moment?” If you’re like me you will likely be shocked at how often your answer is NO! 

The answer to that question may not always tell you what to do but it will certainly help you understand what not to do.


9 thoughts on “What Not To Do

  1. On a somewhat related note, it took me years to learn that the time and resources I dedicate to pursuing prospects who aren’t a perfect fit are time and resources I don’t have for my ideal client. Blinding flash of the obvious there.

    1. Yep, I chased prospects who weren’t really prospects for a long time in my younger years. I was a combination of naive and overly optimistic. The good news is that we can and did learn!

  2. Hi Steve,

    I am coaching, consulting and managing projects for 20+ years. What you write is THE biggest area of failure I have seen in companies when it comes to selecting and managing project portfolios so far.

    Often those companies that regard themselves particularly creative and ambitious get most easily trapped in the described behavior. They tend to overload teams working on ever changing projects – and barely delivering any result.

    A classical symptom is that projects are declared strategically important very easily. But they do get no adequate staffing nor management support as a seriously strategic project would. That is the case because there are many more with the same label around still – unfinished, too.

    In not prioritizing what we do as companies or entrepreneurs we will not be able to distinguish the important from the not important. Not knowing what is important and being consistent about it indeed is a lack of leadership.

    Thank you for pointing it out – another one of your blog posts I enjoy reading!


    1. Thank you Claudia, I love your use of the word “trapped” because that is what it feels like. We become trapped by priorities when in fact, many of those “priorities” accomplish nothing.

      It’s so easy to trick ourselves into believing that we are being productive. We really need to just stop at times and say to ourselves “what EXACTLY did I accomplish so far today?” That can be a very powerful question.

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