More than ever, you are inundated with options, activities, new technologies and decisions to be made. As a business owner or leader, this can be utterly exhausting if you don’t get your priorities in line and gain better control of your life and schedule. Deciding what not to do is actually the best thing that can happen for your life and business, and will set you free more than you can imagine.

Before you really start digging into your specific “Not to do’s,” take a moment to reflect on your goals and vison. This can be a mix of business and personal, or pick just one (although they usually overlap). As you are determining what you are going to say “no” to and what you are going to say “yes” to, always ask yourself if those tasks, decisions and time spenders are moving you in the direction you want to go. Are they helping you move forward up the mountain toward your goals, or keeping you on a flat plateau, walking toward the ever-moving horizon? Now, I’m not saying everything single thing you do is going to create epic movement, but just examine how your “to do’s” are serving your life right now.

I’m sure you have a lot on your plate; you’re always doing your best to move in the right direction, and I’m sure you are very busy, but here’s what I know: Busy and productive are two very different things. Busy and profitable are unrelated. Busy and happy, healthy, wealthy and wise are also separate things. Whether you are aware of it or not, you do a ton of things in your life, business and relationships that don’t make a whole lot of sense from a return standpoint, but they keep you very busy! Being “too busy” with tasks does nothing but keep you from moving forward in a truly meaningful, targeted way. Don’t beat yourself up over this fact; my goal is simply to help you stop the insanity and start creating some space and freedom to design your life to achieve your goals.

So, right now, think about what you are willing to say “no” to. What have you been doing that has been taking up your time and requiring lots of action but screams insanity from a return on investment standpoint? What are you doing that isn’t something you enjoy but are still doing it because “you’ve always done it” or “nobody can do it as well as you?”

One of the best ways I’ve found to uncover some of these things is to create an unconventional “not to do” list. The most successful people in the world have a very powerful to-do list, there is no question about that. However, the most successful people on the planet, by whatever definition of success you resonate with, have the uncanny ability to say no to doing things that aren’t serving them at the highest level.


Creating the not to do list

Here’s one way to go about creating your “Not to do” list that works very well:

  1. Get your calendar, a pen and piece of paper (or use an electronic device). On the paper/device, create two columns, one titled “Things that serve me” and one titled “Things that don’t serve me.”

  2. Dive into what you’ve been doing the last two weeks, and also what you have coming up in the next two weeks. As you examine your daily tasks, here’s how to divide them (and remember, this is a matter of your opinion, not what you think you “should” be doing): In the “Things that serve me” column, list all the things you did in the last two weeks or have scheduled for the next two weeks that you really enjoy doing, that are helping move toward your vision in a big way, or feed your purpose. In the “Things that don’t serve me” column, list the tasks that are annoying to you, menial, cumbersome, can be easily delegated, don’t feed your purpose or you simply wish you didn’t have to do.

  3. Next, think about the things that take up your time that aren’t on the calendar. These are the really tricky ones that steal your time and productivity but make you feel like you are so “busy” all the time. You know what I’m talking about. The incessant checking of your cell phone, email or (gasp) social media accounts. The “Got a minute?” meetings that turn into half an hour. Trying to do multiple things at once under the guise of “multitasking.” I understand some of these things are necessary, but everyone is guilty of getting sucked into these a little too often. This is where you have room to prioritize, batch your tasks and set boundaries around your time. Trust me, nobody is going to do this for you, so you need to focus on what this looks like for yourself.

  4. Here are a few words of wisdom based on challenges I’ve helped clients through with this process: Don’t be afraid to let go of controlling the things that don’t serve you, let go of what you think you “should” do, and let go of any overly-perfectionistic tendencies you might have. You can still maintain high standards without doing it all yourself. It’s about putting the right people in the right positions and giving them the training and tools they need to succeed. Also keep in mind this “not to do” method takes time and effort; it’s not always easy. You might not have anyone to immediately delegate a certain task to, for instance, but you can either train someone to have that skill or make it a goal to hire someone who can take it on.

Going forward, as you prioritize your day, you can use a similar approach to this “Not to do” process. Everything you do, look at it differently. Is it serving you or not serving you? There will be gray areas at first, but the better you get at distinguishing which category your activities fall into, the faster you will get at knowing which is which, and your clarity will increase tremendously.

You always accomplish more with clarity. When you begin defining what you are truly willing to say “no” to, your business game will change forever. What will you absolutely not do when it comes to a client request, team request or market request? It might feel uncomfortable at first as your role in the business might evolve, but it will be worth it. What is your line in the sand? The clearer and more laser-focused you are, you will actually become better at what you do and have more free time, too.

Hopefully now you can see why your “not to do list” is much more important than your “to-do” list when it comes to business, profitability and freedom optimization!