What’s on your “Don’t Do” List?

I am a proud graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara (#GoGauchos) and yes, we are undefeated in football since 1992…..which was the year the student body voted the team out of existence. It was also my first introduction to ‘Opportunity Cost’.

At the time I was going in to my Junior year and after having attended both our last win and our last loss, I had decided to attempt to walk on the team. During our last game I witnessed players walk up to their girlfriends between plays and it drove me nuts. I thought I could bring some discipline to the team if I was on the inside. But as I like to joke, as soon as the student body found out that the level of talent was dropping to mine, they voted the team out of existence.

You see, to be competitive in collegiate football takes money. A lot of it. And the university was not overly interested in diverting from highly successful programs like water polo, volleyball, basketball, baseball and swimming to fund a really expensive sport that was bringing in next to no revenue and even fewer wins. So they put it up to a student vote. And the students literally voted the team out of existence.

It was a bitter pill to swallow but a great lesson in Opportunity Cost.

In retrospect, it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me. I tend to dive all-in on things and this would have been a massive distraction from my educational pursuits. It also was one of the first lessons I received that what you don’t do is just as important as what you do. The collective University had decided to not do Football so it could be better at all of the other things it was doing.

It was a lesson I was reminded of just this week when speaking with a colleague about become the absolute best at what she does. In the course of the conversation I mentioned my efforts to do the same in a slightly different discipline. When she asked if she could attned several of the sessions I was setting up my answer was simple;

“Not if you want to be the best at [the other thing]. You are going to have to be ruthless with your calendar.”

I passed an additional piece of advice to her and that was that every day she should be writing out her “Don’t Do” list. In my daily journal I call it my “I wll not self-sabotage” list (just being honest with myself).

In his book ‘Winning”, mindset expert Tim Grover calls it a “NO List”.

“I’ve had clients make a “NO List” of things they are not going to do, a nonnegotiable reminder of things that aren’t a priority. Keep it in your phone, on your desk, tape it to the mirror, the refrigerator and use it.”

Winning (page 111) – Tim S. Grover

So just like a University only has so much money and resources, so do you. We each only get 24 hours in a day. Be ruthless with your calendar and be sure it is filled with the Must Do’s and that it has no place for the Don’t Do’s. The opportunity cost is far too great not to.

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