The Not-To-Do List

The to-do list reigns king among time management tools because it’s the easiest. Open up a Word document, click on the bullets icon, and start listing away. Always in the beginning of creating these long to-do lists, I feel good. For some reason doing the list itself gives me a sense of accomplishment.

I end up with a 30-item and realize how futile this is. Have you ever spent more time making your to-do list rather than working on it? If so, you’re suffering from to-do-list therapy.

As I create these lists, I tack on more items. It’s classic procrastination: making lists makes me feel productive, but doesn’t lead me to productive actions. The more items I add, the more I dilute the urgency of big items I’m trying to avoid.

Here’s why we subject ourselves to such insanity: it takes more energy and focus to prioritize the important things than it is to simply create a giant list. And we avoid those important items because not only do they require a lot of work, but we’re afraid of doing a mediocre (or bad) job on important items.

I propose a tool that may help as part of your productivity toolkit – Create Not-To-Do Lists. Here’s a sample of mine:

Not-to-do List, November 6th, 2012

  • Don’t waste hours finding new WordPress themes
  • Don’t reply to Jeremy’s emails
  • Don’t surf Facebook

This can also be termed “The List of Things to Ignore.” Another helpful version is the “What Am I Avoiding List?” Example:

  • Writing an actual article to put out on Guy Guides
  • Sending out that email to 30 project managers
  • Looking at my credit card expenses for the month

What you call your lists don’t matter. The point is to focus on priorities.

Hope this helps!

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