A not-to-do list is a handy tool to help you stay more focused on the important things in your life and career. Simply put, it’s a list of tasks you don’t do, no matter what. You delete them, delegate them, outsource them, or simply say no when they try to find their way on your to-do list.
A very well thought out not-to-do list should help you maintain better focus and only perform tasks that create the greatest value; as well as to be more realistic that you are focused on the most important tasks at least 80 % of the time.
Your to-do list can quickly become overloaded, especially if you have a problem saying no or delegating and outsourcing tasks. This can also happen if you are poor at task management and can’t distinguish very well between urgent/important, low-/ high-impact tasks.
As well as this, some people are very prone to distractions and bad habits, so their to-do list is always full of tasks that are never completed.
The general idea of a not-to-do list is not having to struggle with self-discipline. It should help you to eliminate low-value tasks and bad habits from your life, so that you don’t have to weigh the pros and cons, be in a dilemma of whether or not you should make an exception, feel guilty for saying no, and so on.
You simply say no, because you aren’t allowed to do things that are on your not-do-to list.
The things on your not-to-do list are usually all the things that you know and feel deep down you shouldn’t be spending time on, but somehow are unable to stop doing. A not-to-do list can help you systematically take care of those kinds of tasks once and for all.
The following tasks and things should be on your not-to-do list:
And of course, everything else that you want to systematically eliminate to make room for more important tasks, or even just to have more free time.
Preparing your own not-to-do list is easy. Here are the steps for how to do it:
You can also use the not-to-do list concept at the beginning of a new working day, when you take the time for your 15-minute morning meeting with yourself (or your team) to plan out your tasks.
Instead of only asking yourself which tasks you’ll perform on a certain day, make a list of tasks you certainly won’t do that day, also. It will take a lot of pressure off your shoulders, and you’ll be able to focus on the most important tasks and keep your decision muscle strong for other important choices.
For the tasks on your not-to-do list that you really struggle to say no to, you can use templates to politely decline or delegate and outsource tasks. It saves you time and there’s less emotional pressure compared to writing a new mail every time.
Templates are, of course, most useful for e-mail replies, but you can also use pre-prepared replies when people are asking you to do something that is a distraction from your true goals.
Almost all e-mail providers have the option of templates and canned responses. If your e-mail provider doesn’t offer such an option, you can use many plugins and extensions. You should come up with something polite for refusals over e-mail and in person, so that people don’t feel offended.
Nevertheless, the main idea is that when somebody asks you to do something you don’t want to do, and there isn’t even a second of doubt as to whether or not your should do it, you can just reply with your standard answer.
"People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. Innovation is saying no to 1.000 things." - Steve Jobs
Stop giving energy to the things you don’t want in your life!
The not-to-do list is a list of tasks you simply don’t do, no matter what. It’s a list of activities and tasks that you shouldn’t perform because they have low value, drain your energy, or are distraction from your true goals.
The anti-to-do list is, on the other hand, a list of tasks which you have already completed. It’s basically a column marked DONE on your Kanban Board.
The idea of an anti-to-do list is to have an overview of how much you have already done, to motivate you to do even more; or to draw a line under things when you have done enough for the day. With the anti-to-do list, you assess the progress for that day.
The main goal of an anti-to-do list is that, at the end of the day, you feel proud of yourself for how much you have done (assuming you had a productive day), instead of focusing on how much is left on your to-do list.
What leads to success? Focus, focus, focus. Let the not-to-do list help you with that.
Here is an example how a not-to-do list should look like. Make sure you keep the list at around 10 – 20 items, so it won’t be too cluttered and thus hard to pay regard to: