July 26, 2022

Never Will I Ever: A Productivity Tool


I recall years ago attending a time management seminar where the productivity expert told us to make ‘NOW,’ ‘LATER,’ and ‘NEVER’ buckets. She told us that those burning dreams, significant goals, life purpose projects and relentless desires needed a home. “If not now, then when?” Or “Without accomplishing *this* my life will be meaningless” were some of the litmus tests for prioritizing our lists and piles. Some items were time sensitive or opportunity-driven — and those were essential guidelines as well.

The ‘Do This NOW’ spoke to my Type-A, high-achiever, somewhat impulsive and definitely impatient DNA. Defer this to the ‘LATER’ category also made sense to me — I go fast, so later can be tomorrow, next month or as soon as I check something off my ‘NOW’ column.

What I found so incredibly unsettling, though, was the ‘NEVER’ category. What do you mean “never?” Like, truly — never, ever?!? But I can do anything. I can accomplish it all. ‘Never’ felt like a defeat, a disappointment – a ‘giving up’ with or without even trying. I didn’t get the finality of this “success” tip at all — it seemed counter-productive to my high-performance mindset.

And then I tried it. I put ‘study Italian’ and ‘master tennis’ and ‘run for office’ and ‘get a doctorate in education’ and ‘produce a documentary’ and ‘open a cafe’ on the never list. It was very uncomfortable. I felt like I was cheating somehow. And then I took it a step further and donated books and tennis rackets, and signed out of classes and recycled files and ultimately, eventually — FREED up drawers, shelves, time, space and energy by making the decision to eliminate those goals and projects from my life.

Seems so simple – but I know many of us have things on our apps, minds, hearts, lists and calendars that we need to let go. I’ve been putting some more items on the never list lately — the first time I did it felt harsh and inauthentic; at this point it’s another go-to habit that I’ve grown not just comfortable with — but grateful for having in my memory muscle. Challenge: Try it out — with some small, medium and big things. Perhaps do it as a more complete sentence — I will never do X so that I can focus on Y. That might soften the blow and remind you of what matters the most to you, right NOW.

Lee Broekman is a communication and leadership author, professor, trainer and coach. Her company, Organic Communication brings timely and engaging programs to professionals and teams globally.