To do or Not to do?

I am a big fan of lists; check lists, action steps, event timeline and check list, media list, shopping list, paraphernalia for school list etc. With technology advances nowadays, these lists have increasingly become automated with apps for all sorts of things.

However I personally like putting pen to paper so keeping a Must Do list on paper is a regular ritual. Recently, I started to hear and read about the value of Not to do Lists to help weed out the “must have”, “need to have” and “not really necessary to have” tasks and actions.

I have seen many different variations of such “Not to do lists” from those which are action driven to more evolved habits driven lists. See some examples below of what people put on their Not to do List.

Which kind of “Not to do lister” are you? Please share in comments.

  1. Do not answer calls from unrecognized phone numbers
  2. No e-mails first thing in the morning or last thing at night
  3. Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time
  4. Do not let people ramble
  5. No not check e-mails constantly — “batch” and check at set times only
  6. Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers
  7. Do not work more to fix overwhelm — prioritize
  8. Do not carry a smartphone 24/7
  9. Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should
  10. Your weak spots for the things you want to say no to but somehow can’t or struggle
  11. Everything that’s considered a distraction from staying productive (e-mail, news etc.)
  12. Other people’s responsibilities
  13. Tasks that have a low impact on your value production (small projects are always in the way of the bigger ones)
  14. All the tasks that really emotionally drain you
  15. The bad habits you want to eliminate
  16. Stuff that simply doesn’t need to be done
  17. Things that are out of your control
  18. Everything else that you can systematically eliminate and bring a bigger margin into your life
  19. Do not try to please everyone
  20. Do not try to get it perfect on first attempt
  21. Do not procrastinate on priorities
  22. Do not go to sleep with unresolved issues
  23. Do not constantly check my phone for notifications
  24. Do not eat junk food on work days
  25. Do not read any negative news

The difference between successful people and really successful people is that successful people say no to almost everything

Warren Buffett

Great, now you have a list of items that you should not do, what do you do with that? A list is useful if you actually do something of value with it. I particularly like the suggestion made by Dean Graziosi in his book Millionaire Success Habits. He recommended picking the most important 5 to 6 items on your Not to do list and writing next to them one of the following actions:

  • Eliminate
  • Automate
  • Outsource
  • Delegate
  • Replace

By doing this, we are focusing on a solution for the Not to do’s. Should we continue to keep them i.e. is it a habit that creates any value whatsoever. If not, put into the Garbage bin. Hanging out with friends who do not support you or your goals, who bring you down with their negativity? Time to find some new friends.

Paying bills by check every month? Why not activate online payment which automatically deducts the amounts every month, this make take a bit of time to set up but once done, you can let it run. How about mowing the lawn or buying groceries or cleaning your house – those can be outsource to someone else for example your neighbor who would love the extra pocket money.

As for that task in the office that can be done by a junior staff or another colleague, delegate it and get it off your list. What about that habit that is really not productive or useful, try replacing it with something else.

It’s great having a list but not doing anything constructive with that list defeats the purpose of having a list to start with.

So make sure your Not to do List counts.

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