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Why is a Not To Do list more important than a To Do list?

Why is a Not To Do list more important than a To Do list?

We all have a To-Do list, but do you have a Not-To-Do List? A powerful Not-To-Do list can help you get rid of little bad habits in no time. With such a list, you can get rid of habits like using err while talking, reacting when angry and more. In this article, you will learn how to create a simple yet effective Not-To-Do list which will help you overcome your own bad habits.

So you have made a to-do list, kept it simple and updated, striking one task after another becoming a superhuman at productivity. Kudos, that’s a great leap so far.

So far you have been focusing on getting things done. At the same time, it is important to spend your time doing only those things which matter. You can get carried away with the momentum of doing task after task, many of which are not adding any value. At work, a bazillion tasks crave your attention, out of which only some are valuable. As important it is to do things which are important, it is equally important to not do things which are of no value.

Force of habit

This article is Step 9 – Why is a Not To Do list more important than a To Do list of Phase 2: Gain Momentum with Routine of the 3 phase transformation into superhuman productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.

To understand the purpose behind the activity I recommend you to read through the article. But, for the busy bees, you can go directly to the exercise.

Let us take for example the goal of setting up a restaurant. There is no need to spend your time researching how other restaurants are writing their blog posts when you have other basic tasks related to the set up to take care of.

The most common mistake of task completion

A common mistake when it comes to tasks is spending way too much time on a task just for the heck of completing it. For example, when opening a restaurant, it is necessary to research how other successful restaurants manage their business to avoid any pitfalls. However, if you spend half of your available time on a daily basis for such research, you are wasting time. You have to also spend time in other areas of setting up the restaurant.

You think you do not make such a mistake, don’t you?

As trivial as this mistake seems, you commit similar mistakes on a daily basis too. When you are struggling with a task, what do you do? Aren’t you hell-bent on completing it like a man on a vengeance?

It is natural to feel the urge to complete the task because completing the task makes us feel relieved. Driven by the completion urge, we ignore that we have a more important task to complete.

How a Not To Do List helps

Have a stop doing list

This is where a Not to do list comes in. You and I have behaviors we need to avoid. Even if you think you are the best of the best, you still have a scope to improve.

It could be browsing Facebook/Instagram needlessly, reading news endlessly, browsing through random articles aimlessly, checking the fridge repeatedly and so on.

Bad habit

The tricky part of such behavior is that you may not even be doing it consciously. You exhibit the same behavior so regularly that you have formed a habit. Therefore, to get out of this habit, you have to keep telling yourself “Do not do it”. If not, you will be doing it time and again without your conscious mind even realizing it.

Ask yourself, do you know how often do you peek into your phone and why? You do not because the behavior is now controlled by your subconscious.

From my own experience, I have a habit of taking a lot of time to write an email. I do so with all the good intent. I work on making the email look neat, understandable, digestible from the readers perspective, keeping it short enough to cover context while also not making it long with unnecessary fluff.

Only recently did I realize “Damn, I am spending a lot of time on the emails I compose!” While the effort is justified for some of the important emails, it was unnecessary for every single email I sent. I had to keep telling myself, do not spend a lot of time drafting an email unless necessary. I combine the self-reminder now with a mental timer to complete it faster and I have been making steady progress. Though I am not completely out of the woods yet, I have been able to reduce my addiction to write a great email for every single email.

Example of a Not To Do List

The reason I got better was by using listing the bad habit of writing perfect emails on my Not-To-Do List.

Restrict yourself

The most prominent use of a Not To Do List is to get out of the clutches of bad habits you have already formed. Trust me, you have many of them. A few of them already crossed your mind. If you apply some thought you will realize some more. There will also be some that you are not even aware of.

