What to Put on a Not-to-do List: 12 Tasks to Avoid

Undoubtedly, your to-do list has been a useful tool for your productivity.  

But it won’t attain its prime without complementing it with a not-do list. 

Yes, you will only have the best to-do list when you know things you shouldn’t do.

To help jumpstart your productivity, execute tasks that are of the most outstanding value all the time, below are what to put on a not-to-do list:

12 Tasks You Should Put on Not-to-do List

1. Answering all Emails, Calls, or Messages when Working

Do you always reply to all emails, calls, or messages while working? 

You probably have been wasting some of your precious time. 

No, that’s not an insult! 

Think for a moment, do you often get instant replies to all your emails? 

Of course, the answer is no.

What should you do when you get any of these while working? Be selective!

Prioritize these emails, calls, and messages.

One quick question to ask is: “how important is this?”

If you can rate the importance, you’d have a clear picture of how you should react to them.

When you prioritize, you have more time to work on your to-do-list, leading to more productivity.

Well, that doesn’t make you a bad person.

Instead, it means you love putting things in their place and appreciate being an organized person.

The world wouldn’t end if you wouldn’t reply instantly!

So, include this in your not-to-do list!


  • Turn off the internet connection when working.
  • Inform family and friends about your schedule and your availability
  • Be consistent
  • Not checking messages first and the last thing daily
  • Not replying to every mail.
  • Keeping social media in its place

2. Excessive Thinking

It is modesty on your part to realize that spending time thinking about events beyond your control is fruitless.

Thus, it must be included in your not-to-do list.

When a thought strikes your mind, ask yourself: can I do something about it?

If you answer no, then drop it.

What if you answer yes, ask again: Can I do something about it at the moment?

If you answer no, drop it!

It is highly unwise to spend time worrying over missed opportunities or even mistakes you’ve made in the past.

On the other hand, avoid worrying about events in the future that you have no control over.

Therefore, excessive worry about an event beyond your control is also one of the things to put on your not-to-do list.

3. Ignoring or Putting off Vital Tasks

Many people subscribe to the idea of a to-do list because they want to avoid procrastination.

Sadly, one way or the other, they get trapped in that same procrastination, although in a different dress.

When you are writing your to-do-list, you might think: “Okay, I won’t do this now; I’ll get to it later.”

Thereby, striking it out from your task for that day and getting it pushed aside (procrastinating it). 

Before subscribing to the idea of a not-to-do list, I’ve been a victim of this.

Sometimes, I’ll push off big tasks–even though vital–until it’s late. 

My excuse is starting small tasks first. But that does not often end well. 

Thus, I’ve learned to give vital tasks their place—no procrastination of any kind.

The lesson for you: start working on your vital projects and desist from pushing them off.


  • First identify vital tasks
  • Attending them first before any job is giving any priority.

Note: Those challenging tasks often become more comfortable when you start.

4. Not Taking Breaks

If you need a professional who often works without taking breaks, you can call on me.

Oh! Not anymore, that was me many months ago!

If you have no dedicated time for breaks, you might be acting like a robot without your knowledge.

So, rather than skipping breaks, schedule breaks within your working hours.

This could be from 30 minutes to 1hr.

The time allotted for a break is dependent on you. 

For me, I allotted 1hr for myself.

This allows me time to eat, unwind, and maybe attend to any messages or other random tasks that surfaced while I was working.

If your place of work doesn’t have break time, get yourself that break.

You will focus more and even have better output. 

That’s my story. After the break, I come fresh with great enthusiasm.

5. Pleasing Everyone

How is pleasing everyone what to put on a not-to-do list?

The earlier you realize that you can’t please everyone, the better you put your strength in its place.

It’s pure mediocrity to want everyone to like you. 

It’s beyond your reach to control what people think about you.

So, it’s not a great move to sweat over this uncontrollable feeling.

Meanwhile, this is not an excuse for misconduct or misbehavior.

However, it means you want to channel your strength and energy on those who merit your love and attention.

Rather than spending hours on those who have less appreciation for your time, give this love to those who deserve it.

This will be more rewarding and help you create more time for what’s more important.

Make it your goal daily to filter every opportunity and then focus on important ones.

6. Working Hard to Change Somebody

Having the thought that you can change someone is purely an illusion! 

Ignore it.

Think first, how long does it take trained psychoanalysts to change someone? 

Years, right?

Okay, What’s the thought?

If that’s not your profession, the only help you can offer to people is to give advice.

When people sense that you want to change them, they’ll resent your advice.

And eventually, that might be a great disappointment for you.

How to do it

  • Be modest
  • Offer advice and leave people to make their decision
  • When your advice is rejected, be reasonable to accept diversity

7. Doing What Should be Delegated

I’m not happy saying that most old folks in their 50s and 60s are guilty of this.

Not only does delegating tasks relieve you, it also lets you work on other essential tasks.

If you have tasks that can be done by someone else, why not outsource?

If they are even skilled and can do it better than you, should you not take advantage of their skill and ability?

