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Not To-Do List – What Is It & Why You Should Keep One (+Printable)

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Not all tasks need to be done, and not all tasks are equally important. And that’s why a not to-do list is essential to keep alongside your to-do list.

Pretty printable not to-do lists by SaturdayGift
Pretty printable not to-do lists by SaturdayGift found in this post

A not to-do list is super important for managing your tasks, time and organizing your life.

It helps you prioritize the important things and avoid wasting time on activities that don’t contribute to your success or happiness.

So what is a not to-do list (also known as things to don’t -list), and why should you have one?

What is a not to-do list (or things to don’t – list)

A not to-do list is a list of activities you choose to avoid to prioritize and focus your time more effectively and purposefully.

The tasks that belong on your not to-do list are things that

  • (unnecessarily) drain your energy
  • don’t need to get done (because they don’t add value)
  • and distracts you and wastes time

Having a not to-do list can help with overwhelm and procrastination by providing structure and boundaries, allowing you to be more productive with your time.

It also means you don’t get side-tracked with unproductive tasks, leaving you more time for essential things.

Not to-do list printable to add to your planner - Not to-do list ideas
Not to-do list printable to add to your planner

Why do you need the not to-do list?

Not to-do list is productivity tool, but it also helps you live purposefully and according to your core values.

Taking the time to identify all the tasks and activities you don’t need to do, leaves more time for productive tasks that are important to you.

It can also help with feeling overwhelmed, eliminate distractions, and help you stay on track to accomplish more meaningful tasks.

5 reasons to have a not to do list

A Not To Do list is a great way to help you stay focused and organized. Here are five reasons why you should have one:

1) It helps you prioritize your tasks.

A not to-do list allows you to identify which duties and chores are not essential and should be avoided so that you can focus on the more important tasks.

2) It encourages better time management.

Having a not to-do list will help you manage your time more efficiently by avoiding activities that take up too much of your time.

3) It can help reduce stress.

Having a not to-do list can help reduce stress by eliminating unnecessary tasks from your daily routine. It will free up more time for activities that bring joy and relaxation.

4) It improves productivity.

By avoiding activities that are not productive, it allows you to focus on the tasks that will get results and improve productivity in the long run.

5) It helps break bad habits.

A Not To Do list is also a great way to break bad habits such as procrastination or checking emails too often. Identifying these activities and writing them down makes it easier to avoid them in the future.

A not to-do list is an effective way to stay organized, prioritize tasks, reduce stress, improve productivity, and break bad habits!

How to create a not to-do list in 5 steps

1) Do a brain dump

Start by writing down everything you need to do on a to-do list.

Psst! Grab free printable to-do lists from this post: To-Do List Template – 29 Cute & Free Printable To-Do Lists

2) Analyze your list

Take a step back and look at the tasks on your to-do list.

Ask yourself: “Is completing the task really necessary?” Identify which tasks are unimportant or take up too much of your time.

3) Write down tasks on your not to-do list.

Once you have identified the tasks that should be on your not to-do list, write them down. Writing them down is essential and will remind you of what should not be done and help you focus on the important tasks.

You can find (and instantly download & print out) 3 different printable not to-do list templates at the bottom of this post.

Cute Printable Not To-Do List - tasks to do later... (or never)
Cute Printable Not To-Do List – tasks to do later… (or never)

4) Set boundaries

Make sure to set boundaries for yourself so that you can stick to your not to-do list. If needed, let people know that specific tasks are off-limits, and try your best to avoid those activities.

Please note that if your job requires you to do something, you can’t put it on your not to-do list.

5) Review your list

Periodically review your not to-do list to stay on track and focus on the things that matter most.

Your not to-do list will look different from everyone else’s; it’s your personal experience and will grow and change over time.

Things that belong to your not to-do list

The main things that belong to your not to-do list are unimportant tasks. These are low-value tasks. They don’t significantly impact your (or your loved one’s) life, but they take up time that could be better spent doing something more meaningful.

