The Not Todo List

3 min read

As I write this, I am a few short weeks into being a father to a beautiful baby girl. I knew going into this that my free time and sleep would be limited, but I don't think I was as prepared as I could have been.

Aside from normal work and home responsibilities, I had several extracurricular projects in the works leading up to my daughter's birth. The part of my brain that likes to underestimate and over commit fooled me into believing that I would magically be able to keep all the balls in the air and I would just complete things at a slower pace. That part of my brain is kind of a dick sometimes!

I have a long list of things I want to learn, stuff I want to build and content I want to create. I still want to do these things, but I need to be realistic about what I can actually accomplish without creating too much undue stress in my life.

In an effort to set more reasonable goals and expectations for myself, I have been moving things from the todo list to the not todo list. This is the first time in my life that such a list even exists, but in order to reduce my self-induced stress and focus properly on the things that are left, I had to make one.

I want to be clear, I have an actual list of things I will NOT do. I created an entry in [my bullet journal]({{<ref "">}}) just to list out things I won't be working on. This is not the same as just taking things off the todo list, or letting things go undone. This is making conscious decisions about the things that are not a priority and putting it in writing so I can be ok with not doing those things. If I were to just leave items undone, or delete them from my todo list, those items would stick in the back of my mind and become distractions from the things I've chosen to prioritize. When I'm sitting and holding my daughter, or in a meeting at work, I don't want outside stressors that I've created for myself to interfere or ruin those moments for me. If my todo list is short and intentional, I can make the best use of the fleeting time and focus that are left after everything else.

Things can be moved back someday and the list is flexible. There is nothing saying I won't eventually tackle things on the not todo list, but for now, having them there means I won't try to squeeze them in and I won't beat myself up for falling behind or not following through on certain things. As projects fall off my list and things in my life change, I can adjust the ratio of todo vs not todo items, but I think the not todo list is something I'm going to keep going for the foreseeable future.

If you try to take on too much, or have a todo list that has taken on a life of its own. Remember, It's ok to say no and I highly recommend giving the written (or typed) not todo list a shot. I have found it very freeing!