There’s nothing more satisfying than writing a to-do list and then ticking off the tasks as you work through them. In fact, even the act of writing the list makes you feel like you’re more organised, together and getting on top of things.
However, there’s an issue with to-do lists. More often that not, the tasks that we compile are not the right ones to be focusing on. So you end up with a very long list of errands and admin tasks that might need to be done at some point, but aren’t actually that important.
It’ll keep you busy, working through this list. And ticking off all those things that are constantly there at the back of your mind, niggling away, might offer some relief. But — believe it or not — it won’t actually be productive. It’ll be quite the opposite.
Earlier this year when I made the decision to build a business, I had to work out how I was going to find the time and headspace to fit in everything that that entailed. I’d need to dedicate time to finding the right idea, developing it and then building the business.
I was working four days a week in London in a senior marketing role, and had a husband, young son, and a baby on the way to juggle too. So I had to get smart with utilising my evenings and weekends.
As much as I’d like to, I couldn’t buy more time so I started having a think about the things that I could STOP doing and I made a list…
My NOT to-do-list
- No more TV during the evenings
- No more aimless pottering around the house, tidying up every day. I’d clean and tidy once a week only
- No more ironing things that didn’t need to be ironed… sheets, pillowcases
- Less time fussing over my nails (I used to do a weekly manicure in front of the TV)
- Less time bringing my day job home. This meant being more focussed whilst I was at work
These might seem like small things. But they were literally taking up hours of my day. Hours that I just couldn’t afford to waste at that stage in my life. And they were also taking up valuable space in my head. So I decided to PARK them all; to let them go and focus all my attention on building a business.
I must admit, it was hard for the first couple of weeks. For years, I used to get a lot of satisfaction and self-worth from ‘being on top of everything’. But looking as if I was on top of everything left me feeling anxious and tired. And I had no real sense of purpose, because I was spreading myself so thinly all the time.
I quickly realised that the world did not end because my house was a tip during the week. No one gave a crap that the sheets weren’t ironed. I quickly stopped caring about my nails being painted and embraced a more natural look. I felt completely liberated.
Fast forward. I’ve now launched a whole new business on my own, from scratch. People ask me all the time — how on earth did you do it, how did you fit it all in? I tell them it’s the ‘NOT to-do list’ and learning to let go of the stuff that just doesn’t matter.
I’ve never been happier.