Having a to do list is a long-established and very wise idea. It is so very easy to forget about something that you need to do. Important things can slip away if we have not made a note of them. One key advantage of having a to do list is that, when it gets too long, it is giving us two important messages:
- We may be trying to do too much and thereby be overstretching ourselves, On my Time and Workload Management e-learning course, I talk about four important principles, and one of those is: Too much work is too much – that is, we all have limits to what we can reasonably get through in terms of work or other tasks. Spreading ourselves too thinly is never a wise move and can create a number of significant problems.
- We should be thinking about prioritising. If it looks as though we can’t realistically get through all the tasks on the list, then we should at least make sure that we do the most important tasks first. That way, the tasks that don’t get done will be the least important ones. Sadly, it is not uncommon for people under pressure to fail to prioritise and to end up doing less important tasks, while the more important ones don’t get done. As you can imagine, this can be potentially disastrous.
So, there is no doubt that to do lists can be very valuable tools if used properly. But where does having a ‘Not to Do’ list come into the picture? Well, what you will find is that most people will do some things that are either not a useful thing to do or that are actually counterproductive.
There are many potential examples of things that are commonly done that we would be better off without:
- Doing ourselves down I have run many courses on assertiveness over the years and one of the issues that has always come up has been the danger of, to use the technical term, ‘self-disempowerment’. The classic example of this is the person who begins a comment with ‘I’m probably wrong, but …’ or some other self-deprecating statement of this kind.
- Getting sidetracked Using social media is a major source of this problem. You go online to look up an important piece of information and then find that you have wasted time looking at a whole range of things. But, it isn’t just social media that can contribute to this phenomenon. If you start looking for examples of people getting sidetracked, it won’t take you long before you find them.
- Ploughing a negative furrow Moaning that produces action can be very productive and a useful step in the process of bringing about positive change. However, if it does not lead to action, it can be a part of a vicious circle of negativity that serves as an obstacle to moving forward.
I could go on giving more and more examples, but I hope I have already illustrated my point, namely that we need to be aware of those things that cause us problems or hold us back. So, what I propose you do is to think very carefully about what should be on your Not to Do list. What are the things that you are prone to doing (mainly out of habit, perhaps, or because they serve as some sort of defence mechanism) that are potentially problematic? Once you have that list you can then start to think about what you can do to reduce the number of items on it or get rid of them altogether. Just think how much better your life would be if you could do that.