As the end of 2014 approaches, the holidays are not the only thing I get excited for. (though I am a Griswold at heart and will be getting the lights up as soon as the turkey has settled!). December for me is the best time of year to reflect on the past year and begin planning an even better upcoming year. One of the most valuable tools I implement, and recommend you do as well, is your Not-To-Do list. This process of thinking through all of the things, or activities, or habits that you would like to get rid of, or no longer do, can be much more freeing and productive than the typical list of New Year’s goals and resolutions.
Step 1: Start your not-to-do list. I begin by writing down anything and everything I can think of that I would like to no longer do in the coming year. Consider things that frustrate you at home or at work, or distract you from getting the results you desire. Keep this list close by so you can add to it whenever you think of more things. I personally use the free app, Evernote, since my iPhone is usually nearby.
Here are some examples:
- I will stop looking at my emails all day in a continuous, reactive manner.
- I will not check Facebook more than once per day.
- I will not skip the gym during the week because I keep choosing to work late.
- I will not lose valuable family time by doing yard work on the weekends.
- I will not “veg out” in front of the TV every night of the week.
- I will not spend time with people I do not enjoy being around.
- I will not waste money on things that are not connected to my most important goals.
- I will not have my children stare at the iPad or watch TV just because it is easier for me.
Step 2: Choose your top twelve. Once you have a master list, choose the top twelve. It is extremely important to narrow your focus, even though you would love to stop doing everything on your list. You probably already know this, but I have found all too often than creating new habits, and eliminating old ones, can be very difficult. By choosing twelve, this will allow you to tackle three each quarter of the year. This keeps your goals realistic and achievable, while building momentum throughout the year.
Step 3: Convert each not-to-do item into an action plan. The best way to eliminate a bad habit is to create a new habit that leaves no room for the one you are trying to escape. Looking at your top twelve, choose the first three that will be your goal for January, February, and March. Next, write an action plan that eliminates the not-to-do item by creating a positive habit or activity. Here is an example of three not-to-do items from above converted to action plans for the first three months of 2015:
- I will schedule three 30-minute blocks of time each day to check and respond to emails. I will notify all of my co-workers of these times and turn on an auto-responder in my Outlook.
- I will spend 30-60 minutes each weeknight before bedtime reading a book or playing games with my children.
- I will hire a yard maintenance company to come every other week so I can spend more quality time on the weekends with my family and friends.
To truly create a new habit, I make sure to repeat it 21 times. So stay persistent and be consistent (yes, that rhymes!). I have found it is better to only work on three items and accomplish them all, than to tackle all of them at once and not accomplish any. Each quarter, choose three more items on your not-to-do list and follow step three above. By the end of you year, you will have eliminated twelve things in your life that caused you frustration and your life will be tremendously more enjoyable, productive and fulfilling!
Please share in the comments some of your not-to-do items for 2015. It will provide everyone else a great head start on their own not-to-do list.