The power of a 'not-to-do' list


Has your working day become one long battle to wade through a to-do list?


The multiple distractions of the modern workplace – digital overload, open offices and constant interruptions, to name a few – can make it near impossible to achieve your goals, or even get anything done at all.


But, what if you’re going about things the wrong way? Perhaps you should be thinking more about what you shouldn’t be doing instead.


That’s one of the strategies employed by Canadian entrepreneur and investor Andrew Wilkinson, who has come up with a list of “anti-goals”.

加拿大企业家兼投资人安德鲁·威尔金森(Andrew Wilkinson)就采用了这样的做法,他专门列出了一份"反目标"(anti-goal)清单。

Topsy-turvy thinking


Wilkinson noticed his day (and that of his business partner) was filled with things he didn’t want to do. He was feeling stretched, doing business with people he didn’t like, with a schedule dictated by others, he wrote recently on Medium.


He wanted to figure out how to improve his day and make it more enjoyable. So, he followed the lead of Charlie Munger, right-hand man of famed investor Warren Buffet, and a proponent of ‘inversion’ – a strategy that looks at problems in reverse, focusing on minimising the negatives instead of maximising the positives.

他想知道怎样才能改善每天的生活,让自己更加快乐。所以,他开始效仿查理·芒格(Charlie Munger)。芒格是著名投资者沃伦·巴菲特(Warren Buffet)的得力助手,也是"逆向思维"的支持者——这种策略会以相反的方向看待问题,重点是尽可能减少消极因素,而不是尽可能扩大积极因素。

To put it in practice, Wilkinson came up with his worst possible workday: one filled with long meetings at the office, a packed schedule dealing with people he didn’t like or trust. Then he came up with his list of ‘anti-goals,’ which includes no morning meetings, no more than two hours of scheduled time per day and no dealings with people he doesn’t like.


These ‘anti-goals’ have made his life “immeasurably better” he wrote in the blog.


“I think people always try to think about where they want to go. ‘What will make me happy?’ is such an open-ended question, and it’s surprisingly much easier to figure out what makes you miserable,” he wrote in an email to BBC Capital.

"我认为人们总在思考自己想达到什么目标。'什么能让我幸福?'是个开放式问题。但想要了解什么让自己痛苦却容易得多。"他在写给BBC Capital的电子邮件中写道。

What not to do


Wilkinson and Munger aren’t the only ones using anti-goals to help them cut out distractions and realise ambitions.


Tim Ferriss, author, podcaster and investor believes in the power of a ‘not-to-do’ list. Why? “The reason is simple: What you don’t do determines what you can do,” he writes. On his not-to-do list? Don’t let people ramble, don’t agree to meetings with no clear agenda, and work shouldn’t fill a void that should be filled elsewhere.

作家、播客兼投资人蒂姆·菲瑞斯(Tim Ferriss)也很相信"禁办事项"的魔力。原因何在?"其实很简单:你不做的那些事情才能决定你究竟能做什么事情。"他写道。他在"禁办事项"上列出了哪些内容?不让人们闲聊,不参加没有明确计划的会议,工作内容不应该是填补本应在其他地方填补的空白。

Another fan? Angela Ceberano, founder of Flourish PR, a public relations firm in Melbourne, Australia. She uses the ‘traffic light system’ to list things to ‘stop, start or continue’ doing. Stopping unproductive activities is crucial for goal attainment as it allows a clearer direction, she says.

还有其他推崇者吗?澳大利亚墨尔本公关公司Flourish PR的创始人安吉拉·赛比拉诺(Angela Ceberano)。她使用"红绿灯系统"把事情归为"停止、开始或继续"三大类。停止没有效率的活动是实现目标的关键,因为这样就能让方向更加明确。

Why it works


Many productivity experts promote forward-looking thoughts and actions, so how can focusing on the negative work? By helping us reflect on and cut out activities that don’t align with our broader goals, says Repa Patel, an Australia-based executive coach and director of leadership development firm Leading Mindfully.

很多效率专家都很推崇前瞻性思维和活动,那么,究竟应该如何关注负功呢?澳大利亚高管教练兼领导力发展公司Leading Mindfully的负责人里帕·帕特尔(Repa Patel)表示,可以通过帮助我们思考和减少与自己的整体目标不符的活动来实现。

Anti-goals, says Maurice Schweitzer, a professor of operations, information and decisions at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, “Give us a step-by-step process for thinking about things a little differently.”

宾夕法尼亚大学沃顿商学院运营、信息和决策教授莫里斯·施韦泽(Maurice Schweitzer)表示,反目标"为我们提供了一个按部就班的流程,让我们得以略微改变思维方式。"

Wilkinson’s list is specific to him, says Schweitzer. They are a set of crisp, clear, guidelines that are broken down into actionable steps and, therefore, attainable. It’s about prioritising that which is important.


Anti-goals can give us a different perspective “in a way that helps us identify an underlying issue,” he says.


“Goals narrow our focus and motivate us in a specific direction.”