What do You Put on a Not to-do List?
We’ve all got thousand item to-do lists, but have you heard of a not-to-do list?
Because it may just be the secret ingredient to calming the overwhelm and distraction that we face daily. When it comes to managing your time and energy, what you DON’T do is just as important as what you DO.
So today, let’s find the tasks that don’t bring us value, start a long not to do list, and learn to let go a bit more.
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First, consider the 80/20 rule. Statistically, only 20% of our efforts give us 80% of our results. This goes for anything from house cleaning to work success to fitness levels. Not all of your daily activities are created equal!
(See the video at the end for more on the 80/20 rule!)
So first, what are the 20% of activities that bring you the MOST value in your day? These should stay on the to-do list.
Now, let’s alleviate the burden of the rest…
Not-to-do List Ideas
Here are general low-value examples that could make it on your new kind of list.
Checking Your Messages Often
When we want to feel like we’re being productive quickly, checking messages is an obvious choice. However, email and text messages are MASSIVE time sucks. Plus, they destroy our focus on high-level tasks because we’re ping-ponging between messages and real work.
So, how many times have you checked them today? Did you REALLY need to?
Perhaps it’s time to have a designated message checking time, and remove it from the rest of your day.
Consuming Media Without a Purpose
We’ve all done it. Social media is systematically set up so that we lose ourselves in the rabbit hole of posts, pictures, and videos. Netflix plays shows for hours without you lifting a finger. It’s never been easier to get sucked into media.
But if you’re going on these platforms often to escape, it needs to be put on your not to do list.
Save yourself HOURS of time and do a social media detox, set a timer, or only go one when you have something specific you WANT to see.
“Gain control over your time and you gain control of your life.”John Landis Mason
Doing Things for Your Kids They Can Do For Themselves
Nowadays, parents do MUCH more for their kids than generations of the past. Sometimes this is love, and sometimes it’s enabling. So, consider the daily activities you do that your kids could truly do themselves.
While teaching kids to be independent takes initial practice (and patience), the payoff is huge! So, if they’re young, teach them to get their own food, bathe themselves, and pick up after themselves. You’ll be making them stronger, and freeing up enormous amounts of your time.
Here’s an easy example from my life:
For several weeks, I logged into my daughter’s e-learning and kept close track of everything she was doing. With so much going on, this was exhausting. So, I decided to let go. We went over where to find her tasks and what to do, and she practiced. Now, she finds and works on her assignments independently. I still help her with the main content, but teaching her how to do it on her own lifted a HUGE amount off of my shoulders.
Doing Stuff You Hate
Cleaning the shower. Making phone calls to crabby people. Mowing the lawn.
We all have daily tasks that are a bit mundane. Some, we don’t mind doing or we find purpose in. Others, we’d trade our souls to avoid.
What are those tasks for you? Consider them for your not to do list!
Allowing Busywork to Overtake Your Life
We often overlook the difference between busy and productive. Most people are busy, but what are they busy doing?
Make sure that busywork like long meetings, rambling people, housework, and emails are not overtaking the majority of your day.
Worry, Worry, & Worry Some More
Women, especially, struggle with this! HOURS of our lives are wasted on worrying about things that never happen. So, if this is one of your challenges put “worry” on your not-to do list and consider one of these options to keep the worries away:
For more, check out the free 2 page self-care toolkit below!
Now, Create Your Personalized Not-to-do List
Take the examples above into account, and now let’s write!
- Sit down and look at the activities that you engaged in over the last day, week, and month. Jot down how you felt about them and whether they were effective in moving towards your values and goals. Use your 80/20 lens! (20% of your effort gives you 80% of your results)
If you can’t clearly remember your days, consider keeping a time log for a week to understand where you put your time.
2. Now, look at your future week. What activities are you doing that light you up? What are you dreading?
3. Create your fierce not to do list!
BUT the Not-to-do List Still Has to Get Done!
Sometimes, certain things still have to get done. This is especially true for parents!
So, here are some strategies to employ with your not-do-list items:
Prioritization is essential to sorting the important from the busywork. So, prioritize your most meaningful tasks (top 20%) early in the day. By doing this early, whatever gets left behind at the end of your day was the least important anyways.
First, think of close family and friends. How can others help with your not-to-do list?
Perhaps your significant other can assist with more common household chores or someone at work can take something off of your hands that isn’t necessary for you to do.
Give your kids more chores and share the school drop off/pick up with someone else. Regardless, get creative with trading tasks or asking for help.
Yep, some things on the not-to-list need to go into the void. Yes, it would be nice if we could do them. But, this is real life! And not everything matters.
For example, I stopped folding laundry for my kids two years ago. I calculated that this saves me at least 36 hours a year. And you know what? No one in my family cares. And no one in the outside world has EVER commented on my kids’ clothes.
Alright, we’ve prioritized, delegated, and deleted what we can. What’s left are items that have to be taken care of, but it’s hard to delegate to someone you know. So, pay for help if it improves your quality of life. This could be childcare, a work assistant, house cleaning, etc.
And it also includes products that make your life easier! Check out these helpful outsourcing items:
Only Agree to Things You REALLY Want to Do
Finally, to fight overcommitment, only say yes to things that you’re really excited about. When someone asks you to do something, rate it between 1-10. If it’s not a 7 or above, don’t do it.
Sometimes, you have to say no to the good to make room for the great. This is living life on your terms, not the rules of those around you.
Following through can require you to get slightly outside of your comfort zone. So, consider these ideas to get the most out of your not-to-do list:
- Set reminders to delegate, eliminate, and outsource
- Use accountability (a partner, support group, or app)
- Make a bet with someone
- Talk with your significant other or family
- Create a block schedule to better focus
- Set smart goals
- Do a challenge for something that’s important to you
- Boost your motivation daily
Something to Consider With Your Not to do List
Create your list and make a plan to use the above strategies within the next day for quick results! Then, enjoy feeling more in control of your time, with less frazzle and stress in your mind.
Now, how can you do more by doing less? What’s on your not to do list?!