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Not-To-Do Lists

I’m all about lists. Do this, do that. Typically, I prioritize the items on my list, and I have a big, fat, black sharpie I use to cross off each thing as I accomplish it. Mike said something that really stood out to me on one of the Leadershift calls a couple of weeks ago though. He said that lots of people have “to-do lists” but not many have “stop-doing lists” (or “not-to-do lists” as I will call it throughout this post.)


It's true, isn’t it? We focus so much on what needs to be done that we lose sight of what we need to stop doing, and often times, what needs to be done directly correlates with what needs to be stopped. Here’s an example: I might have on my to-do list that I need to read x number of pages in a book that day. On my not-to-do list I might write that I won’t spend time on social media that day. I find that when I keep my phone by me when I’m reading, I pause to check my phone every time it dings or vibrates. If I just kept my phone in a different room and committed to not checking it until I had finished reading, I would get through books way faster!


As I explored the idea of “not-to-do lists” before beginning this blog post, I learned that there is a lot of material out there about this topic. I even found a free printable PDF for a “Not-to-do List Template”. That being said, this might not be a new concept to you. Well, it was to me, and I knew it warranted me getting some words on paper.


As I began to formulate my own list, I at first found myself wanting to be quite vague.

“I will not waste my time.” Okay, great idea, but I need specifics. In what way will I stop wasting time? So, here’s my first one: I will not sit around without intention. What I mean by that is I’m not going to just sit down and do nothing on my phone or laptop. I’m more than okay with allotting myself time to rest and relax, but if I just sit down and pull out my phone every time I get the chance, I will end up wasting so much time! When I sit down, I want to know what my intention is. Am I going to read? Am I taking a power nap? Am I taking a mental break? Knowing what I need in those moments will give so much more meaning to my “down time.”


Second on my list: I will not spend time on social media or online shopping when my daughter, Esther, is awake. This is going to be a difficult one for me, but one thing I’ve noticed about myself just in the past several weeks, as Esther is getting bigger, is that she’s looking for me to interact with her now. She wants eye contact; she wants the smiles and tickles and the songs and books. When I start scrolling on Instagram or looking for deals on Amazon, I easily get sucked in, and I’m not present with my sweet girl. For starters, I don’t want to miss any moments with her. Second, I don’t want to set the example of always being on my phone. Her eyes always get glued to whatever screen I have up, and that’s something we are avoiding in our home with Esther. Big or small, it starts by setting the example.


There are certainly more items that I will add to this list, but I’m taking time to consider them, because I want to be committed to this. I don’t want to haphazardly assign something to my list and in a couple of days realize that it isn’t something I’m willing to not do. As you read this, are things coming to your mind? Is there something bubbling to the surface that should probably be on your list? There is great value in to-do lists, but there is just as much value in a not-to-do list. In fact, that list may be a lot harder to follow at times. Mike has often said that when we figure out our purpose and what we are for, our yes’s will be hard, and our no’s will be easy. Every yes, or in this case, every item on your to-do list, is taking a portion of your time. I think our “not-to-do lists” keep us in the growth lane. They keep us focused on what’s most important. They keep our priorities in check.


When I have pre-determined what I’m not going to do, it provides a sense of order to my day. There are less questions to answer. Sure, things will come up throughout my days that I have to decide on then and there, but if I’ve been intentional with this list and if I’ve assigned it the value it needs, I can move throughout my days with confidence. What are you not willing to compromise on? What are you currently doing that you know is detrimental to who you want to be? Put those things on your not-to-do list.


Here at Leadershift we are all about personal growth and leadership. Courageous individuals understand that you never compromise on your convictions or principles. You add value to your list when you stick to it and hold fast to the commitments you made.


What are you waiting for? Add creating a not-to-do list to your to-do list today.


So, here’s to growth. Our growth.

Amy Davidson


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