The Anti-To-Do List
Today at a Glance
- Every journey has two fundamental sides: (1) The Positive: Where we want to go; and (2) The Negative: Where we want to avoid along the way.
- The Anti-To-Do List is our tool for governing the negative, for avoiding the traps along the journey. Your Anti-To-Do List has the set of daily actions, behaviors, and habits to avoid; the things that will hold you back or lead you into trouble.
- The Anti-To-Do List is dynamic, comprised of the actions you are focused on avoiding in the present. My list changes periodically as I "graduate" (i.e. have 100% compliance for an extended period) from any one action and feel compelled to add a new one that I am struggling with.
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“All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.” - Charlie Munger
The to-do list is a staple of modern society.
Its purpose is simple: To guide daily actions, to set our course in the right direction.
A focused, thoughtful to-do list—one which places emphasis on the important tasks that create meaningful progress—has the potential to do just that.
But every journey has two fundamental sides:
- The Positive: Where we want to go.
- The Negative: Where we want to avoid along the way.
Even the best to-do list can only govern the positive. It can set our course for where we want to go.
To govern the negative, we need a different tool: The Anti-To-Do List.
The Anti-To-Do list leverages the principle of inversion to help you avoid the traps along the journey.
Where your To-Do List has the set of daily actions that drive you forward, your Anti-To-Do List has the set of daily actions, behaviors, and habits to avoid; the things that will hold you back or lead you into trouble.
The Anti-To-Do List is dynamic, comprised of the actions you are focused on avoiding in the present. My list changes periodically as I "graduate" (i.e. have 100% compliance for an extended period) from any one action and feel compelled to add a new one that I am struggling with.
Here's my current Anti-To-Do List (and how you can create your own)...
My Anti-To-Do List
Do not "graze" on low-value tasks. Parkinson's Law says that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. When you don't set fixed windows for managing low-value tasks (like email), you end up "grazing" on them (spending all day doing them slowly and inefficiently). Create short, discrete windows for processing low importance tasks.
Do not become an ostrich. An ostrich will bury its head in the sand to avoid danger. A lot of humans behave the same way when they encounter new information that challenges their existing beliefs or views. An ostrich cares more about being right than finding the truth. Do not become an ostrich, embrace new information that forces you to change your mind.
Do not say yes to things under the assumption of having more time for them in the future. You won't have more time in the future. If you wouldn't want to do the thing tomorrow, don't say yes to doing it a month from now.
Do not take calls or video meetings without a clear purpose. Calls or video meetings without any clear agenda or purpose are where your joy and energy go to die. If it can be an email, it should be an email. Note to Self: Embrace in-person meetings without a clear purpose, as these end up being some of the most interesting discussions.
Do not fall victim to the algorithm vortex. The algorithm will encourage you to create content exclusively for its pleasure, but if you lose the soul in the work along the way, you'll never be able to stay in the game long enough to win. Create things you would want to consume and avoid checking metrics for 24 hours.
Do not hit the snooze button. It's not about sleep, it's about stacking evidence that you are the captain of your ship.
Do not check your phone within the first 15 minutes of waking up (or the last 15 minutes before going to bed). We have enough technology addiction in our lives. Create space—give yourself a few fixed windows of intentional tech avoidance to breathe.
Do not text or check social media throughout the course of the day. Establish fixed windows when you will read and reply to messages. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode. Turn on Grayscale Mode to make the icons and notifications less appealing for the "just a quick check" during the course of the day.
Do not allow comparison, envy, or jealousy to enter your headspace. When you feel it creeping in, default to curiosity instead: Ask what that person is doing that you can learn from.
Do not complain about anything. If the thing is within your control, then go do something about it. If the thing is out of your control, then it's just a waste of energy to complain about it.
Do not have your phone out when your kid is trying to play with you. When you are working, work hard. When you are playing, play hard. Strive to bring present, focused energy in all areas of life. Never let your phone come between you and your kid. Note to Self: Focus on this, as it's the one you struggle with the most!
Do not shy away from discomfort in your relationships. Stop avoiding difficult conversations. Growth requires discomfort. Maintain a growth mindset in all of your relationships and your life will improve.
Do not allow more than 2 hours of inactivity. Get up and go for a walk. Do a few pushups or lunges. Move your body and feel the rush of new energy and creativity.
Your Anti-To-Do List
To create your Anti-To-Do list, sit down and write down the things you are struggling with personally and professionally.
Use my list as a spark to get the ideas flowing, but make changes, additions, or subtractions as necessary.
The list is intended to be dynamic, so don't worry too much about the starting point. It can be as few as 3-5 high-priority items.
Just as you have your To-Do List in front of you during the course of the day, I would recommend having your Anti-To-Do List in front of you as well. As you avoid the daily actions on the list, check them off.
There will be good days and bad days, that's just part of the game. Every day you achieve 100% compliance with your Anti-To-Do List, give yourself a moment to appreciate the win.
Remember: Each day is an opportunity to stack new evidence in favor of the person you want to become.