How Useful Is A Not-To-Do List?

To be or not to be that is the question but to do, or not to do, is also a question which needs our attention. We have all come across articles and blogs telling us about to-do lists, where we prioritise, plan and mark the task from urgent to not so urgent. If you have a habit of maintaining a to-do list, you probably know the wonderful feeling you get when you put a tick-mark on an accomplished task. To-do lists have their place. But did you know, not-to-do lists could be equally helpful?

Many experts on strategy and planning often talk of a ‘negative’ list’; a list that tells us what should be avoided. Think about it. Sometimes, we might not be sure what we want to do but we are pretty sure about the kind of situation we would like to avoid. For example, we often hear ourselves saying things like:

  • ‘Do not forget to call that client today.’
  • ‘Do not to bring up an issue that doesn’t add to the agenda of this meeting’
  • ‘Do not forget to double check the data.’

Sometimes, clear and specific not-to-do list can lead to a better understanding of the need of the moment, rather than a vague to-do list.

For the sake of examples though, let us take a look at some more general and universal tasks which could be added in the not-to-do list. Doing those tasks have known to make people regret some of their decisions in life.

Do Not be Worried What Others Might Think:

Sounds so simple, right? But have we all not worried at some point what others might say about our decisions and choices? Have we not been scared of what people might think of us?

Simply keeping in mind to not worry about other people’s (often unsolicited) opinions could potentially help us make decisions which are about us, and not others.

Do Not be Scared to Take Risks:

We all have thought of certain things we want to do, and have backed away at the last moment only to look back years later, and thought that maybe  we should have taken that risk because that was the time. It doesn’t matter whether you look back at your twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or even sixty year old self. There is no age when we haven’t looked back and regretted some of our decisions.

It is important we add this to our not-to-do list to be completely free from all the what ifs and buts.

Do Not Drag On a Bad Job For too Long:

It is important to not run away from a momentarily tough situation. We have talked of strategic quitting in the past. A temporary situation is not a good enough reason to quit.

But it is equally important to not drag on a job that is holding you back from achieving your long term plans and dreams. It is necessary we add this to our not-to-do list so we don’t end up feeling like we wasted our potential.

Do Not Save the Expression ‘For Later’:

Haven’t we all had to face a situation where we needed people to be there for us? Whether it is a difficult family crisis, or a professional crisis, expressing empathy, kindness, offering a few healing words, taking actions which we know will help the other person to cope should not be saved for later, for the ‘right time.’

Haven’t we had loved ones suddenly depart, and felt we should have mended that relation before it was too late? Why push mending something broken to ‘later’ when it can be mended ‘now’?

Keeping this in our not-to-do list will ensure we know there is no ‘wrong time’ to express kindness in actions and words.

Do Not Think It’s Too Late to Pursue Higher Studies:

Learning, knowledge, study have no age bar. If circumstances made you give up on studies, temporarily, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on them permanently.

It is necessary we don’t let socially constructed conventions about age hinder us from pursuing anything which could add to our skill- and knowledge- set, helping us grow as a professional, or simply something which could help us grow as a person.

It is important we add this to our not-to-do list, so we remember to never stop learning.

These are just a few examples of a not-to-do list. You could make your own specific ones, or just keep a general list to help you steer clear of some preconceived and outdated notions. Either way, it is not always wrong to think in terms of ‘negatives’. Sometimes, the negative is in fact a positive!

And finally, the most important item to add to any not-to-do list these days:-

Do not be casual while taking precautions in the ‘new normal’!

 Do not take the safety directives lightly. Do not venture out without wearing a mask, do not be lazy about washing your hands, do not take the social distancing rules lightly, do not forget to sanitise the goods you buy, and do not be afraid to put your health first. Adding all this to our not-do-list will ensure we realise our responsibilities.