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This is a guest post by my friend, Sharla Fritz. Be sure to grab your copy of your free lesson in achieving a more focused life here

Why a NOT-To-Do List Can Help You Succeed

Last year started out with grim news.

My husband was diagnosed with lymphoma.

It was a shock for this guy who never takes a sick day. He never had any symptoms. He didn’t feel ill.

Soon all of our to-do lists were relegated to the garbage can. Instead of our usual work and social activities, our schedules were crammed with doctor visits, tests, and treatments. Our over-packed lives had to make room for more important things. I personally needed to weed out the frivolous to find time for what was necessary—being available for my husband.

Thankfully, after six-months of chemotherapy, I can say my husband is doing fine. The treatments worked and he is now in remission.

But that experience demonstrated that I needed to be more purposeful with my time. Before the crisis I would read Ephesians 5:15-16—

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

—and interpret “making the best use of the time” as packing as much as possible into each hour. I filled my calendar like I was stuffing clothes for a three-week vacation into a carry-on bag. My to-do list was as long as a grocery list for hosting a party for one hundred of my closest friends.

But my husband’s health crisis forced me to see that I needed a shorter to-do list and a longer “not-to-do” list. God showed me that making the most of my time didn’t necessarily mean stuffing more into my day, but eliminating distracting activities to focus on what is truly important.

time quote

So I resigned from a leadership position, gracefully left a club, and said no to a weekly study group. I concentrated on the work I needed to do and to helping my husband recover.

Now that my husband is in remission, I am trying not to go back to my usual mode of operation. I am trying to live my life focusing on the essential instead of dividing my attention between a million distracting activities.

I encourage you to do the same. Life is short and we want to use it well. There are many good things that we can do with our time, but we want to choose the best.

To do this I suggest making a list of all the things you do. Write down everything on your schedule.

Then discern what is best by asking yourself two questions:

  1. Do I need this activity? Discover what is essential and what can be crossed off the schedule. Consider: Is it something I have to do? (Yes, you need to feed the kids.) Is it something God is asking me to do? (Or have I taken a job that was meant for someone else?)
  2. Why am I doing this? Discovering your motives may make it easier to find what is non-essential in your schedule. Reflect: Am I doing this to keep up with my friends? Is this pursuit simply an ego boost?

After you have examined each activity, compile a NOT-To-Do List—an inventory of the things that you now see are unnecessary or the endeavors God is asking you not to pursue right now. By eliminating the items on your NOT-To-Do List you will achieve a greater probability of successfully completing the items on your TO-do list.

Find focus. Find peace. Ask God to help you make the most of your time by deleting the trivial and keeping the essential.

Sharla Fritz is a Christian speaker and author of four books including Soul Spa: 40 Days of Spiritual Renewal. If you would like to find out more about living a life of focus instead of distraction, download a free lesson on “The One Thing You Need to Do for a More Focused Life” here.

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