A Funeral Director’s “To-Don’t” List


Most organized people have a To-Do List, but how many of us actually finish those?

According to Peter Bregman, hardly any of us do.

This is a huge relief to me because now I can let go of all the guilt that has accumulated with each unfinished To-Do list that I own!

One key tool he used to help his time management is a little creation he calls the “To Don’t List”.

I felt inspired to make my own To-Don’t List, but I didn’t make it for myself – I made it for the funeral service. This list can be used to focus your time, energy and efforts in the direction you choose.

Without further ado, here is the Funeral Service “To-Don’t” List:

Don’t open your email every time you hear the ping.
Pick one or two times a day – for example, before lunch and before the end of the day. Encourage people with time-sensitive issues to call you directly if the issue cannot wait until those dedicated times.

Don’t distract your families from their grief!
Although it is our human nature to help or ease the pain of another, it is important for families to experience their grief. It is a critical step towards their healthy resolution of their loss. Let them cry!

Don’t let assumptions govern your thinking and decision-making.
We operate on many fundamental assumptions. Challenge those assumptions periodically and make sure they are still serving you, your goals and your families.

Don’t believe the myth that technology has no place in this high-touch industry.
A recent study suggested that a funeral home spends approximately 23 hours on a traditional funeral service. Of those hours, only 6.75 hours required the time of a funeral director (in Ohio). The rest were clerical tasks or coordination activities that could be handled by a reasonably trained administrator or part-time person. Technology is the perfect solution to eliminate those tasks from your (and your staff’s) To-Do list.

Don’t do it all yourself.
See the prior item and recognize that investing in training your people can free up your time tremendously.

Don’t just work IN the business… work ON the business.
You’ve heard this 1,000 times, but try blocking out two hours a week to work on the business. That’s just 5% of a 40-hour work week. Think about things like:

– The needs of your families. Are they the same? How have they changed?
– What assumptions are you using?

– Systematizing a part of your business.

– Organize a messy area that keeps getting in the way.

– Document a process or procedure that has caused problems. Use the documentation as the foundation for staff development.


Don’t believe there is nothing you can do to grow your business. 
Once you allow that thought to grab hold of you, you’ve lost the battle. There may be no way to grow your business in the way it is configured or with your current assumptions, but put these thoughts aside and ask the question “What if?”

Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
This approach can only lead to generic approaches, a lack of identity and unfocused efforts. Examine the underlying assumptions and challenge this strongly. It is at the core of the value offering problems we face.

Don’t sit back and wait for an answer.
If the answer comes to you, it will probably be in the form of some new type of competition! Try things in a thoughtful way. Test new concepts. Learn, and test again.

Don’t believe in “only getting one time to do this right”.
That belief gets in the way of innovation and creativity. 99.9% of families will graciously accept good faith efforts that go awry, and the ones who don’t will be unhappy regardless.

By writing a To-Don’t List along with a To-Do List, you may push yourself to think outside the box, and be more efficient with your time.

What’s on your To-Don’t List? Have you ever made a To-Don’t List before? Share your thoughts!



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