Peter Bregman has an article from two years ago on the HBR Blog Network that got taken up on LinkedIn today, Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning:
List 1: Your focus list.
List 2: Your ignore list.
Many people know where to focus. (At least they claim to know.) These are your priorities - either internally motivated or those required by your role, boss, etc. But it's the ignore list that is interesting to me today. Anyone with an active life and any business with an active pipeline will have many more things to do than can possibly be done right now.
Within organizations, we have some mechanisms to control this. Project management offices must stagger the introduction of projects to the capacity of their system. If the PMO doesn't do this, the inevitable result is that projects bog down and people find themselves struggling to understand priority.
Managers delegate. Individual contributors need to learn how to delegate to the floor and remember that it isn't possible to get everything done today. There is context that make some things must-do's, and others don't-do's.
This idea of the ignore list relates to this. On a personal level, I only have so much capacity. On top of that, I have my priorities. When I find myself with some time or the phone ringing, how do I know what to do next? How do I know what NOT to do? The ignore list helps me answer "no" to some of the suggestions that my brain might think are good. It is not always appropriate to be responding to email and the phone. My children don't appreciate it when I am playing with my phone (they want to play Where's My Water instead). Similarly, my clients don't want me ignoring them for my smart phone when we are working together.
[Photo: "Ignore Job and Create Awesome" by Cosmo Catalano]