writing in a notepad

Why A To-Don’t List Is As Important As A To-Do List

Time is finite.

We all have the same amount of hours each day. You can’t store time, borrow it, or save for later use. You can only decide how to allocate it, spending it on activities of higher rather than low value. Time management is a game of choices: projects to pursue, tasks to complete, routines to follow.

Adopting good time management techniques in your life isn’t about squeezing as many tasks as you can into your day. It’s about simplifying how you work, getting things done faster, and doing things better. By doing so, you’ll have more times for play, rest, and doing the things you love. Don’t try to work hard, invest in working smarter.

“Time management is not a peripheral activity or skill. It is the core skill upon which everything else in life depends. “ — Brian Tracy

A lamp, plant and clock on white background.

The To-Don’t list

In Mathematics, there is a problem-solving technique called inversion. You start with results and work backwards to calculate the causes. Inversion is a powerful tool because it forces you to uncover hidden beliefs about the problem you are trying to solve. You need to think about how to minimize the negatives instead of maximizing the positives.

Let’s say you want to improve productivity. Thinking forward, you would list all the things you could do to be more productive. But if you look at the problem by inversion, you’d think about all the things you could do that would diminish productivity.

Enter the To-Don’t List.

Create your own by writing down all the habits you want to quit and activities you wish to eliminate from your life. Think about your possible workday — long meetings with people you don’t like and boring repetitive tasks — and work from there.

Create a To-Don’t list with all the habits you want to remove from your life. Use it as a guideline of what you don’t allow in your life.
Here are a couple of examples:

– Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing at night
– No morning meetings
– Don’t say yes unless you’re 100% certain you can deliver
– Don’t drink coffee in the afternoon
– Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time

The reason why inversion works is simple: what you don’t do determines what you can do.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” — Steve Jobs

This post was written by Daniel Silvestre and first appeared on Quora.

Daniel Silvestre is the founder of OneProductivity.com where he shares productivity hacks. At his blog DanielSilvestre.com he writes about personal developmentproductivity, self-ownership through psychology, optimization, self-education, philosophy, health, finance, and improving your thinking.