There are clear benefits to having a to-do list as it prioritizes what we need to get done and breaks things down into manageable tasks. But it's important to have a not-to-do list in order to avoid our to-do list from becoming overwhelming and out of control. Creating a not-to-do list frees us up to focus on the important stuff which leads us to our big picture goals.
In order to create a not-to-do list you need to break down your to-do list into 6 categories:
Stuff you've been meaning to do for the last 5 years
If something has been on the your to-do list for years, I'd say it's not something that's a priority to you and clearly isn't something you need to do to reach your goals or else you would have found a way to do it by now. Avoid these distractions by putting them on your not-to-do list.
Other people's responsibilities
Sometimes things end up on your list that are truly someone else's responsibility. Doing other people's work is not going to help you reach your personal goals. Don't be the martyr (or the scapegoat!) and take on stuff that you don't own. Delegate it off the list.
Things that are out of your control
Let's face it, there are just some things that you can't control, nor should you. Adding tasks to your to-do list that you have no control over, have no place on a list that you're supposed to be able to check off. Not-to-do list it is!
Tasks that drain me
I'm not talking about exercise here. If there truly is a task on your list that you avoid at all costs because it physically and/or emotionally drains you then it's time to barter or banish it. Either find someone else who can do the task for you so it frees you up to do the more soul-fulfilling work you enjoy or just stop doing it altogether. Nothing is worth the sacrifice if it's affecting your well-being. Draining tasks are not-to-do's for sure.
Stuff that doesn't need to get done
Sometimes we get a little overzealous and put way to much on our to-do lists. I'm talking things that don't need to get done in the next week or two or even month. If that's the case, cross it off and put it back on when the deadline nears. There's nothing like overwhelming yourself with stuff you don't need to worry about just yet.
Things that someone does better than me
We hate to admit it, but there are some things that others are better at that than we are. When that's the case, don't belabor yourself trying to get tasks done that you know you're not suited for. If someone can do something quicker, better or more efficient than you can, then by all means let them. Reserve your energies for things that are in your wheelhouse.
A not-to-do list helps you say "No!" to the distractions and busywork so you can say "Yes!" to the ideas and opportunities that'll get you where you want to be.
What would you add to your not-to-do list?