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Change Your Success Story: What’s on Your Not-To-Do List?

I’ve taken the suggestions from this Business Insider post, Things successful people do NOT do every day, and adapted them for those of us in the social sector. How many of these are you still doing?

1. Wait until you’re sure you will succeed. You don’t increase revenues from individual donors because you don’t know how to ask for money. OR You don’t ask because you know you aren’t good at it, yet.

Stop waiting! You can’t get yeses until you ask.
2. Multi-task during a meeting. I love this: “The easiest way to be the smartest person IN the room is to be the person who pays the most attention TO the room.”

If you are multi-tasking you won’t even notice if staff or board members understand the topic or situation at hand. As a leader, take time to be clear about what’s going on, and pay attention to the conversation, especially if the subject is a prickly topic.

3. Check your phone while you’re talking to someone. It’s rude and causes others to feel like the meeting or conversation isn’t important. Don’t. Enough said.

4. Think about people who don’t make a difference in your life. It doesn’t matter what the “other organizations” are doing or raising, or who they have on their board. It DOES matter what you spend your thinking time on. . .like causing your donors and board members to feel great about their investments of time and money.

5. Let yourself be distracted by notifications. Do. Not. Check. Email. All. Day. Long. Schedule time for “work” and schedule time for reacting. As the Business Insider post says: “If something is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough for you to do without interruptions.”

6. Let your past dictate your future. Learn from the past. Make the future better. You CAN raise more money, build a stronger board, or close the capital campaign. “The past is just training.”

7. Talk behind someone’s back. “Spend your time on productive conversations. You’ll get more done.”

8. Say yes when you really mean no. Use good judgment, but set clear boundaries. Should you really be agreeing to do yet another fundraising event with such a small staff? You can’t do everything and implement every terrific idea others cook up. Hold your ground and work your plan.

Change your success story. Cross a few of these off your list.

What is on YOUR not-to-do list?



  • Laura says:

    All good points—be focused, polite and proactive.

  • Alyssa says:

    I remember receiving this in email form when Lori first posted it, and I filed it away in my “Resources” folder because I thought this was such a great list of things not to do. My favorite, and the one I am really trying to work on, is not constantly responding to emails. I have found that I am way more productive on “slow” email days, so I try to only check and respond to emails at a certain time of day so I’m not constantly disrupted.

    Originally my time of day for email was in the morning, but now I’ve read that you are more productive throughout the day if you reserve email time for the end of the day. So I’m experimenting with ideas around responding to email in order to be more productive. But I love all the ideas in this post!

  • Sarah says:

    These are all great ideas for ways to focus on what is truly important. While some of these I am able to naturally avoid, others-like checking email all day-are more challenging. It is a good reminder to prioritize on the most important projects.

  • Angela says:

    Good information and good time management ideas too. I especially like (“relate to” #1 and #6), so the focused reminder is very helpful.

  • Katrina says:

    Good reminder to stop multi-tasking and to focus on what you’re working on or discussing at the moment.

  • CCRIJody says:

    Distractions, distractions! Great reminder to stop multi-tasking and really start listening.Email is something that I can get sucked into. I’m going to schedule a time that I check my in-box. Great point.

  • Diana DuBois says:

    Good reminders listed in the article. I especially like the reminder to stay focused on the people who matter to your organization (board, staff, community members, donors, etc.) vs. comparing ourselves to other organizations that are much larger in size.

  • Sharon says:

    For some reason my prior comment on this does not show up. I do think it is easy to let past situations that were not successful color efforts of the future. It is important to realize you always learn something and now it is time to take a fresh start with that knowledge.

  • Joan says:

    With regard to point 7, The most successful, productive people I know rarely (maybe never) gossip about their colleagues. They only offer constructive and warranted positive comments. They focus on the tasks at hand and not evaluative comments about others.

  • Jeff Swanson says:

    Well said. Stay present, positive and focused. Nothing worse than talking to the tops of heads as your Team checks their phone.

  • Shannon says:

    Getting rid of the email distraction is easier said than done – especially when you have people calling you 10 minutes after sending an email wanting to know if you saw their email:) Definitely a work in progress.

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