It seems to be the productivity flavor of the month.
Have you heard of it?
The basic idea is this: Instead of listing the things you need to do, make a list of the things you should not do; things that are preventing you from accomplishing your goals. Things like checking Facebook, responding to emails first thing in the morning, watching TV, or (gasp) avoiding video games.
For a few days, it seems to work. You replace time otherwise spent watching video games with real, honest-to-goodness, productive work.
But after denying yourself this basic need (and yes, playing video games is a basic human need), you forget why that article you read on not-to-do-lists was so inspiring. You build up a backlog of unplayed games that is so compelling, you drop this new productivity trick and binge-play Fortnight until your thumbs are raw.
Now the bandage is ripped off. You're doing exactly what you said you would not do, loving it yet hating yourself at the same time.
Your Not-To-Do-List is Setting You Up For Failure
We all have vices. We're human. It comes with the territory. But denying these vices outright, quitting them cold-turkey, is setting us up for failure.
Research shows that the best way to break a bad habit is to be mindful of it, not quit cold turkey. Mindfulness helps you recognize your cravings, patterns, and behaviors which ultimately helps you realize these behaviors aren't helpful. Forced self-control, on the other hand, only works when you're not stressed or tired. In those circumstances, the part of your brain that regulates self-control essentially shuts off, so any efforts to quit what you're doing are ineffective.
Though you intend to stop wasting time on activities that distract you from your most important tasks, in reality, you are only getting a momentary boost of productivity. What's worse, you're reinforcing a mindset of "it's okay to fail at my goals when they're too hard."
That is NOT good.
Purpose Driven Action Sets You Up For Success
It's not that we shouldn't get a grip on our vices. If you spend all day playing video games and get nothing done, that's a problem. If you spend all day in your inbox responding to other peoples problems, you're not accomplishing your own objectives, and that needs to change ASAP.
But you must ask yourself, what is the purpose behind my actions? Is ignoring my email inbox for a day something I need to do? Is it something I can afford to do? Is it something that I can do on a recurring basis without destroying my ability to achieve my goals for the year?
The not-to-do-list may be all the rage, but it's fraught with danger. Without a clear purpose for every item that goes on this list, you'll find yourself ignoring it, or worse, binging on the very things you add to it.
I say? Throw the not-to-do-list out. Instead...
Make a Not-To-Give-Up-List
There are a few things I won't give up. West World, Game of Thrones, Washington Capitals Hockey, to name a few. When these shows are on, everything else gets a backseat.
Yes, these shows take time away from my work. Yes, I could recapture a few hours a month if I ignored them. But I love them. They're my chance to relax after a long day of work. And, because I've created a not-to-give-up-list, I don't need to remove them from my life. They're planned in.
If you were to create a list of things you absolutely _cannot_ give up, what would go on it?
- Family time?
- Cat videos?
Whatever it is, these are the things you won't give up for anything. These are the things that will take time away from your goals, and you're going to be okay with that.
And that's the beauty of a not-to-give-up list. You put the focus on what's important in your life. If watching cat videos is important to you (like Game of Thrones is for me), then by all means, add it to the list.
Planning Around Activities You Won't Give Up
Have you created your not-to-give-up-list yet? If not, do it now.
Take five minutes and list those things in your life that bring you joy, that help you relax, that reset and recharge you for tomorrow.
You need to create one now because, once you have it, you can better plan your goals.
Take these not-to-give-up activities and put them on your calendar. It may sound silly, but by blocking time in your schedule for important things in your life, you'll be able to build your work-driven and goal-oriented tasks around them.
It's the first step toward recognizing that these important things take time. It's the first step toward understanding that this time cannot be replaced. And, it's the first step toward prioritizing important things in your life over business, giving them their own slot on your calendar, and giving you the respite you need after a hard days work.
About the Author
Co-Founder | Productivity Fanatic
Mike Mehlberg spends his days watching Game of Thrones, West World, and Caps Hockey. When he's not doing that, he's watching Nats baseball. And reading. And writing. And exercising. Okay, okay, and helping entrepreneurs get extremely productive and organized in their life and business.