Currently, here are a few of the items on my Not To Do List:

  • Do not spend a lot of time drafting email content unless necessary
  • Do not overuse “OK” during verbal communication
  • Do not jump to a conclusion as soon as you hear any information which has a natural negative presumption
  • Do not start a sentence with No, But or However

As you can see, none of these are major bad habits. These are little changes that will make me a better person. A Not-To-Do list helps in serving that purpose. The list above should give you an idea of what to put on a not to do list. You can even create a not to do list template by specifying a format for an item. An example below:

  • Do not ___________ which consumes ______ of my time
  • Do not ___________ so that
  • Do not ___________ so that I can ___________

Differences between a Not To Do List and To Do List

Here are some inherent differences of the Not-To-Do list from the usual To-Do List

The items on the Not To Do list are usually recurring: The reason you have the item on your No to-do list is that you have formed a bad repetitive behavior. You cannot just not do it once and strike it off like a to-do list, can you?

The items on the list have no deadlines or reminders: The items on the No To-do list usually happen at any time of the day based on the situation. Neither is there a specific timeline or frequency when they appear nor is there a specific time on the clock you cant set to mark the bad behavior as solved.

The items on the list remain for a long time: The primary reason for putting out a Not To-do list is to break you out of a bad habit or behavior. As with any habit, this is not an overnight task. Sometimes my items have remained on the list for months. I have not even been able to break free completely from some habits yet. So be prepared to have items on the Not-To-Do list for a long time. When you finally believe that you have gotten rid of the habit or it appears only very rarely, you can mark the item as complete.

There is no good time to go through the Not-To-Do list: How often should you look at your Not To Do list depends upon what you have listed and what you want yourself to stop doing. You might want to look at the list every morning, every day, every couple of days or every week. If you do not need to look at the list even once in a week, it usually means the item should have been struck off already.

Personal Experience of getting rid of a habit

The purpose of the Not-To-do list is to either break out of an old habit or form a new habit(of stopping something). You may ask, how is this any different from knowing we have a bad habit?

Using Filler words

Let me tell you about my own personal story. I used to earlier use “err” often as a filler while speaking. Even if I was aware I use “err” many times during verbal communication, I never improved. Awareness of the habit is not the same as keeping a conscious tab on it to change. The simplest reminder to your brain every once in a while adds the corrective behavior into your conscious brain.

We fail to get rid of bad habits because most of them are driven without conscious thought. I never intend to use “err” intentionally in my speech. I had a habit cultivated causing words to err to come out of my mouth when I am are searching for words or unsure about which words to use.

The moment I made a conscious effort, getting rid of the bad habit became easy. It simply happened naturally and in no time the habit was gone.

When I kept reminding myself that I should not use “err”, “you know” or any other filler words in my conversation, I was surprised how quickly I got rid of the habit which I had carried with me for years. It took roughly 2 weeks to get rid of the habit. All I did was mentally reprimanded myself as soon as I repeated the bad behavior. I reminded myself to pause instead of using a filler word.

Exercise of creating a Not To Do List

Why don’t you create a Not To-do list for yourself?

Go ahead and create a Not To Do list right now. It is simple and straight forward. You can do it in 3 steps as stated earlier.

Step 1: List down the most obvious bad behaviors to stop

Step 2: Take some time to think what are the bad behaviors you can drop

Step 3: Try to identify some of the bad behavior you are not aware of. Asking a loved one such as your spouse, siblings or best friend helps.

Leave a comment on what is the bad behavior you intend to stop.

Aim to solve one or two bad behaviors at a time. Choose the one which requires the most attention. It is not necessary that the most obvious one that you identified in Step 1 needs attention first. A more serious bad behavior might be one which your spouse sees and you don’t.

increasing focus motivation


The benefits of a stop doing list are understated. It helps you get rid of bad habits with ease. Now that you have a Not To Do List, get started with one. You will realize the power of a Not To Do List yourself.


Your Not To do List serves as a reminder making it a conscious thought. With enough conscious effort, the message seeps into your subconscious. At this point, you no longer need to apply any more conscious effort to stop doing whatever you aimed to stop.

Get rid of your bad habits starting today. Start following your Not To-do list now.

This article is Step 9 – Why is a Not To Do list more important than a To Do list of Phase 2: Gain Momentum with Routine of the 3 phase transformation into superhuman productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.

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