Here are examples of items that could be on your not to-do list:

Stuff that drains your energy

  • Reacting to every request and demand.
  • Doing things out of obligation (that also someone else could do)
  • Making excuses to avoid tackling difficult work
  • Procrastination of important tasks
  • Making decisions based on fear or insecurity
  • Giving too much time to negative people and situations
  • Taking on too many commitments or tasks
  • Perfectionism
  • Saying yes to everything (and not knowing when to say “no”)
  • Watching too much television (Binge watching)
  • Not delegating tasks to others
  • Tasks that bring up negative emotions (and are best to be avoided)

Stuff that doesn’t need to be done

  • Unnecessary meetings / Work meeting without a clear agenda
  • Tasks that don’t bring you any value
  • Interrupting tasks with unimportant ones 
  • Not tracking your progress or achievements
  • Staying late at the office without reason
  • Doing tasks that can easily be automated or delegated to others.

Stuff that distracts you and wastes your time

  • Endless scrolling on social media
  • Checking emails too often
  • Indecision and overthinking
  • Excessive multitasking
  • Making decisions without planning, research, or preparation
  • Avoiding uncomfortable conversations.
  • Small projects that are time-consuming and don’t have a significant impact or bring value
  • Social media scrolling
Things to don't list black & white - Not to-do list ideas
To-do list ideas: Things to don’t list black & white

Do the tasks stay on the not to-do list forever?

Do the tasks stay on the not to-do list forever? The answer is absolutely no; they don’t have to, but they can.

Example: not to-do list vs. to-do list

Let’s say you’re working on a project and want to focus on getting that project done. You might put tasks like “cleaning the house” or “catching up with friends” in your not to-do list for now, but when the project is finished, those tasks may no longer need to stay in your not to-do list.

Different tasks are needed at different times, and what was important last week or month may be less relevant this week or this month.

And if you have a task that you don’t want to do but know it’s essential for long-term success, consider adding it back on the list – but with a deadline – so that you remember to do it.

It is important to review your list regularly and make changes as needed depending on what is most important in your life (at the moment.)

Additionally, it helps you track progress and recognize behavior patterns that may need to be addressed.

When do you know if a task goes on your not to-do list?

When you start using a not to-do list, it’s good to review it on a daily basis and decide which tasks should be avoided to live more purposefully and achieve your goals.

When you notice time-consuming tasks (without a positive impact on your life) that regularly find their way to your to-do list, that’s a good indicator that they should be placed on the not to-do list.

Free printable not to-do list – download & print out

Here are three free printable not to-do lists you can download and print out.

Cute & free printable not to-do list by SaturdayGift
Cute & free printable not to-do list

DOWNLOAD: Cute & free printable not to-do list

Not to-to do list free printable by SaturdayGift
Not to-to do list free printable – beige

DOWNLOAD: Not to-to do list free printable – beige

Things to don't -list printable by SaturdayGift
Things to don’t -list printable

DOWNLOAD: Things to don’t -list printable

Psst! Grab also cute & free printable to-do lists from this post: To-Do List Template – 29 Cute & Free Printable To-Do Lists

To be list – a List (that might be) equally important as your To-Do list.

So now that you have your to-do lists and not to-do lists, the next step is to write down your to-be list.

You can learn more about it from this post: To-Be List – A list equally (if not more) important as your To-Do List (+ Free printables)

Trying to do everything, but don’t have enough time? 80-20 rule to the rescue

I love the 80/20 rule! 

And when it comes to prioritizing your to-dos and not to-dos, it’s a great way of sorting out the important stuff from everything else. 

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your effort. 


When I had 300 posts on my site, around 55 posts (18%) brought in 80% of the traffic. And the rest 245 posts brought in 20% of the traffic.

So I should concentrate on writing more posts similar of the top 55 posts that people like rather than writing more of those 245 posts that fewer people read.

If you can identify which tasks are the most productive (20%) and focus on those, you can get 80% of the results.

You can apply the same 80-20 rule to your not to-do list. Take an honest look at your activities and ask yourself: Are these tasks useful or necessary?

If the answer is no, you should take them off the to-do list, dump them on your not to-do list, and save yourself some time (and energy!).

And as you learned before, you can revisit your not to-do list now and then and re-evaluate if a task should go back to your to-do list.

Learn more about the 80/20 rule: The 80/20 Rule: 3 easy Ways To Simplify your Life This Week + Worksheet


So try to put conscious effort into creating your not to-do list and stick to it. It will help you stay on top of your tasks, be more productive, and ultimately make life much easier!

And if this whole process feels too overwhelming and you have trouble deciding, start with finding one task that could be on your not to-do list and add it today!

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