Creating Your Not-To-Do List


Some people swear by to-do lists to increase productivity, but others believe in an entirely contrary method: creating a list of what not to do.

Veterinary professionals who are particularly productive will tell you that they have learned to say “no” far more often than they say “yes.” But if this is the case, then why are we burdening ourselves day in and day out with hefty to-do lists of tasks we agreed to?

Instead of crossing off tasks on your ever-expanding to-do list, consider following the rules laid out on this not-to-do list.

Think of your not-to-do list as all of the things you do that don’t add much value to your day, and undoubtedly slow down your productivity and waste time. Creating this list is a way to pinpoint your bad habits and stop them in their tracks.

Creating Your List

Take a quick look at your average day and highlight the things you occasionally do that have low-to-no value with regard to your productivity.

What distracts you throughout your day? What would decrease your productivity if you dedicated valuable time focusing on it? Write those things down.


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Say, for instance, that you own your own veterinary practice. You have a client waiting for you in one of the exam rooms, but right before you enter the room, a staff member tells you they’re out of paper for the front office. If you’re the type to go out and purchase office supplies instead of seeing a client, make sure you add, “Do not do anything you can delegate to someone else,” to your not-to-do list.

Your not-to-do list might also include the following items:

  • Do not agree to meetings with no clear agenda.
  • Do not attempt to multitask.
  • Do not constantly check email.
  • Do not spend too much time on social media.
  • Do not be a perfectionist.

Stay Consistent

Creating this list is only half the battle — now you have to follow through. Make sure to keep your not-to-do list in a place where it’s always visible. To improve your chances of success, you may also want to share your not-to-do list with a friend, colleague or family member who will hold you accountable.

What you don’t do determines what you can — and need to — do, which is why creating a not-to-do list can actually increase productivity, allow time for more fulfilling tasks and help foster a good work-life balance.

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