To do, not-to-do or done? A variety of list styles to help you reach your goals

pexels-photo-131979.jpeg

Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend to encourage young entrepreneurs and go-getters to forgo the old-fashioned To-do lists in favour of a Not-to-do list.

Essentially, a Not-to-do list is a compilation of all of the things that you should not focus  on, so that you can more easily achieve the small number of goals that are actually your top priorities.

Journalist Sean Kim wrote about this new philosophy for goal-setting in a 2014 Huffington Post article, which discussed business magnate Warren Buffett’s advice on how best to focus on your goals. In short, Buffett recommended listing all of your goals and then singling out only the most important priorities, pushing all of the remaining entries onto an ‘avoid-at-all-cost’ list.

A proponent of a different type of  Not-to-do list is German comedian Marc-Uwe Kling, whose fictional Kangaroo character writes a list of all of the things that he doesn’t want to do that day and checks them off one by one, with his sense of accomplishment rising with each checked box and avoided task.

As a self-diagnosed List Addict, I decided to compare both styles of Not-to-do lists against traditional to-do lists, and a fourth form of list, which is written after the task has been completed and only contains entries that you have already done.

1. Traditional To-do List

How it works:

Write a list of everything you think you should do, then do it. Check the items off once they have been completed.

Example:

To Do

  • Finish writing my thesis
  • Lose 5 pounds
  • Paint the kitchen
  • Go jogging more
  • Call mom on her birthday

How I see it:

Oh my god! It’s so much. I’ll never get it done. I should probably take a break first and watch an episode of The Bachelor to calm down before I attempt to start.

Results:

It depends on my mood. If the tasks are easy then I’ll do them. If they’re hard, then I won’t. I often spend more time on the list than I do on actually ticking the items off.

2. Not-to-do List

How it works:

Write a list of everything you would like to achieve over a specific time period. Then isolate only a small number of top priorities and push every other item onto a Not-to-do or Avoid-at-all-costs list. Focus all of your energy on the top priorities and any time you start thinking about something on the avoid list, stop!

Example List BEFORE:

Things I want to accomplish this month

  • Finish writing my thesis
  • Lose 5 pounds
  • Paint the kitchen
  • Go jogging more
  • Call mom on her birthday

If your top priority is to finish writing your thesis, then all other entries need to be moved to a Not-to-do list, except of course for calling your mom on her birthday. Time sensitive entries do need to be respected. However, if you were to focus on trying to go jogging, lose weight and paint your kitchen, then these tasks would only distract you from your primary goal of finishing your thesis.

Example List AFTER:

Things I want to accomplish this month

  • Finish writing my thesis
  • Call mom on her birthday

Don’t even think about

  • Lose 5 pounds
  • Paint the kitchen
  • Go jogging more

How I see it:

As a serial procrastinator, I can see the logic in streamlining the list of tasks. If I have the feeling that there is too much to do, I shut down and am unable to begin on any task. I instead waste time, thereby accomplishing nothing at all. With an extremely focused set of goals, it may be easier to actually have success.

Results:

So far, so good. I wrote a list of all of the possible ways I could spend my time, and included all of the things I had recently been spending my time on. Then I targeted my three main work-related goals, and two main personal goals. All other tangents have been placed on a Not-to-do list. What will be important in the future will be for me to be aware of how I am spending my time and gauge whether or not this is in line with my priorities.

 

3. Done List

How it works:

In essence, this is a traditional To do list, which has been written after the fact. Instead of looking at the mountain of tasks you still have to do, you learn to take pride in what you have been able to achieve.

Example List:

Done

  • I finished writing the introduction of  my thesis
  • I took out the trash
  • I went jogging today
  • I called my mom on her birthday

How I see it:

I guess this is a way for people to feel a sense of accomplishment at what they have been able to complete. It was recommended to me by a friend who is a scientist, and has the type of job where the To Do List is never-ending, and you constantly feel as if you are swimming against the current, never getting anywhere. This type of list is a way of celebrating your progress, without having to feel the shame of not having checked off all of the boxes on a traditional-style To Do List.

Results:

This feels very similar to practicing gratitude. Instead of feeling grateful for what I have, this is a way of feeling proud of what I have accomplished. However, for my purposes, this doesn’t replace a traditional To do list, as the function is very different. I did feel quite proud of myself after writing the list, though.

 

What do you think?

Do you have thoughts on any of these list-making options? What type of list do you think would be most useful for you? Leave a message in the comments to let my know what you think.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s