What’s On Your Not-To-Do List?

Most of us have a to-do list of some sort. We live in a world of constant busyness and doing “all the things.” I’m sure if I asked you what’s on your to-do list right now you could rattle off a whole slew of things.

But have you ever made a Not-To-Do list? And what exactly do I mean by not-to-do list? I’m not talking about things you don’t ever want to do, like running a marathon, for example. I do not EVER want to run a marathon. It sounds excruciatingly awful to me. But that’s not what I mean by not-to-do list.

Let me illustrate with a story. President Boyd K Packer told a story about a herd of deer who were trapped outside their natural habitat because of heavy snowfall. Some well-meaning people in the area were afraid the deer would starve to death and decided to intervene. They dumped truckloads of hay near the deer in hopes of saving them. Unfortunately, the deer starved to death anyway. Their bellies were full, but they were not nourished.

Most of us have pretty full lives. I hear from my clients constantly about how busy they are and how they don’t have enough time. How many of your to-dos are nourishing you, and how many are just filling up your time? Filling up your day? Filling up your life? Are there things in your life, things you do, that maybe you don’t need to do anymore?

I’m sure some of you will freak out a little when I tell you something on my not-to-do list: Homework. My kids are in elementary school. They are at school all day. When they get home, they need time to be kids, time to spend with their family, time to contribute to the family, and time to explore things they’re interested in. If their teacher assigns homework every day, I don’t make my kids do it. My kids are above grade-level according to their test scores. So the homework is just busy work. It fills up their time but it doesn’t nourish them like other things they could be doing. We just don’t do it. It’s on our not-to-do list.

A family member recently told me he doesn’t go to church anymore because he doesn’t get anything out of it. It made me think about why I go to church. There are definitely weeks I don’t get anything out of it, but as I thought about it, I realized those are weeks I don’t make an effort. I play on my phone, think about other things, don’t really pay attention, and come with an overall attitude of “I don’t really want to be here.”

So I asked myself “Do I really WANT to go to church?” and “WHY do I want to go to church?” The answer was yes, with a whole slew of reasons (all of which I like). Since then, I started taking notes, giving the talks and lessons my full focus, and going with a different mindset. My experience has completely changed. I’m being nourished.

This family member put church on their not-do-list; I made sure I was being nourished so I could keep it on my to-do list. This isn’t about going to church or not going to church. This is about living your life to the fullest rather than filling it up with things that don’t make an impact.

A good place to start this exercise is by thinking of all the things you think you SHOULD do. The reason I like to start here is because most of the “shoulds” come from outside of us. I should weed my yard. I should help my kids with their homework. I should go to church. I should make my kid’s dinner. I should lose weight. I should exercise.

Why? Because people will judge me.

When we do things because society tells us we should, we are letting someone else decide what our life should be. We aren’t living intentionally. We aren’t choosing the kind of life we want to have.

And when we do that, we often find our lives are full but we don’t feel nourished.

In the case of shoulds, you have two options. Get to a place in your mind where you really want to do it. Or just don’t do it. Otherwise, you’re just filling up on hay.

The second area to look at is how much time you spend doing things that don’t move the needle.

Is this thing on your to-do list going to make an impact? Will you learn or grow from doing it? Will it move you forward? Or is it just busy work?

I challenge you to question all of it. Don’t skip items because you think you have to do them. Really question them. Does this thing nourish me? Is this something I WANT to do? Why do I want to do it? Is this something I’m willing to give up because it simply fills my time and doesn’t help me grow or improve?

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