Key components of any good time management system are; planning ahead, prioritizing, and using and maintaining a complete to-do list.  But sometimes when you look at your “to-do” list you get overwhelmed. It’s as if you have more on your plate than one person can accomplish in a lifetime.  If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to start a “Not-To-Do-List.”

A “Not-To-Do-List” allows you to be more aware of where you’re wasting your time and gives you more time to spend on things you need or want to do.  Or in the words of Timothy Ferris, “What you don’t do, determines what you CAN do.”

A few suggestions for creating your own “Not-To-Do-List”:

I will not say “yes” to everything that is requested of me
Otherwise known as: “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything,” – Author Unknown. Some suggested ways to say “no” to things are:

    • “I’d love to work on your committee, but not at this time, I just have too much on my plate.”
    • “That sounds like so much fun, but not at this time.”
    • “I’d love to help you on that project, but I also have my own projects, and if I do yours, I’ll never get mine done.”
    • “Thanks for asking, it’s always an honor to be asked, unfortunately I can’t do that this year.”
    • “WOW! You thought of me first, that’s very flattering.  It’s just not the right time for me.”

I will not be plugged in 24-7
The world is a busy place, and being “connected” is a great way to stay on top of things.  But there needs to be a limit.  With the amount of daily information coming at you from your cell phone, landline, voicemail, e-mail, the internet, Facebook, Linkedin, etc., it’s often impossible to keep up with it all.  Recognize that things can wait.  Unless you’re the leader of the free world or a doctor with a patient’s life hanging in the balance, nothing that terrible will result if you return an e-mail or phone call tomorrow.

I will not put all of my own priorities last
If you’re the type who’s always giving and doing for others, what price are you paying?  Are you always overworked, overwhelmed, and exhausted?  No one is telling you to be a selfish narcissist, but everyone needs time for themselves; to regroup, to refocus, and to recharge.

I will not try to be a one person show
As much as you try to be strong and independent, trying to do it all yourself is not the way to go.  There will always be things that left in the hands of someone else; they will be done better and more efficiently.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather it shows that you know what your priorities are and how to accomplish your goals.

I will not give in to self doubt
Negative talk from your inner voice can often leave you feeling paralyzed and unable to move forward on what you are trying to achieve.  Are you procrastinating on something because you’re afraid you might fail?  Try to imagine the worst that could happen and you may realize failure might not be that bad, but success could be HUGE!  Or break the project down into smaller steps – once you get past the first step you might just gain the confidence you need to move forward on each successive step.

Try coming up with your own “Not-To-Do-List” and discover the impact it will have on your own time and productivity.  Hopefully you’ll be able to shorten your “to-do” list and breathe a little easier.