Using a Not-To-Do List to Manage Your Distractions

Alyssa Gregory

We often talk about to-do lists and how they keep us on track, but while we’re pushing ahead to be productive with our to-dos (the list-makers among us, that is!), there are these ugly little distractions lurking in the background. The job of these anti-to-dos is to pull us away from the task at hand and eat at our productivity. And sometimes they succeed.

The Distractions

Your distractions can be anything that interrupts you, prevents you from doing what you know you need to do, and reinforces your bad habits. And they can change daily, depending on the work you are doing and the environment you are working in.

My biggest distractions, for example, include new email notifications, incoming phone calls from family, and social media. Other common distractions, some that you may experience yourself, include reading blogs, watching TV, and instant messaging.

Making a Not-To-Do List

One way to deal with these constant distractions is by making a “not-to-do” list to remind you where you attention should be at any point in time during the day. A not-to-do list is a list of the distractions you acknowledge in your day and want to prevent from taking over and killing your productivity. This can be a perfect productivity boost for those of us who are already accustomed to using lists.

Items on your not-to-do list can be recurring issues, like incessant email checking. Or they can be situation-specific, like worrying about an upcoming presentation. Your not-to-do list is meant to be a reminder, a way to trigger your thoughts and actions back to your priorities.

Tips for Your Not-To-Do List

Here are a few suggestions to help you make your not-to-do list become an effective productivity tool:

  • Put your list somewhere you can see it easily
  • Update it every morning as you prepare to dig into your work
  • Share your list with others in your working environment so they can support you by helping remove the distractions
  • Use the items on your not-to-do list as rewards for completing tasks
  • Add to your list during the day as you find yourself being pulled off track

Got a List?

I recently started using a not-to-do list and have found that it’s a great way to reinforce where my head needs to be, motivate myself to stay focused, and help me manage the priorities in my work and personal life.

Are you a to-do list maker like me? Do you think a not-to-do list could help you avoid some of your biggest distractions?

Image credit: lustfish