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The power of a 'not-to-do' list (bbc.com)
173 points by jv22222 on Sept 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

I had a 'not to do list' a few years back and it helped me immensely.

* Don't step on someone's ego (people are very egoistic and I have or had a habit of cracking worst jokes, without an ounce of remorse)

* Don't get emotionally involved with takers (there are givers and takers in the world... it's so much better to give to givers)

* Don't make important decisions when tired (prevented me from sending emails when I was too tired and silly ones)

I have been a freelance developer and an entrepreneur for last few years. They might seem silly but did help me out become better at managing things. :-) Does anyone else wants to share theirs.

> Don't step on someone's ego

That seems a sad self-limitation. Stepping on egos can be fun, especially in VC and start-up circles, where there are so many overinflated ones. I mean, it's probably not good for your chances of getting funded or networking, but...

Come to think of it, I think I know why I'm bad at networking.

There are other ways to feel superior, less detrimental for, well, networking! :-]

> Don't make important decisions when tired

Or angry. Or even hungry.

It is amazing how easily we can move from a thinking being into a completely irrational animal.

Or only make big decisions early in the morning, when you are fully charged.

What are yoir definitions of "takers" and "givers"?

There is a bestselling book "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success" about these concepts by Adam Grant[1]. From the description:

> It turns out that at work, most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143124986

Sounds like pseudo-science and arbitrary categories defined by the book author.

I wonder how that's defined at work, considering intellectual knowledge work isn't something you can physically give, match or take.

Actually, I have a co-worker (database guy) who is very much a giver of his intellectual knowledge. Awesome to work with.

It is mostly based on a few interactions. We don't have to look out for givers or takers when we meet someone the first time or only a few times.

And 'not-to-do' list is something that is meant for your memory. I would keep these lists in the mac dashboard (sticky pads). Since I did not know when I would need them, having them in front of the eyes was a constant reminder. Once they were sufficiently ingrained, they would go to a docs (out of the sticky pads).

I feel the need for a not-to-do list again.

Actually, I also had a when in doubt list (this was because I said 'yes' too often). It had a few points like - (1) does it help me get better at running a startup, (2) does it help me get healthier, and (3) do I have a reason why I am doing it...

Anyone else :-) When 'in-a-doubt' list...

Skip reading this article and go straight to one referenced within it https://medium.com/@awilkinson/the-power-of-anti-goals-c38f5...

Original article is much better. The "Not To-Do" List was inspired by Charlie Munger's idea of inversion.

“Problems frequently get easier if you turn them around in reverse. In other words, if you want to help India, the question you should ask is not ‘how can I help India,’ it’s ‘what is doing the worst damage in India and how do I avoid it?”

“A lot of success in life and business comes from knowing what you want to avoid: early death, a bad marriage, etc.”

“It is remarkable how much long-term advantage we have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.”

How actionable is this advice? There seem to be so many more ways to be stupid than to be wise. Is there a specific type of stupid that you need to look out for?

where is this quote from? I want to learn more about Charlies thoughts. What should I read?

Surely you need to ask what you shouldn't read?

Poor Charlie's Almanack is a good one; it is quite a mix of stories, advice and wisdom that you can read in parts here and there when you have a moment.

Crappy article, but the concept is powerful and particularly relevant for startups.

Prioritization is key for making meaningful progress every day. Your list of 'to-dos' will seem endless so you must learn to pick and choose only the most valuable activities. And sometimes that means saying no to other valuable but not as critical ones.

"Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do." - John Carmack

Not really anti-goals but I think one of the great side of David Allen's GTD is that you are reviewing things you are not doing but you would like to (someday/maybes, incubation) on a consistent basis. So you won't feel bad about it and can be conscious with not doing.

I like the idea of anti-goals, will have to try that. So far I've had a lot of luck with the following:

- Recognizing "anti-matter-blocks" on my calendar: Letting go of blocks of time in which I _should_ be productive and constructive, but am not. I kept a log and found that the 1-3:30 p.m. time block was ridiculously unproductive and typically filled with high self-pressure, so I decided to completely let it go. Now I use that block as a rest period and do whatever I want. Watch a movie? Great. Two-hour hike? Done, many times. This is still an experiment to which I make little tweaks (going on about 3 years now) but it taught me to accept my roadblocks for what they are and use them to some other advantage (in this case, mental health / recuperation). To top it off, as a stress response I was feeding a bad habit during that block of time for about 10 years, and as of two years ago, it's completely gone.

- Intuitive task priority. I fill my to-do list with fun things and not-so-fun things, and start with whatever "speaks to me." If nothing on the list speaks to me, chances are I have neglected to add fun things. And if my work items do not seem fun _ever_, I need to alter my work and seek out different forms of work or set firmer boundaries. This latter fact is difficult but worth facing up to.

- Verbalizing my problems with the day to other people. This is hard for me because I don't want to sound like I'm whining, but has worked surprisingly well. Sometimes I get feedback like, "well, why don't you just do X instead," where X is an idea I hadn't considered. Other times there's no one around so I consult with a person I deeply respect as if they're present & ready to help me (the cabinet of invisible counselors idea) or even say a prayer. I've had amazing results with these last methods, somehow even better if I'm typing them out as I experience them.

