Do you have a to-do list? Of-course most of us do! If not a to-do list, we all have some sort of a way we keep track of the tasks we need to accomplish. In fact lists can change your life if used correctly - says Paula Rizzo, author of Listful Thinking.

But those to-do lists do not provide you with a right or a wrong way to do things if you want to be successful (Check 7 habits of highly productive people), let’s explain why.

To-do lists specify the tasks, but not the context or the dynamics and complexity or it, thus not giving us a clear idea of the approximate timeline it would require to finish. Because of an absence of deadlines being present and no pressure to finish tasks in a certain time, they’re also super easy to ignore.

For which a “not-to do” list is more effective than a to-do list. You may ask why?

Well, simply because what you don’t do determines what you can do. This list can jumpstart your productivity by reminding you what you should avoid, and that in turn will channel your energy into things you should be doing, maximizing your performance and efficiency.

  1. A Task That Is Perpetual And Recurring

These should be the first set of items that you should be crossing, this set of tasks are those that you find yourself doing everyday or even hourly. This could be checking your emails or attending a daily catch-up meeting. The main motive is to focus on eliminating anything that you would do regardless of it being on the list or not. So analyse the tasks that have been repetitive, look for patterns on how much time it needs allocating and dedicate a few minutes accordingly to every recurring task. Do you want to guess what the biggest “time-waster” is in a workplace?

Yes, its email, with an average employee checking their inbox 36 times per hour, is sure to be the biggest productivity barrier. For which, simply check your emails only at set times or just in the morning or evening, this will allow you time to focus on your actual “to do list” items. (Some popular to do list apps are Todoist, TickTick, Google tasks and many more) You can also find downloadable to do list templates at Clockify.

2. A Task That Somehow You Never Seem To Complete & Someone Else Can

Firstly if it’s a task that somehow keeps reappearing because you keep putting it off, the odds are that you’re never going to do it. So be honest with yourself, and figure out if it needs to be done or not, if not it’s okay to scrape it off. But if it is a long-term project or one that you can delegate to someone else, then it’s best to do so and save your time and effort by doing something that’s of more substance.

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3. Someone Else’s Work

If it’s someone else’s responsibility, then you are not obligated to do so and remember it’s okay to say no and refuse politely. If it’s work you don’t want to do, then don’t waste your time doing so. For example: if someone emails you asking for help during the weekend, a standard response politely stating that you’re busy on the weekend as you have personal commitments should work just fine.

"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

4. Tasks That Take 5 Minutes Or Less

Stay far from putting tasks in your to-do list like responding to emails or checking the news, if it’s a task that requires a few minutes, it shouldn't belong on your to-do list and rather be done. Make sure your to-do lists tasks only includes tasks that require more time, brain power and focus.

Identify low level tasks that possess a low impact on your value production, axe those "distracting" tasks off your calendar and place them on reminders instead. Also look for outsourcing options for those small tasks, a virtual assistant is a great option! (Check out how much it costs to hire a virtual assistant in 2020)

5. Tasks That Are Distractions More Than Work

If it’s a task that is emotionally draining you and can impact your productivity for other more important tasks, then red flag such tasks. That could be checking your phone like negative news on social media or even virtual water-cooler chats that go overboard with the gossiping.

Did you know an employee spends 3 hours a day on their phone, and once distracted, an average of 23 minutes, 15 seconds is required to get back on track. So save yourself that fiddle about and procrastination and just like you make yourself a mental anti-to do list for daily behaviours like no sleeping after 10pm or no heavy food for dinner, do the same for work too and you’ll see wonders in your productivity.

Final Note:

Remember time and energy is a limited resource for all, and how you choose to spend that precious resource can make ample differences. It might sound implausible especially if you’re busy enough but set aside a little to create a not-to-do-list and you’ll be blown by its virtues.

"Once you accept that you have more to do than time to do it all, that is actually a liberating concept. This realization forces you to acknowledge there are lower priority items that you will likely never complete. Delete those non-essentials, put them on your what not-to-do list, and commit to letting them go. This will prevent you from wasting precious time continually re-evaluating whether you might get to them that could be better invested in actually completing your work."  -Management consultant and executive coach writes in Harvard Business Review
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