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Autumn term starts Saturday 28th September 2024 (Early Bird: £2,995 until 2nd of September, then £3,240 thereafter).
i want to do list

The To Don’t List Matrix

How to make your “To-do List” a “I Want To-Do List”?

Some days, if not every day, the number one on your To-Do List should be “Don’t Do a To-Do List.”

If you have a vendetta against someone, of course, you could always have a “Do To” list but I wouldn’t recommend it.

But as far as the “Don’t Do a To-Do List” thing goes this could be done physically, by making jazz hands and saying in a daytime American chat show voice,

“Don’t do that stuff, girlfriend”.

Although the TDL (To-Do List) is in principle a little aide memoir, it is one thing to be a stickler for routine, quite another to feel enslaved or trapped by it.



The moment of realisation comes when you find yourself over punctuating a task or meeting with question marks (ie: See Erica????). Erica is a friend from the old days, a catch up with her is listening to her litany of complaints, which puts you in such a bad mood, you outfrown your Botox, down two large G and Ts just to get over the experience, and tell yourself never again.

Or it could be a potential bread and butter job contact: you have an irrational fear that by turning it down, your entire working life will karmically evaporate, for all work involves some degree of, well, work.

To misquote John Lennon, life is what happens when you are making your TDL. What is the breakdown between things you actively enjoy, things you merely endure to pay the bills or keep up appearances, and things which skiing naked down Mt Everest with Brillo pads in your bra would be the preferred option?

How can you edit or make your TDL a Really Want To-Do List?

Is it feasible, or more a matter of better balance? How can you make your list top-heavy in the “Really can’t wait to do this” and lighter in the “needs must” dept?

Here are a few tips to turn it around:

  • Keep your list to a max of three top priority red alert must do or die things. The rest are just time-relaxed chores.
  • Set a realistic time limit for each task – an email can take 3 minutes or 3 hours – what’s it to be?
  • Re-label your TDL as “Want-To Rituals” or “Want-To Tasks” and build in treats, moments of bliss and things that really light you up to run alongside the tough stuff.
  • If the same thing is avoided each day and thus ends up on tomorrow’s TDL that’s called procrastination. Find out what the hidden pain is behind the task i.e. I could be rejected / look stupid / don’t know what I’m doing / I’m not good at it/it will take ages / I’m not good enough.
  • Take a reality check if you are avoiding – is the pain real? Get a friend to hold you accountable for doing the task or meeting the deadline with a forfeit if you fail to get it done.
  • Don’t be defined by your busyness. Try a 10/2 blast approach – 10 minutes of productivity then 2 minutes off until it’s done.
  • Just “get” that spreadsheets bring you out in hives and get someone else to do it. Hire a VA for example or share one with a friend.
  • Practice the 3 D’s – Do it, Dump it or Delegate it.

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