The to don’t list Kanban Hack

Folks enjoyed my post about “To Do” list hacks, so I’d like to share another of my favorites (or two, or three. Okay, four).

I came up with this back in 2012, when creating a weekend kanban board with my son.

I knew from experience that a big chunk of the “work” I would do was tasks I hadn’t planned. I just pretended they were important but they were procrastination tactics.

The “To Don’t” List Hack

I decided to address the problem of made up work with a list of things I wouldn’t do to distract myself, and I called it my “To Don’t” list.

Building My “To Don’t” List

I started by adding the obvious things, like “check email” but as I thought about it, I realized that there are a lot of things that I just do that don’t have to be done, or don’t have to be done this weekend. On this particular weekend, I wanted to spend time with my son. When I’m feeling aimless around the house, I tend to clean the bathroom, do the ironing, plan and shop for a meal and other such stuff that is easily justified (needs to be done, right?) and that I can safely be sure my wife won’t mind. But if at the end of the day the house was spotless, the laundry done, a great meal is laid on the table, and my inbox is empty, but I hadn’t gone rollerblading with my son, I would have failed in my most important goal. So all those things went on my “To Don’t” list.

I remember my son asked me not to go into the office (something I used to do way too much on weekends). I hadn’t planned to, but putting it on the “To Don’t” list made him feel better and made it a commitment for me.

How to Build Your Own “To Don’t” List

I know my own insidious little tricks for guiltless procrastination, but if you’re not clear on what you do to feel good about yourself while not doing what you know you ought to be doing, here’s a simple exercise to find out. Put a pad of paper on your desk, a sheet of paper on the refrigerator, or a small notepad in your purse (not in the bottom under the three-year-old chapstick) and for one day write down EVERYTHING that you do. Every call you make, every time you open your email or check Twitter, everything. The next day, review your list and look for the following:

  • Things you did that were not on your “To Do” list
  • Things you regret doing
  • Accomplishments that you’re not proud of today
  • Things that didn’t advance your goals
  • Anything that seemed important at the time, but now doesn’t look important.

It’s fun to make a list of all of the things you don’t have to do:) So why not get started and see how many things are not necessary in your daily life?

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