- Blocking in things I really look forward to. This is mentioned in the article. I enjoy achievement and find that it helps reverse feelings of exhaustion. For me, little achievements peppered in here and there throughout the year are where it's at. I blocked in the ARRL amateur radio licensing exams as a personal challenge and downloaded an app to help study. I blocked in a couple of conferences that are outside of my field but very interesting. I block in webinars in various fields and even ended up pursuing and earning certificates in those fields. I built a new website to help those who are interested in one of those fields and challenged myself to add 1,000 new items of content before the end of the year. I'm at 250 so far after 2 weeks (I count links! The currency of the web...but it's a niche field so it's still hard).

Well, this went longer than I thought. But with some serious achievements finally under my belt, with bad habits conquered and work going better than ever, I figured it might help someone to share.

Another technique that helps me is always holding back a few smallish productive tasks that you can do if you are stuck on another project. More often than not, switching projects for a few hours clears my head for the original project and accomplishing a small task reduces my frustration level significantly.

Wouldn't meeting only with people that one likes lead to reinforcing one's echo chamber?

Is that always bad? People often advise to be around people with the same goals and ambitions as you to keep you motivated and on the right path.

It's that echo chamber of "you can do it" that often leads to people actually doing it.

The situation I see this happen the most is Company wants to encourage high morale with positive internal messaging, which gets the echo chamber treatment from management. This messaging minimizes self-critical/negative feedback, which results in problems going unhandled, which results in them developing into worse problems until Company becomes embarrassed into taking them seriously.

But I can see how a positive echo chamber could help get something off the ground.

It is once you are 'doing it' you shall get more of a diverse group. my guess once you are past 0->1 stage.

Generally if it's people that you find objectionable then spending time with them is only going to make your dislike for their views worse.

Besides, in a work context it's more likely to be people who want your time and effort for something that's not in your goals. Or simply bores. I used to work somewhere with a negative productivity manager: not only did he not do anything useful, he had a tendency to stand next to you and tell dull long stories of How It Was In The Old Days.

Only if you only like people who agree with you & dislike everyone that disagrees with you.

So it’s really about setting clear boundaries.

Contrary to the Medium post, I schedule each meeting as first thing of the day, so it’s out of the way and doesn’t cockblock deep work I want to do. Even better is no meetings, but sometimes they’re just unavoidable.

I typically work best in the morning. I have my most productive hour the first hour I work. If I'm able to get flow on my project then it will carry me a couple hours into the day. Once I'm pulled out of my flow or I tire, I find it hard to get back in. This is the time I'd like to spend having conversations and/or meetings, with other people helping to spur my imagination.

I can't always control my schedule to this degree, because I work for others, but it's ideal for me.

I suppose it works this way for "morning people".

I only book external meetings Wednesdays and during lunch. If next Wednesday is full, the meeting goes on to lunch date or the week after. We're a small shop and all of our employees have to do this (noone is only sales, everyone is part of our code base). Works great for us.

Internal meetings are kept short. 30 minutes each morning, 30 minutes after lunch.

I do something similar and try to get all meetings on the same day(s). Of course this doesn't always work given others schedules, but does help because most of the time nothing is so critical it can't wait a few days to be discussed.

If you understand German, you might enjoy Volker Strübing's song on this topic: https://youtu.be/T4DWCJfkyzk?t=333

Which is inspired by Marc-Uwe Kling and the kangaroo respectively.

The title and idea are great, the post itself not so. However, one part of my 'not to-do list' ist my /etc/hosts file. All the worst time wasters go there and redirect to

When we are approaching new somewhat abstract project idea we do a IS and IS NOT exercise and get the sponsor to sign off on the lists. This has been helpful in the last 15 years of my career.

I can see how this can go wrong.

* Don't look at porn for more than 30 minutes today.

* Don't eat any chocolate or other unhealthy food.

* Don't work on that side project.

I don't follow - how is this "wrong"? If those are things you want to eliminate, why not eliminate them.

Because having a list of things reminding you what you should not do will often trigger the impulse to do it. I knew a friend who had such a list, she would immediately do everything on the list then vow not to do it again tomorrow. At some point, it became a habit to do those things on 'break' days.

How is it wrong? If you were currently looking at porn for 2 hours/day and want to cut back, going for only 30 is a step in the right direction.

Chocolate is unhealthy?!

Most of it is full of refined sugar. You can read any diet advice about too much refined sugar to get the gist about the health impact of too much chocolate. A little bit here and there isn't going to cause you problems though.

Why don't say it as "avoid refined sugar" instead? I have a cocoa powder box with no sugar in the kitchen Hmmmm...

Because it's a bad example of a bad list. "Avoid refined sugar" is easy. "Avoid chocolate" on a list is going to tempt you to munch on some chocolate even if you had no such craving for it previously.

Most people aren't referring to cocoa powder on its own when they refer to chocolate.

"the power of rules"

I wish I could read this on android. It just redirects to a single ad.

It worked for me. It's not all that interesting, though. The synopsis is: some Canadian guy writes down things he doesn't want to do and then doesn't do them. It's an interesting concept but you get as much out of the title as the articlr

It works fine on iOS. I have a safari content blocker enabled.

Android is entirely useless without Adguard (or equivalent)

how is that an android problem?

the internet is borderline unusable without proper adblocking. Its the same on all platforms.

Sure. This just happened to be a comment about android.

This is just a waste of time. First, you must have common sense before you put your pants on in the morning.

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