One of the perks of being an entrepreneurial independent advisor is that you get to do things the way that best suits your needs. But just because you can doesn’t mean that most advisors will set up systems that capitalize on their strengths and effectively manage their time. Do you find yourself wasting time, procrastinating, and generally not utilizing your time in the most productive way possible? If so, I’d like to suggest putting aside the to-do list and creating the opposite: a what-not-to-do list.

The Purpose of a What Not to Do List

As author Tim Ferriss states in this article, what you don’t do determines what you can do. In other words, if all your time is tied up with unnecessary tasks, you won’t have any time for the important stuff. Here are the three big reasons why you need your own what not to do list immediately:

Increase focus

Being independent allows you to serve your clients as you see fit. But if you’re not focused on what brings value to your clients, you’re missing a huge opportunity. When you create a what-not-to-do list, you’re taking away the tasks that take away your focus so you can hone in on the essentials.

Reduce distraction 

You are the result of your thoughts as an entrepreneur, and it’s easy for those thoughts to be all over the place. Non-essential tasks are one thing and one thing only: distractions. Multi-tasking is a myth. If you try to do more than one thing at a time, you’ll be distracted from both tasks and results will suffer.

Understand weaknesses

The things on your what not to do list usually end up being things you’re not good at or don’t enjoy. Once you identify these, you can see where your weaknesses are. Instead of trying to manage them, you can instead eliminate them through delegation so you can focus on your strengths. 

How to Create a What Not to Do List

Now that you know why what-not-to-do lists are important, let’s take a look at how to make your own.

Identify time-sucks

What unproductive activities seem to eat up all your time? Do you have trouble establishing boundaries with your clients and end up spending hours talking to them about personal matters? Do you waste hours a day checking email or social media? Once you identify what’s eating up your time, you can put it on your list. 

Focus on habits

Bad habits are normally the culprits when it comes to wasting time. What do you find yourself doing on a regular basis that hurts your productivity? Are you in the habit of surfing the internet while you eat your lunch…then find you’re still doing it at 2 pm? Do you have the habit of checking your phone as soon as you wake up and getting in a bad mood when you see a negative email or news story? Identify these bad habits and put them on your list. 

Listen to feedback

Not entirely sure what’s taking up your time or holding back your success? Ask for some feedback from mentors, business associates, friends, or your spouse. They may very well see things you’re not even aware of and have been just waiting for a chance to bring it up!

Don’t Eliminate the To-Do List

I know the title of this article says not to create to-do lists, but they do still have their place. They just need to be a little different from what you’ve previously created. Here are some tips:

Limit the tasks

If your to-do list is a mile long, it’s distracting and you’ll likely do the easier, non-essential tasks on the list before you tackle the important stuff. Limit your list to only a handful of tasks and make sure they are the ones that contribute most to your success.

Give timelines

Is your to-do list just for the day? The week? The month? If you don’t identify a timeline, you’ll likely put things off. I suggest having a daily to-do list and, if it’s not complete by the time the workday is done, you need to delegate it or eliminate it. Just moving it to the next day promotes procrastination. 

Identify purpose

Okay, so you know what you need to do…but do you know why you need to do it? If you don’t identify a purpose behind each task, it has less urgency and meaning. For each task, have a deep understanding of how this will contribute to your success or happiness.

When you have a what-not-to-do list, you can truly focus on the essentials of your business. Have questions or comments on what to put on your what-not-to-do list? Please leave them below!