As you hand off these tasks to others, you give yourself more time. 

Yesterday, I called a friend and told him I have a task I will be delegating to him. Yes, I’ll!

That’s the beauty! It will let me focus my attention on vital works.

So, every day, have this in your not-to-do list: “I’m not doing what I can delegate.”

8. Channeling Efforts into Tasks with Little or no Impact

This seems to correlate with this second point on what not to put on a not-to-do list.

Every day, when writing down your to-do list ensure that tasks that have little or no impact are eradicated.

Don’t be shy or guilty about dropping these activities.

How would you know if a task wouldn’t have any significant result?

Ask Yourself:

  • How long have I been working on it?
  • What is the majority of people saying about it?
  • Am I 75% sure that its impact will be huge?

If you can find correct answers to these questions, you will be setting yourself for extraordinary relief.

Then, you can devote time to tasks with huge positive results. 

9. Spending time with the Wrong People

Yes, this is another task that should shape your not-to-do list.

First, who are these wrong people? It’s simple! 

They are those you can’t trust nor count on.

Wonder why? 

Yes, trust is an essential ingredient in solidifying a healthy relationship.

Now, the next question to think of is, how do you identify these individuals?

Here are a few Green Lights:

  • Reject to help when it’s apparent they have the capacity
  • Always champion their opinion over yours
  • Not objective
  • Not constructive with their criticism

If you keep on spending time with these, you will be burning off your time. 

Keep your focus on friends who you can count on!

10. “Do Everything Immediately”

Did you notice that this point is in an inverted comma? 

I have a goal in mind, and this is it:

This sentence in your to-do list shows that you are willing to do everything immediately.

From my personal experience, the thought of having to do everything immediately will eventually lead to doing nothing!

Don’t jump on whatever task pops out while handling your task; as long as they aren’t urgent, focus on your goal. 

Of course, those tiny tasks can be attended to, so handling them will be more effective.

It will be fine to create a do-later list as well; this will aid in harmonizing your to-do list and not-to-do list.

11. Not Having Clear Goals

On your not-to-do list, have it there that you’d not be entertaining not having clear goals.

So, be clear about your goal for the month, year, and the next year. 

If you can figure out these three things, you are good to go.

But if you can’t answer these questions, then it’s wise to devote time to think about them. 

But will it come at no cost? Definitely no!

It will take you time to clutch on your priorities, but you’ll become sharp and focused if you do.

Not long ago, I learned how to keep clear monthly goals and targets, and this I review every week.

It has helped me maintain my long-term goal. 

If you are conscious about these, you can be confident of going right on track and being excited to see the outcome.

The Point:

  • Identify your monthly goals
  • Identify your yearly goal
  • Track and review every week

12. Detesting Perfectionism

Also what to put on a not-do list, perfectionism tends to drift to procrastination.

The trait is so severe that it will hinder you from doing things in the first place. 

To overcome this, make it a goal to get a draft first. 

This allows you to work on the core content.

After that, you can devote the second or third draft to little details that are minute.

While you are working on these, bear in mind that mistakes are inevitable.

Most times, it takes time to perfect things.

For example, when I started blogging in 2019, my primary aim was to use my writing skill to write on varying subjects.

I jumped on it, started writing. 

In the first year, I wrote over 30 articles without keyword research and zero understanding of how SEO works.

However, at the close of 2020, I realize I have made many terrible mistakes. 

How can I rectify this? 

How do I joggle my freelancing with working on these mistakes I’ve made?

I devoted time, set a goal, and amazingly before the end of 2020, I have made corrections and completed the revamping tasks on this website.

But there is even more concern: 

How do I narrow down my approach? I love to teach organization and personal hygiene.

But which should I stick to? 

I eventually settled on using the knowledge I’ve acquired over the years to teach willing individuals how to be organized.

This means I have to work on my about us page, services, and a few other things to make it look perfect.  

As at the time of writing this article, I haven’t done that. 

But what’s the point?

Before the ending of the month, I’d have completed everything.

So, you see, I didn’t wait to perfect everything at once; 

I’m attending to it gradually; it’s more comfortable, and I love the gradual result.

You would, too, if you apply them.

With these 12 things to put on a not-to-do list, what’s next?

A person could wonder, “How do you create a not-to do list?” 

Well, in the following subheading, we’ve highlighted simple ways to create a not-to-do list. 

How Do You create a Not-to-do List? These are Important Steps to Take

From the preceding, you’d have realized that a not-to-do list isn’t just labeling things you wouldn’t want to do.

It also involves ticking off tasks that will prevent you from attaining premium productivity.

So follow these essential steps on how to design a not-to-do list:

1. Find Time to Create a List

To help you attain your prime, you’d need to find a serene location.

This is a location that’s calm enough to offer you a minimum of an hour, undisturbed.

Only by then will you be able to come up with a list of what to put on a not-to-do list.

You will find it more helpful to spend this time now, instead of spending hours upon hours daily later on.

