Almost anyone has a todo list. However, one thing that improved my life much more is thinking about things that I should not do. It can be divided roughly in two parts. One part is mostly about avoiding toxic stuff, which has a negative impact on your life quality beyond being a time sink, while the other part is mostly about avoiding unnecessary stuff, which has, aside from the waste of time and energy, only mild consequences. As I was reviewing mine and threw out stuff which was outdated (e.g. some limit on carb consumption which is no longer necessary nor useful since I got leaner in the meantime), I thought I might share this invaluable tool with you.
My not todo list
- discuss with idiots
- assume unnecessary obligations
- do unnecessary work for money
- surf the web because of boredom
- staying up too late
- sleep in unnecessary late
- let people take control who have not qualified themselves to do so
- do things you know that have negative expected value
- use MacOS or iOS
So far so good. Some of these points are self explanatory, like surfing the web or using Apple products. But some things bear repeating and more explanation.
Do not discuss with idiots
This one is a huge time saver. You probably know a saying along the lines of "never discuss with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you by experience". However, the main reason is just that it is simply too time consuming. I do not care about being beaten in a discussion, as in a valuable discussion there are only winners. However, if someone just is not open to the relevant arguments, it is a huge waste of time. Caveat: Do not be a dick about it. Just try to avoid arguments. Nobody wins if you state that you are unwilling to discuss with that person because he is an idiot. Just leave them be, there is no gain in hurt feelings.
Do not assume unnecessary obligations
This one is somewhat difficult and might need some elaboration for what I mean by that. Sometimes you are being asked for help and you really would like to help, but it does not matter whether you actually help or not. This is often the case when people try to organize things you might care about, but which will get done, no matter what you do. Or, worse, will fail, no matter what. Even though you might enjoy helping, there would not be any benefit. Better spend your energy and time elsewhere, as there are almost always alternatives, where you can get the same enjoyment and make more of an impact.
Do not do unnecessary work for money
Trading time for money is bad, unless you really need the money. I have a tendency to do odd jobs and this one serves me to control this somewhat not so bad habit. Earning money is always nice, but sometimes, your time is better spent on other projects or simply on your loved ones. It falls pretty much in the same line as the previous point, however, earning money often negates the unnecessary condition on the obligation. The questions I usually ask myself before accepting any kind of job are: Does this work really need to get done? Will there be a benefit beyond your personal gain? Many things might pay adequately, but are just a waste of time and resources.
Do not let unqualified people take control
Probably the most important rule of them all. If you are involved in any kind of team effort, do not let this happen. If you care about the project, you would not do this. The real trap is a project which you just do not care about, but where you will have to participate in some way. You might think you could save your time by not being involved in the management, but more often than not, having someone who has not the necessary competencies in charge, costs everyone time. And in the end you often still have to step in and do the whole thing by yourself. On the upside, this trap is sometimes easy to avoid. On one hand most people who would waste your time are often repeated offenders, so you already know when to be on the watch. On the other hand, people who waste your time often do it by avoiding responsibility. Typically weak persons call for regular meeting in advance or similar shenanigans, which means that there are a lot of early warning signs. Recognizing them is the easy part, almost instinctive. Not dismissing them, especially out of laziness, is the hard part.
Controlling the downside
As they say, control the downside and the upside will take care of itself. By keeping a not-todo list and avoiding the obvious pitfalls, you effectively increase the expected value of your actions. Actually the systems works so well, that I don't have much of a global todo list. Yeah, some reminders about errands and for projects a list of milestones to accomplish. But most of the time I can cruise along on autopilot, as things evolve rather nicely, if you act decisively and simply avoid being stupid.