The amazing not-to-do list

Activity doesn’t necessarily mean productivity. Trust me, I know.

Some time in 2015.

I shift my gaze to my computer once more earnestly hoping for electricity to be restored. My battery’s flat. Too flat for anything useful to be done.
Resting my eyes on the black metallo-plastic machine, I make a mental checklist of all the things to be accomplished (the processes to be automated) when I get my HP charging.

Moments later, PHCN restores electricity and like a person who just sat on a needle, I jolt to my PC, get  it charging alongside my other devices and finally -the moment I’ve been waiting for- I put my computer on.

Boot-time. Tick Tock Tick Tock. I go through my mental checklist again (possibly with my right foot tapping on the floor) waiting for my beautiful- very beautiful desktop to come on.

As my desktop shows, time to breakdance I start my android studio, genymotion, browser and other tools I’ll need to accomplish the to-dos in my mental checklist.
As the applications start up, a usual thought that sounds something like “Ah, time to check out radar or youtube or nairaland.” comes up and today just like most times, I fall for this bait and the rest, they say is story.
PHCN does their distasteful job moments later and I sigh. The umpteenth sigh in the year. In pidgin, I reason ‘I never finish’. I never even start.  I had not accomplished what I had waited so long to start.

July 24th, 2015

I’m in a conference in Lagos and I hear an interesting theory. A theory that could possibly solve this problem – The problem of getting so easily distracted on a job or chore i’m supposed to do. 
Jim McKelvey in his normal accent says something like ‘now many people have to-do lists but much fewer people have not-to-do lists’.  He goes on explaining and minutes later, I get my ‘oh ah moment’. The message had sunk in. This thing works!  Turns out to-do lists don’t really work out for some people.

How I know it works?

A few days later, I’m at work and decide to try the simple principle.
My to-do is to research on a subject matter(that i’m not sure of now) and my to-not-do is “not going to do anything else apart from this to-do”.
I start researching and I notice something. Something I’d never really noticed before. I want to click a side link to an interesting article.
Just like that, links with interesting titles start showing up to the side of the page I’m on but the issue is they are not of sigificant importance to my original research.
I refrain myself from clicking remembering my to-not-to-do list and a few minutes later. I head home feeling thoroughly satisfied with what I had been able to accomplish in a few minutes.

The concept I learnt from Jim?

It is something called a ‘not-to-do’ list
It’s basically the opposite of a to-do list but in this case, it works hand-in-hand with the to-do list.

  • You create a list of chores or activities you want to accomplish within a particular time-frame.
  • You then cleverly think about the possible distractions you could encounter for each item in the list.
  • Categorize those distractions as a not-to-do list and in such a way that the not-to-do’s synchronize with the to-do’s for each time slot.
  • Whenever you start an item on the to-do-list, simply check for the corresponding not-to-do and make sure you never do the not-to-do.

    Variations of this simple principle abound but the principle works!

Why to-do lists are limited?

  • We tend to be versatilists and we do not notice how easily distracted we get sometimes. Check out how many tabs you have open in your browser now. How many books you have on your bed that you’ve scheduled to read and many other randoms that could serve as distraction.
  • As a result of the distraction, we get double-minded and : –

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. – James 1:8

Want to know more about this amazing but simple concept. This article and this one erm plus this other one should give you enough information.

Present day.

I’m typing on my computer smiling – hoping this helps someone out there

Let me know your testimonies please.





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