A handy little tool for productivity for small business owners is to use a to-do list.

It often doesn’t take long for a to-do list to get unwieldy and out of control and you just end up getting get overwhelmed and completely stressed out by a very long list of things to do. I don’t know about you, but when I review my to-do list at the end of the day, there always seems to be far more items added than crossed off, and day by day the list just gets longer and longer and longer. Being confronted by a super long list of tasks can sometimes be so debilitating, that when you look at your pages of to-do’s you don’t know where to start so you end up doing nothing at all.

While I’m not advocating giving up a to-do list entirely (personally I would be lost without a list of all the tasks I need complete because I have no hope of remembering them all) but I do have another option, which when used in conjunction with a to-do list, will turn you into a productivity super star.

And that is … a NOT-to-do list.

Why should you create a not-to-do list?

As the name suggests, a not-to-list itemises all the things you will NOT do.

Not doing things is equally important as getting things done. Why? By consciously avoiding certain tasks, you are instead going to channel your time and energy into all the things that need to be done.

The distractions in business are endless, but keep in mind you can’t reach your small business goals when you focus on everything. A not-to-do list allows you to prioritise and focus on the important tasks that will help you reach your goals.

To prevent yourself from going crazy in your small business and to be super productive, you need decide what you will your spend time working on as well as what you will stop doing.

To reach your small business goals, you also need to be clear about what you will NOT do.

3 steps to create a not-to-do list for small business owners:

Step 1: Get clear on your business goals

What goals do you have for your small business? If you have big goals, break them down into smaller and incremental goals and limit yourself to working on no more than three key goals at the one time, working on too many goals at once only ends up being anxiety producing. The items on your to-do list should support you in achieving your goals. If it doesn’t, then it needs to go on you not-to-do list.

Step 2: Review how you spend your day

For the next 7 days, write down everything you do and how much time you spend on each task. Now I mean everything, content creation, reading / writing emails, making phone calls, coffee breaks, posting on social media, scrolling through social media, creating marketing materials, watching videos, listening to podcasts, writing blog posts, snack breaks, attending networking events etc etc etc.

At the end of the week review what you spend your time on. What were the time wasters? All the timewasters and those very unproductive tasks need to go on your not-to-do list, or at the very least, minimise the time spent on them. It is important to take breaks and have some time out too.

Step 3: List the tasks you will intentionally stop doing

After completing Step 1 and 2, write down all the tasks that you will not do. Feel free to add anything else that you think should be included and you might need to add to it over time. Put your not-to-do list somewhere prominent as a reminder throughout the day what you have chosen to not be working on. You not-to-do list is there to help you get more productive so you can live your small business dream.

Some ideas for your not-to-to list

A not to-do list should be personalised and specific to you and your small business goals, but here’s a list to help you think about some of the items you might like to include:

  • Do not check email constantly, check only at set times during the day;
  • Do not spend more than 30 minutes on social media per day;
  • Do not answer calls from a blocked number, let it go to voicemail and return the call only if worthwhile;
  • Do not respond to unsolicited sales pitches;
  • Do not do anything that can be delegated to somebody else;
  • Do not try to please everyone.

What will you include in your not-to-do list?