Success through Strategic Ignoring

three-monkeys-1239552Starting a business is exciting.  It’s an opportunity to do engaging work, fulfill your dreams, and make billions of dollars, right?  Entrepreneurs tap the untapped markets, machete the jungles of bureaucracy, and give birth to products that people don’t even know they need.  And, one out of every ten startup company succeeds!!!




Yeah, I was trying to be all “glass half full” there.  The reality is that 90% of startups fail.  The reasons vary, but the point I am trying to make is that in an environment with such a high failure rate, staying productive requires different tactics than I have written about before.


Enter my most recent Productivity Superhero, Yvonne Jouffrault.


Yvonne is a successful startup entrepreneur.  In fact, she is so successful that Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) hired her to mentor other startup organizations in the state.  Yvonne is part of a team of people dedicated to seeing businesses thrive from inception to maturity.


Yvonne and I both hail from Wake Forest University (Go Deacs!), but while I went the behavioral science route, Yvonne specialized in finance.  She married a French entrepreneur, has two kids, and is the founder of Tour Buddy Apps.  In addition to managing her own life and a successful business, Yvonne has implemented a startup boot camp for ATDC in Savannah and has helped over 50 local founders launch new companies.


How does she do it?  Yvonne has mastered the art of what I have labeled “Strategic Ignoring.”


What is Strategic Ignoring, you ask?


Headshot_YvonneJouffraultHere it is in Yvonne’s words:

  • I work backwards from the goal I am trying to achieve and do only the things that contribute to the goal.
  • Every day, I identify the things that are most important for that day’s goal and don’t worry about anything else.
  • If I’m not going to do it today, I delete the action from my list. I acknowledge that these things are not as important as other tasks.
  • The eliminated tasks may or may not come back. For example, if that blog post I removed from the list becomes important later on, then I put it back on the list. 
  • I avoid doing a task just because it’s on the list.


Why does Strategic Ignoring work for Yvonne and the other startups she mentors?

  • You have a limited amount of energy, time, and resources. You must reposition them daily.
  • Priorities change every single day and you must do the thing that makes the biggest impact.
  • It is really important to have a results-based roadmap for everything you do – for your business, your workout, etc. Know where you want to be and the path to get there.  Know your milestones and metrics.


Yvonne eliminates 80% or more of the tasks on her to-do list using Strategic Ignoring.  This works only because she has well-articulated goals to which she continually directs her efforts.  Without these roadmaps, Yvonne would be flying by the seat of her pants and probably not the success that she is.


My Take on Strategic Ignoring


There is a time and place for extreme approaches to productivity.  In fact, one of my past #ProductivitySuperheroes was notable because she said “yes” to everything she was invited to do for a year.  Yvonne is remarkable at the other end of the spectrum – her propensity to say “no.”


There is wisdom here.  Productivity gurus tout the “no” as the single most powerful weapon that a person has in their arsenal.


Yvonne purposefully ignored and deleted the first email I sent her proposing a meeting.  When, I emailed again, my request fit with her goals and she responded.  I’m not insulted; I think her approach is impressive.  She is a success in a world with a 90% failure rate.  Yvonne is bound to do things differently.


A Balanced Approach


Should everybody delete the vast majority of their to-do list without performing the actions?  No.


Should we do something just because it is on our to-do list?  No.


Should we be discerning both when adding tasks to our list and when choosing which tasks we will work on during a given day?  Yes.


Should we have goals (roadmaps in Yvonne-speak) to which our to-do items are connected?  Yes.


What are you going to delete from your to-do list today?



This article is a part of my #ProductivitySuperheroes series where I profile people who are exceptional at managing their time, tasks, information and/or life in general. If you’d like to nominate yourself or someone you admire, please email


Love Your Calendar eBook

Are you ready to feel balanced and effective at work and in life?

Read my eBook Love Your Calendar…and be monogamous.

Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.



  1. Janet Barclay

    I love the concept of strategic ignoring! Not only will it help me to focus on my priorities, but I won’t feel guilty about not completing all the tasks on my list.

  2. Linda Samuels

    Yvonne’s go-to, “strategic ignoring” is fantastic! The idea of NOT including tasks on your to-do list that doesn’t move the bigger goal along makes sense—and using “no” more often than yes makes sense. I find there are times when I more easily say no and other periods that I’m in the yes mode. That depends on the other commitments and pursuits that are happening.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      I know, right? Sometimes extreme situations require extreme measures. Since interviewing her, I have felt empowered to ignore the many emails I receive (that don’t even address me by name) about writing a guest post for my blog, “partnering” on something blog-related, etc. No guilt!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Like what you read?

Get new posts directly in your inbox!

You might also like these posts…

Enjoying these posts? Make sure you dont miss any!

If you enjoy my blog posts and want to make sure you never miss one - sign up for my newsletter! When you do, you'll also get instant access to my FREE webinar on interruptions in the workplace.

Interruptions can kill productivity. With one “Got a minute?” from a coworker or one stray thought swirling in your brain, the flow of your work can be completely disrupted.

The trouble is that few people have concrete strategies to get back on task quickly after an interruption. Some people completely lose focus…for hours! If you have tried reducing interruptions, but they still impact your ability to be effective at work, this free webinar is for you.