To-do lists, for most of us, are part of our everyday routine.

Making lists, accomplishing various tasks, and checking off the boxes is practical, gratifying, and even motivating. While a to-do list is an essential component of daily planning, there’s another type of list that isn’t talked about nearly as much—but, it is arguably just as important and beneficial.

Introducing the “not-to-do list” for achieving a well-designed life!

A not-to-do list is filled with things that we would be better off eliminating from our daily routine. These are habits that prevent us from accomplishing our to-dos and deplete our time and energy—and affect our happiness and success.

According to Tim Ferris, author of The Four-Hour Work Week, not-to-do lists are often more effective than to-do lists for upgrading performance. “The reason is simple:” Ferris writes, “What you don’t do determines what you can do.”

Creating a not-to-do list can help free you up from activities or habits that may be holding you back; even ones that you may not have realized were causing you harm.

Let’s look at a few things that you may want to think about adding to your not-to-do list—to free yourself up to focus more on the things that are most important to you.

Dwelling on Mistakes

Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. But often, we tend to dwell on our mistakes, replaying them over and over again in our head. Instead of feeling guilty over a mistake, or overanalyzing situations, it’s important to forgive yourself. We’re often our own worst critics; judging ourselves far more harshly than any stranger ever would. If you find yourself imposing unreasonably high standards on yourself or others, perhaps it’s time to consider adding “judging myself and others” to your not-to-do list.

Always Saying Yes

We want to say yes to everything! But constantly saying yes can quickly lead to burnout. Instead of allowing yourself to feel pressured into committing to a fundraiser or taking on an additional responsibility every other week, it’s important to step back from the situation for a minute and allow yourself to say, “I’ll think about it.” By giving yourself a chance to consider whether or not you truly have time to fit an additional task in, or whether you’d even like to in the first place, will make life much easier. While we’re busy trying to accomplish everything, we end up sacrificing other things instead. Give yourself permission to say no so that you can say yes to the things that matter most.

Allowing App Notifications

In today’s world, it is almost impossible to get a moment for yourself. And being connected to everything and everyone at all times involves constant buzzing and pinging, tweeting and chirping. If you haven’t done so already, consider adding “allowing phone notifications” to your not-to-do list. Instead of getting distracted by your phone, give yourself some time to be fully present.

Checking Email First and Last Thing

Checking your email first thing in the morning and last thing at night are two things to consider eliminating from your life. When you wake up, take care of your needs first. Have a routine that doesn’t involve checking in with the world before you have checked in with yourself! The same goes for the evening. Reading emails right before bed often creates stress and unnecessary distractions; two things that aren’t conducive to a good night’s sleep. Put the phone away—and give yourself time to rest, breathe, and sleep!

Since we all have different habits, the items on your list might be completely different from the above. When creating your own not-to-do list, step back and ask yourself which habits you have that are draining, negative, or otherwise destructive. Then, take it a step further and identify positive things you can replace them with; practical actions that you can do instead. When you’re conscious of what you’d like to avoid, you’ll have more time and energy to do the things that you want—allowing you to lead a more fulfilled, and enjoyable life.

Keep your not-to-do list in your Flagship Day Designer! Clip it to your daily page as a constant reminder—or tuck it in your front pocket and pull it out as you plan your weeks. Need more space? Try the Day Designer A5 Luxe Collection, a customizable planning system that fills a gorgeous six-ring binder with intuitive planning pages for all of your needs.


Which things are you going to add to your not-to-do list?