Several years ago I came across the concept of the “not-to-do list” and it recently resurfaced again in a conversation with a client.  I love when I’m given the opportunity to pull out something I haven’t thought about and bring it back into my light of awareness!

And I want to share this great tool with you.

So what is the Not-To-Do List?

The NOT to do listBasically, the not-to-do list is a time management strategy to help prioritize your activities.  

You take items on your usually over-flowing “to-do” list and consciously say “not today” to some of them.  And to carry the conscious thought process into concrete action, you literally write  them on a “not-to-do list”.  You might have a permanent “not-to-do” list or a temporary or short-term version.  

To me this is powerful on many levels.

First, it acknowledges to yourself that you cannot do everything right now.  

This seems obvious, yet many of us are pulled by the expectation, desire, or sense of internal/external pressure to think we can get everything done in a day (or a week or even a month).  

And those expectations and frenetic energies can distract you as well as create anxiety, guilt and overwhelm.  

By making the list, you “surrender” into the reality that you don’t all have those magical Harry Potter clocks to allow you to be multiple places at once doing multiple tasks simultaneously.  And that you don’t have a clone of yourself to do more.  

Yea, you for recognizing your limits!

Second, it gives you space to really decide what is important in any given moment.  

By saying no to one task, activity or event, you open up the space to say YES to what is of higher priority.  

Note here that higher priority can be on a tangible work level as well on an emotional, inner wisdom level.  For example, you might have an article due in two days but if you are mentally and physically exhausted, the priority right now might be the resting in the hammock and letting the mind float on ideas for the articles in a passive, unconscious way.  By the next day, the article might have top billing for action. 

To me, these inner and outer priorities need a balance.  

Sometimes there are actual deadlines that need to be met and orienting the day to get those done first is most effective.  But knowing that there are usually more tasks waiting to take the place as soon as you cross off one to-do item, also means prioritizing recharge time.

Third, the list allows you to set aside of things without fear of them being forgotten or lost.  

Think of your not-to-do list as a repository of your ideas and tasks that you want to get to – later.

I see many clients overwhelmed by life and lists. Part of that overwhelm is an idea that if you don’t do something or act on some idea RIGHT NOW, you will miss out.  

I used to have some of this energy which led me to feel pressure and set internal deadlines that were unnecessary and simply adding to my stress and overwhelm.

I discovered this different attitude that serves me better – “what feels right now that fits is a yes but if something is meant to be, it will show up again”.  That thought change helps with my overall approach, and the not-to-do list gives me a space or container to put my creatives ideas and not-as-important tasks somewhere that I cam come back to.

Lastly, I believe this not-to-do list gives you permission to let go of something that is a legitimate need but that you don’t have to take care of in this moment.  

It is shifting to recognize that you are bothered by things like a inbox full of emails or unread professional newsletter, but that it’s ok not to do them right now.  

I’m sure there are many other powerful ways to use this list and I would love to hear some of your thoughts on this if you’re inspired to share!  For me, a habitual list maker and do-aholic, this tool has been a great way to shift my tasks in a way that effectively gets things done while lightening my heart and mind.

And for those who love lists, consider this one as possible priorities which might shift some other tasks or activities onto your “not-to-do” list.


Copyright © 2017 to present Jamie Durner, Holistic Business Mentor Coach @ All rights reserved.

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