THE BEST ADVICE I received during 2020!!

With the changing hours and flexibility of working from home during lockdown, I could not stay focused and found myself wasting a lot of valuable hours.

A not-to-do list is a handy tool to help you stay more focused on the important things in your life, business, and career. Simply put, it is 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.

Why do you need the not-to-do list?

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 don’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 following tasks and things should be on your not-to-do list:

  • All the tasks that emotionally drain you
  • Your weak spots for the things you want to say no to but somehow can’t
  • Everything that’s considered a distraction from staying productive
  • All the tasks that somehow regularly find you, but that you can delete, delegate, or outsource
  • Other people’s responsibilities
  • Tasks that have a low impact on your value production (for example, small projects that are always in the way of the bigger ones)
  • The bad habits you want to eliminate
  • Stuff that simply doesn’t need to be done
  • Things that are out of your control

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:

  • First, you need to take the time to make the list
  • The second step is retrospection. You have to analyze your tasks from the previous months, especially the recurring ones. Open your calendar, to-do list or time-tracking software and look for patterns. You should do the same with the different requests you get from people in your personal and business life.
  • Dedicate a few minutes to every recurring task. First, define how big of an impact the task has on your future. How much added value are you really creating by performing the task? Then ask yourself if you can delete, delegate, or outsource certain tasks in order to do something else with more value. Finally, ask yourself how you are feeling when you’re performing the task. Do you feel any negative emotions? Do you usually procrastinate when performing the task? Do you feel guilt or anger after saying yes etc.?
  • Identify low-level tasks, tasks you can delegate, and distractions and time wasters that take up more space in your calendar than they should. Be honest with yourself about what should be on your not-to-do list. Especially try to identify tasks that help you procrastinate, as well as the ones you have problems saying no to. Find the recurring ones and put them on your not-to-do list.
  • Prepare templates for kindly declining tasks and start saying no. That is of course the hardest part. You should also regularly review your not-to-do list (at least every quarter) to add new things to the list or take something off if your life situation changes.

You can also use the not-to-do list concept at the beginning of a new working day or week, I do this each Sunday, for a meeting with yourself to plan out your tasks.

Instead of only asking yourself which tasks you will 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 will be able to focus on the most important tasks and keep your decision muscle strong for other important choices.

“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!

What leads to success? Focus, focus, focus. Let the not-to-do list help you with that.