what is a not to-do list and how to create one

10 minute read
Let’s face it, we have an obsession with productivity and if you’re not filling up your free time with something productive, you’re wasting your time. Don’t get us wrong, we love productivity hacks and learning how to work smarter instead of harder but, when you try and fill up your day with tasks and start to feel uncomfortable if you’re not “busy” enough, you might want to read this.
Our lives are on a constant treadmill of “doing” and how do we fulfill our need to always be busy and scratch the itch for instant gratification? That’s right, we create lists. Let’s put it to the test, do you have any of the following:
  • A shopping list
  • Christmas list
  • A list of places you would like to visit
  • Ideas list
  • A list of pros and cons
  • Bucket list
These lists help us to process all of the information around us into bite-sized pieces that we can easily understand and use to help make sense of the world around us.
You might have noticed that we missed a list that nearly everyone has but, don’t worry, we was saving it for now and that is a to-do list!
The to-do list has been around for centuries and it is very common to have one if you are an entrepreneur, business person, busy mum or just about anyone who is trying to stay organized by writing down all of the tasks that they have got to complete.
Believe us when we say that buzz when you tick something of your list that you’ve accomplished hits different, we’re not lying.
A to do list sounds amazing, right? WRONG!
Well, we’re not here to bash something that’s been around forever and can be helpful for some people but, there is some problems when using a to do list.

Why a to do list is bad

It can go one of two ways.
Let’s say that you have got a job application to write so, you put it on your to-do list and you get started on writing out why you would like the job. After 500 words you tick it off your checklist and go for a break feeling as though you have accomplished something, even though you’ve not completed the whole application. On your break you start playing some video games and after a few hours pass you say to yourself “ill finish my application later.” But, later never comes.
Another common outcome of the to do list can be seen when workaholics and people who want to make the most out of their day use them. So again, you write down whatever you have got to do, whether it’s make 10 sales or making that important phone call. You check everything of your list and you don’t know what to do with yourself afterwards so, you do the only thing that you know how to do and that’s putting more tasks down to complete. 10 tasks turn in to 20 and before you know it, you’ve got 5 A4 documents full of things to do! The pressure that comes with the tasks makes you feel guilty for taking a break and in turn, makes you less productive because you’re not enjoying yourself.
So, if a to-list isn’t the most effective way to get your jobs done, what is?

A not to do list

A not to-do list is when you write down all of the things that waste your time and energy and ultimately pull you away from your long-term vision so you can focus on the essential steps that are going to help you get to where you want to be and want to achieve.
Think of it like trimming of the fat of the meat so you only get the good stuff!
Unlike a to-do list and similar to the 80/20 rule, a not to-do list is all about cutting out the things that don’t add value to your life, the things that you can’t control and things that can wait or be completed by someone else.
We know it’s nice to focus on the finer details and do the more fun things but, the not to-do list is all about doing the bare basics and getting rid of the inessential things.
So let’s get started with adding things to your not to-do list but first, you can download your free template below which will help you decide what should go on your not to-do list, because we don’t want anything sliping through the net!
Click below
Not to-do list template
Take a few minutes to think of everything that is going on in your life, a bit like doing a brain dump. Think about what you want to do, the things on your to-do list and what you’ve been told to do and then organize all of the things you’ve come up with into your not to-do list template.
  1. Things that waste your time: Think about the things that you say you will only do for 5 minutes but then turn in to an hour and you wonder where the time went, these usually come in the form of distractions that give you instant gratification like social media.
  2. Stuff that stresses you out: This is where you write down all the things that make it hard to get up in the morning, these things often lead to you resenting what you once loved and you definitely don’t want any of that in your to-do list.
  3. Things that drain your energy: Do you ever feel sluggish throughout the day? Well, there’s probably one small thing that you are doing that is totally wiping you out and making you tired, it doesn’t have to be physically draining either, many of these problems come from tasks being so monotonous and boring that you want to fall asleep.
  4. Stuff that you feel obliged to do: It’s not uncommon for people to put ridiculous amounts of pressure on themselves because they believe people expect them to have achieved certain things but, really this isn’t the case so, make sure you don’t feel this way by chucking out any of the tasks that are based on social norms or someone else’s ideologies.
  5. Things that don’t need to be done: Sometimes we like just putting things on our to-do list for the sake of it, you might feel the need to fill up your free time with something productive but instead, try and be more flexible and leave this time to think, rest or learn.
  6. Stuff that you can’t control: Some things in life you just can’t control yet, we place so much value on them. Instead of looking at certain numbers like “making £1000 today” it would be more productive to make sure that you make so many sales calls. Another problem is putting things on your to do list that you aren’t responsible for, you might struggle saying no to people so they burden you with their tasks.
Once you’ve completed this you’ll probably find that there’s lots more things on your not to-do list than your actual to-do list and that’s great, remember, you only want to focus on the most important things in your life so, if any of your tasks don’t fit in any of the section of your not to-do list, you can put it back in your to-do list but, we do have a better option in the conclusion. You can also pick the top 5 things on your not-to do list that you think waste the most of your time and energy and try to avoid these at all costs.
If you’re still struggling to think of what things to put on your list, don’t worry, we’ve got some examples below.

Common examples of what to put on your not to-do list

Do not answer emails or work calls first thing in the morning or last thing at night.

If you start your day by either answering emails or work calls, your starting of on the wrong foot. By doing this you are going to be reactive to the world rather than being proactive and getting your own priorities straight. You also don’t want to answer to any emails or phone calls at night because it’s going to play on your mind when you’re out of hours and if you’re a workaholic, you’ll probably do overtime making you less productive the next day.

Don’t press snooze!

By pressing the snooze button every day you’re telling your dreams that they aren’t important and that they can wait until you feel ready. Get up, get dressed and start your day with the right momentum.

Do not go on social media in the morning unless it’s for work.

Thanks to an evolving world, entrepreneurs and forward thinkers such as yourself, have jumped on the opportunities that social media has to offer, however, if you don’t run a business through social media or it has no monetary value, you shouldn’t be wasting your time on it. The first thing that most people do as soon as they wake up in the morning is check their social media, they endlessly scroll from post to post until they realize it’s they’ve spent about 3 hours just being lazy, don’t be one of these people, get up and get ahead!

Don’t try and multi-task.

It sounds so appealing to be able to do multiple tasks at once but it’s been proven to be physically impossible to do this. If you try to do more than one thing at a time, you might think that you are halving the amount of time that you have to spend on it, when in actual fact your brain has to share it’s focus between both tasks, which in turn takes you even longer because your mind is going back and forth between tasks and not just giving one all of the attention.

Do not avoid hard tasks.

Leading on from the last example, you should always prioritize your hardest task to be completed first. Most people procrastinate and try to avoid getting the hardest task done first but, you should do because once you’ve completed it you know that there is nothing bigger or harder to complete afterwards, this is known as eating the frog.


Overall any form of time management or productivity hack is going to help you be more efficient and ultimately more successful and the not to-do list does a great job of that because what you don’t do determines what you can do but, if you really want to take your productivity to the next level, we advise that you combine the not to-do list with the Eisenhower matrix and Parkinson’s law for an unbeatable formula!
If you have any further questions, remarks or requests for what you would like to see more of, you can comment here on the blog, or message us on our social media channels below.


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