The Not-To-Do List

I’m a list making addict.

Open up a doc, click on the bullets icon, and start listing away.

I always feel good when I first create these to do lists. For some reason making the list itself gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Then I end up with a 30-item and realize how futile it all 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 addiction.

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 an experiment to include as part of your productivity toolkit.

Create a Not-To-Do List.

Here’s a sample of mine:

Not-to-do List, November 6th

  • 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.” 

What you call your lists don’t matter.

The point is to clarify your priorities by identifying what you shouldn’t do right now.

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