Everyone Needs a Not-To-Do List: Including You!

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

Have you ever made a not-to-do list? Everyone’s made a to-do list, I make one every day, but few people have ever even heard of a not-to-do list. But this simple list could be the key to getting things done and being productive, smashing through your task list and destroying your most important task.

Warren Buffest’s Productivity System for Prioritizing Tasks

There’s a story; I don’t know if it’s true, that Warren Buffet’s private jet pilot, after many years of service, asked him for some advice on being successful. Having known him so long, Warren took the time to explain the secret to success, and here it is.

Buffet told him to write down the 25 most important things to him on a piece of paper. When he had done this, he went back and showed Mr. Buffet, who said, “Now circle the five things that are most important to you.” And he did so.

“Oh, I understand,” the pilot said, “These are the things I should concentrate on, and the others are things I should do only occasionally.” But the smile dropped from his face with Mr. Buffet’s response.

“No you don’t get it,” he said, “Those 20 things are the activities waste your time and ruin your life, never do them if you want to be successful.”

The wisdom of one of the wealthiest men in the world can’t be overstated. Sometimes being successful is about what you don’t do.

So everyone should have a “not to-do list” because if you don’t make it clear what is draining your time and energy and causing you to be a failure, you’ll keep doing it unknowingly.

So pull out your planner, bullet journal, or second brain software, and let’s begin.

Daily vs. Long-Term Not-To-Do Lists

I made a not-to-do list today. It only contained three items:

  1. Youtube
  2. Bread
  3. Coffee after midday

These are three things that I’m avoiding today because I have to focus and be especially productive. Life happens to us all, so when you know you won’t be able to work for a day or two, it’s a good idea to have a hard day where you get more done than usual in preparation. A not-to-do list is perfect for this.

I have family coming this weekend, so I need to do three days of work today.

Not watching Youtube or skipping the carbs for a day is pretty straightforward. It won’t be tempting, but without a conscious effort or forethought into what things to cut out for a day of productivity, it is all too easy to fill yourself at lunch and then feel sleepy throughout the afternoon.

I find drinking coffee after lunch also ends up in a loss in productive work; I get a little too much cortisol and caffeine and find that although I want to get things done (I’m not tired), my focus isn’t rock stead like it is in the morning after a cup of joe.

By writing these three things in my planner, I know I will likely be in the mood to work all day long. And it’s working; this is the second post I’ve written today, and it’s only 2.00 pm.

How to make a not-to-do list for today

The first thing you must know to make a daily not-to-do list is your biggest distractions, energy sappers, or detractors from doing what you know you’re supposed to. Make a list of them, and organize them in your favorite notes app; you know what they are. Here are a few common ones:

  • Friends
  • Social Media
  • TV
  • Youtube or other streaming services
  • Music or Podcasts
  • Books
  • Porn
  • Alcohol or Weed
  • Video Games
  • The news
  • Junk Food

Some of these are time wasters, like TV or social media, but some are energy sappers, like Junk food; others detract from your creativity or productivity, like the news, which can cause stress.

Once you’ve worked out what activities usually make your day worse, pick some to add to your daily not to do list.

When starting, just add one thing to your list and see the difference it makes to your productivity. Then, ask yourself how easy it was to cut out that day. Did you think about it during the day? Were you tempted? Or did you fail?

Don’t add more than you can handle.

If day one was a struggle resisting a single item, don’t expect you to be able to resist three the next day. Instead, build it up slowly and only add more to your list when it becomes easy.

You don’t need a not-to-do list every day.

Remember, this is a tool you can use when you need it. Just because you add your Playstation to the list, one day doesn’t mean that you can never play it again or that you should feel guilty when you do. It’s not an admission of evil. It’s just that you have days when you can’t afford to be distracted. So use the not-to-do list on those days.

Create a Not-To-Do List for Monk Mode

Monk mode is a new idea of taking some time to reduce distractions and focus on a few important aspects of your life; check out this guide to monk mode to learn more.

When you start monk mode, one of the first things you do is create a not to do list. This isn’t a list of things you want to avoid that day but for the whole period of monk mode. Usually, this means one to three months.

Imagine cutting out some of your bad habits or time-wasting activities for three months! You’d be a different person by the end of it! And with all the extra time you’ll have, you’ll get so much done!

That’s the point of monk mode. It’s a period of time when you can turn your life around. That might mean:

Never Do List

Then there’s the never do list. This not-to-do list is more like the 20 items Warren Buffet told his pilot to stop doing. They are the things you simply need to cut out of your life.

But you can make this more than a list of bad habits. We all have bad habits, and try as we might. We can’t always break them. But this list is a sacred list of things you will never do again. So you need to be sure before adding anything to it.

If you find yourself doing things on this list, its power will be gone, and the list will become meaningless.

That means this will be a short list, especially when you first make it.

Some things you might want to add to your never do list include:

  • Be unfaithful
  • Get Drunk
  • Lie

What will you put on yours?

Tips to Help You Prioritize Tasks and Be More Productive

  • Keep a list of all your tasks – never be unsure of what you need to get done.
  • Use personal productivity software or a to-do list app – Google Tasks, Omnifocus, Todoist, etc.
  • Use a Pomodoro timer for focused work – Although there’s a better protocol than the standard 25-minute Pomodoro.
  • Don’t use your email inbox to keep track of reminders and to-dos – Put the tasks to be done in your task manager and delete the email.