Start A Not-To-Do List Right Now!

By Siew Ching

Forget your usual to-do list; it’s time to get productive with things you shouldn’t do.

Ah, the classic to-do list… the one everyone talks about (we are guilty too!) on how you need a to-do list to keep organised and feel satisfied as well as motivated when you cross off an item.

On the other hand, there’s that guilty feeling when you can’t complete your to-do list and it keeps growing, growing, growing…. Yikes, anxiety much?

The deal is this: People feel so pressured by their to-do list there’s too much focus on not being able to complete everything on the list instead of the actual doing. When this happens, you risk becoming insecure, burnt out, and even zone out not wanting to look at that growing to-do list.

Which really defeats the purpose of making it in the first place!

So what’s a smart, capable person like you to do? Why not start a “not-to-do” list instead? You read that right – do the opposite: a to-do list of the things you don’t need to do.

Hear us out: A not-to-do list is essentially a list of tasks, activities or behaviours that you intentionally choose not to do or prioritise. And it’s simple stuff we are talking about, like not wasting time on social media, not hitting the snooze alarm when you wake up, not spending unnecessary time that isn’t going to contribute to your personal and professional growth – we all have a few of those in mind, right?

What you’re doing with your not-to-do list is to say no and be more strategic on what you want to accomplish. Like all those requests that come in late and aren’t really part of your KPIs… or the tasks that don’t need to be done ASAP and can wait for a bit. Well, put them on your not-to-do list!

How can one help, you ask? It’s like decluttering your day. Rather than have a super long to-do list where your mind gets cluttered with stuff you WANT TO COMPLETE RIGHT NOW, a not-to-do list allows you to go through all that clutter and sort out what’s really important. It’s a great way to lessen the mental load of thinking about everything you need to do – and how to prioritise or even delegate.

What should go on your not-to-do list? As tasks or requests come in, ask yourself: Does this belong to my to-do list or someone else’s? Is it worth my time to stop everything and work on it pronto, or can I afford to push it down on my priority list? If you answer the latter for both questions, put it on your not-to-do list!

Ultimately, your not-to-do list helps you become more mindful and intentional about how you spend your time and effort. It may be different each day but the same rule applies: Think of how you can get more when you don’t do.

Ready to list down the things not to do? Here are a few tips to get started:

Before you list an item on your regular to-do list, ask yourself why and when you need to complete the task. Is it something that’s super important and only you can do it? Then it goes on the to-do list. Is it something that can wait until you finish other tasks or if someone else can complete it? Place it on your not-to-do list and delegate or work with someone else to complete it together.

Excessive social media scrolling, spending too much time talking to your colleagues, unnecessary paper trail – everything that is considered a distraction from staying productive goes straight to your not-to-do list! Doing this is a great way to break bad habits and by putting it down literally on your not-to-do list, you’re making a conscious effort and promise to yourself that you will strive to address this.

Open your list and look for the things that you didn’t get to complete. Ask yourself if it is because you didn’t have time to finish them or if it is because you didn’t really need to complete them. If it is the latter, put it on the not-to-do list as these are taking valuable space on your to-do list. The key is to streamline your to-do list so you don’t feel overwhelmed!

Review the task ahead of you and ask these two questions. If the answer is yes, it goes on the to-do list. If the answer is no, well you know what to do then!

Do you already have a not-to-do list? Share with us what you put on it @Graduan!

Photo by James Orr on Unsplash.

Share this article: