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Do You Have a “Not to Do” List? Perhaps you need one!

I’m a whiz at creating killer “to-do” lists. I have lists for work, home, travel, and interesting things to do. I have systems and tools, some paper and some electronic. I have toyed with organizing my organizers!

Yet even better than creating the “to-do” list is the joy that comes with crossing something off or checking complete on the list! I must admit that I’ve sometimes added an already completed task to the list just for the thrill of crossing it off.

To-do lists keep me organized, focused, and productive most days. They give me a sense of agency and accomplishment. They bring order to chaos and help me remember things I will likely forget.

Of course, there is one big hairy assumption under all this. That is the assumption that the items on the list are really the most important, critical, and impactful. That they are worth doing. That they are not merely activities masquerading as progress.

At the beginning of 2023, it struck me that I’m great at putting things on to the list and horrible at saying no to things. As such, I’ve created a “Not to do” list. And just like my to-do list, I review it daily. It helps remind me of the things I don’t want to slip back into doing with intentionality.

My 2023 ‘Not to Do” list includes:

  • Buying things that create more clutter in my life
  • Holding back when I think my voice needs to be heard
  • Blaming others for situations I had a hand in creating
  • Judging others
  • Second guessing myself
  • Acting my age
  • Worrying about what “others” will think

I’m not sure what your “not to do” list might include, yet as I coach leaders, I would suggest these things might well make some leader’s lists:

  • Hijacking conversations
  • Talking more than listening
  • Doing work that I could delegate to others
  • Being too busy to take time to be with people authentically
  • Rushing from one thing to another
  • Ignoring my personal health and wellbeing
  • Micromanaging
  • Being defensive about feedback
  • Avoiding difficult conversations
  • Putting off my own personal and professional development


There are several ways you might get the fodder for your “not to-do list”:

  1. Identify those things that add frustration to your life – and see if you can minimize or eliminate them.
  2. Ask those around you, “What could I stop doing that would enable me to be more effective?”
  3. Ask your team: “What could I stop doing that would make your life better?”
  4. Do a time or calendar audit – and color code your activities.
    1. Green for the things that add high value (both short and long term).
    2. Yellow items need to be done, but only in the short term.
    3. Red items are those you are doing that someone else might, that could be eliminated all together, or that you could dramatically reduce your time investment and still get similar results.
  5. Take a hard look at recurring meetings. Can you delegate? Only attend when needed? Cancel all together?
  6. Look for alternative ways to achieve your repeating tasks. Can you automate it? Hire it out? Do it at 50% rather than 100%?

I’m curious – what items will make your “not to-do” list? Please comment!

And now, this blog is written. I can check that off my “to-do” list😊

One Response

  1. This is a great reminder. I teach and use the Eisenhower Module which is similar to your blog. I need to do more “delegating” and “deleting”!

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