What Are You Willing to Leave Undone

If you open your email inbox right now, you will find all kinds of work waiting for you.

  • There will be requests from clients you cannot answer right now because they require a number of conversations before you reply.
  • You will find information that you need to review and digest to prepare for a meeting.
  • There will no doubt be calendar invites for meetings, some of which are important, others will be something you should try to avoid.
  • A good many of them will be requests for information, tasks that you need to complete so that someone else can complete some task or project that they are working on now.

Your voicemail will also have messages for you that require a reply of some kind. Because LinkedIn has provided you with another inbox, there will notes there for you, mostly spam, too many congratulations on your work anniversary, and maybe an occasional opportunity. Twitter has DMs, most of which can be ignored, and Facebook has some sort of inbox.

Then, there are text messages. When a text arrives, it is obvious that you received it, making a lack of response clear evidence that you are ignoring the other person. The device that receives these text messages also has a notification feature, giving the small screen of infinite distractions incredible power over your behavior.

You will find things to do in your email inbox, your social inboxes, and on your phone. Some of the incoming will be tasks that you need to complete, and some of them may be truly important. Most, however, will not be something that moves the needle when it comes to producing the results—the outcomes—that you are charged with producing. Even fewer will be related to the most important things you need to do to succeed.

Technological tools provide you with the ability to produce greater results faster than any time in human history. These same tools also provide other people with an equally unmatched ability to interrupt you and send you additional tasks with no cost for doing so (it takes no time, no effort, and no money).

Doing good work requires that you make decisions about what you are going to do and what you are going to leave undone. Productivity is a decision as to what you choose to ignore as much as it is the decision as to the work you do.

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