Make a 'Not-to-Do List'

50 Ways to Improve Your Life: Deciding what you don't want to do can be crucial to getting things done

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New Year's Eve is time to resolve what you want in the year ahead. Since time is finite and your work is not, deciding what you don't want to do can be crucial to getting things done. A "not-to-do list" gives you an opportunity to examine your options.

When Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, sits down at the beginning of every year, he doesn't "write down any strategic objectives until [he has] identified three corresponding things to stop doing," he says. For instance, it wasn't enough to decide he wanted to read more: He had to first unplug the TV.

Collins's ideas come from the corporate research he did for a book in which he studied Fortune 500 companies that had made a leap from average to exceptional. He suggests you ask yourself what you're: a) passionate about; b) good at; and c) able to make a living doing. Then consider how you're spending time. How much of it falls outside those three factors? If the answer is most of it, a not-to-do list could be your most valuable tool. Another strategy Collins suggests is to identify top priorities, rank them, draw a line after 10, and stop doing anything below the line.

Some people, however, enjoy making the lists more casually. "It should be done lightly," says Jeffrey Yamaguchi, publisher of 52projects.com, whose "not" list on his site includes: "Do not read any further...caught you! Stop reading now, and get to work on your project."