Several years ago, I put a lot of attention into developing my productivity and time management skills. I worked with a mentor and read countless books on time tracking, ordering priorities, deep work, and managing my energy and work rhythms. The time spent on developing these skills is worth the investment. 

As I grew in this area, I started saying this little axiom almost every day. 

“The hardest decision I make every day is deciding what I’m not going to do today.”

I don’t remember if I heard it from someone or simply made it up. Regardless, it has been a daily reminder that helps me be far more efficient with my time. Here’s what I know to be true.

  • There will always be more to get done than I’ll have time to get it done. Always.
  • I can easily develop unhealthy habits where I feel the pressure of getting everything done and I end up putting off family, friends, and other priorities.
  • When I don’t have a clear vision or focus on where I’m going, I’ll be very busy but get very little done.

To me, this little axiom isn’t really about making a list of things I’m not going to do (although, that could actually be helpful too). This guideline is about being really intentional about my time. It’s about recognizing that there are 2-3 things on my daily to-do list that accounts for 80% of my productivity and forward momentum. It’s about prioritizing what is most important and being okay with less important things remaining unfinished.

For someone who likes to check all the boxes, this is incredibly difficult. For someone who doesn’t want to inconvenience other people, this is a challenge. However, having a mindset that intentionally prioritizes your tasks every day is what helps you do your best work.

Below are a few books that helped me learn how to better manage my time so that I could do more work that matters: