As teachers, we simply have too much to do. I rarely left school without the weight of many piles left unfinished. Part of this was due to the incredible workload of teaching, but my inability to say “no” was also to blame.
“Yes” is so easy to say (and it makes people happy)! But soon you’ve built up an expectation that you’ll help with everything. If we say “yes” to every request, then we’re not differentiating between what’s important and what’s not.
And as a teacher, you must differentiate between what’s important to your students, and what is just another thing. When you say “no” to those things, you’re freeing up energy to tackle what you really care about.
Here are three writers explaining their solution to this type of problem: the “don’t do list.” Figure out what you definitely don’t want to do next year, and write it down!
Improve Overall Quality
Lawyer/technology-writer David Sparks calls his a “no journal”, and notes how saying “yes” to too many things reduced the overall quality of his work:
After all, I want people to like me and what better way to do this than saying yes to every crazy thing they ask? This was such a problem for me that I was always over-committed and routinely shipping crap in most aspects of my life.
Author Tim Ferris calls his a “Not To Do List” and says it helps him to get more done:
It’s hip to focus on getting things done, but it’s only possible once we remove the constant static and distraction. If you have trouble deciding what to do, just focus on not doing.
Doing More Than Is Possible
The Art of the Simple echoes the need for a “To Don’t Do list”:
So notice what you don’t want to accomplish, just as much as you do. And if it’s hard for you to even think of what you don’t want to do, ask yourself if you’re trying to do too much — or, at least feel like you’re supposed to do more than what’s possible.
So take a look back, pick out a few events, committees, or roles that you’d like to say “no” to, and use that time and energy to better serve what’s most important in your life.
Personally, I’ve found it best to create my “To Don’ts” way in advance. Perhaps once a trimester or once a month. Then I can revisit them next month and see if any are worthy enough to become “To Dos” or if I’m happy to keep not doing them. Then I don’t have to keep deciding what’s on my list every day. Once it’s a “To Don’t,” it stays there.