Mind you, what you are including are tasks you shouldn’t be doing. 

They are unhealthy tasks.

They must include and are not limited to those points mentioned at the onset.

After making this list, what’s next?

2. Inspect Tasks from Previous Months

Here, your task is to analyze all the things you did in the previous months and tick them.

It is essential to pay more attention to the ones that appear frequently.

Then, pick up your to-do-list and check for patterns as well.

Additionally, you should pay attention to varying requests that people send to you as well.

After noting these patterns, let’s see what’s next.

3. Recognize Tasks that must be on Your Not-to-do List

Now, it’s time to bring those recurring tasks close to you.

Ask the following questions to verify the impact they have on your life and career:

  • Am I creating much value from executing these tasks myself?
  • Can I outsource these tasks or delegate them to someone with more value?
  • Do they ruin my productivity?
  • Do I procrastinate when handling these tasks?
  • If it’s a request in between work, do I always feel angry or guilty?
  • Are they simply time wasters?
  • How do I feel doing these tasks?

The reason why you are asking these questions and others is to verify tasks:

  • You should delegate
  • That are causing distractions
  • That is wasting up your time

Here is a caution, though: While reviewing these tasks, be honest with yourself.

4. Start Implementing

After analyzing these and seeing where adjustment is needed, the implementation should begin right away!

Yes, this is the hardest part. 

Your first temptation will be saying no to people who would want to jump into your time.

So, keep to what you have analyzed.

If you’ve listed in your not-to-do list saying no to things that aren’t adding value to your life, stick to it. 

It is hard, but you can do it.

Additionally, you must review your not-to-do list, at least every three months.

You can either add more or if your circumstances have changed, remove a task.   

5. Start the Day with it

Before the start of each day, when you have that few minutes meeting with yourself, spend a few times looking at what you put on your no-to-do list.

Anticipate what could be difficult for you to stick to, and note it.

Also, take a cue from your not-to-do list to list out habits and tasks you’d not do for that day. 

This will lift off lots of pressures from your shoulders.

Additionally, you will be able to focus on what’s more important and keep your decision healthy.

Let’s examine one of the not-to-do list examples:

My No-To-do List

Date: 06/02/2020

  1. Reading of unfiltered messages
  2. Checking social media while working
  3. No Absconding of Breaks
  4. No reading of news while working
  5. No opening of email when working
  6. No gist until work is completed
  7. No gossiping about people
  8. No heavy food after 7 pm
  9. No going to bed late
  10. No spending time with unproductive people  

Also download one of  the not-to-do list pdf here. 

Not-to-do List Template

1. When confronted with a request you feel will eat up your time, say:

  • Thanks for reaching out to me. However, I’m currently unable to handle this.
  • Thanks for your understanding.

2. If they are coming in person, calmly explain:

I’m currently working on a project. 

Presently, I’m fixed; hence, I will not be opportune to work on this.

Even with not-to-do-list templates, the basic idea is saying no to what you believe will distract you. 

Feel free to use these not-to-do- list templates to learn how to write your own.

Stop investing energy into stuff that wouldn’t add meaning to your precious life.

The Importance of a Not-to-do List You must Know

Likely, from the opening paragraph, you’d have figured out that knowing what to put on a not-to-do list or having a not-to-do list is vital.

But let’s get to it in real-time. Let’s examine these five benefits that come from having a not-to-do- list:

1. Avoid an Overloaded To-do-list

I made it clear earlier that your to-do-list and not-to-do list are complementary.

When you fail to say no to some request, fail to outsource, or to find out what tasks are vital to you, these happen:

  • You have an overloaded to-do list.

Eventually, it becomes ineffective, and you’ll get stuck.

2. Win Over Bad Habits and Distractions

When you don’t have a not-to-do list, you fill your to-do list with plenty of tasks.

And when you engage in your bad habits that you didn’t tame, you are opened to distractions.

3. Less Struggle with Self-Discipline

A not-to-do list keeps you off struggling with self-discipline.

It allows you to verify low-value tasks and high-value tasks thoroughly.

4. Helps You Avoid Guilt

When you already have your goal in place and how you’d accomplish it, you won’t feel guilty rejecting any tasks.

You will be glad that your saying no was just to fulfill what you have on your not-to-do list.

5. Living a Better Life and Healthy Pattern

Having a not-to-do list will help you have more productive days.

And that leads to a better life and healthy patterns, offering more satisfaction and joy.

Final Thoughts 

One of the best ways a super-productive person can keep learning to grow professionally is to be aware of what they are not going to do.

If this is your first time seeing what to put on a not-to-do list, see to it that you apply it well in your life.

Nevertheless, your not-to-do list isn’t the same as an anti-to-do-list.

Your not-to-do list comprises tasks you’d not want to do irrespective of the circumstances. 

They are tasks you’d not want to perform because they will either distract you or have low value.

So, what’s next?

Pick a paper now and start including what to put on a not-to-do list discussed in this article.

If you do, you will be happier with what you accomplish every day. 

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