by Jenna Kutcher
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We live in a world where feeling a yearning to always take action, implement, and excel is totally normal. In the technology age with social media at our fingertips, to-do lists taking over the notes app in our phones, and emails dinging us all day long, it’s easy to take on the go-go-go mentality and think that the only way to stay afloat is to continue achieving more, doing more, being more productive, and juggling all the things all on your own.
Outsourcing is something that I had to plan for and be really strategic and intentional about. While I was excited to free up my time and get things off of my plate, it’s equally hard to hand over processes that I started from the ground up, pieces of my business that I feel like I birthed.
This episode is about the things you should be taking off your list, and how to do it in a way that still protects this business you’ve created. Press play right now and listen in to the full episode.
Why You Need a Not-To-Do List
When you start a business and begin your journey as an entrepreneur, there’s pretty much one non-negotiable: you are going to be handling all the things on your own, at least for most of us at first. You put in the sweat, the hours, the hard work, the hustle. You grow and scale and take on more clients or customers. And eventually, after months of digging in and pushing hard, you might just realize… There’s a wall ahead of you, and you’re barreling full speed ahead, straight on into it — this was me 6 years in.
This is the overwhelm of entrepreneurship that we ALL face at some point. You reach a point of growth that you no longer have enough hours in the workday to tackle everything, and do it all well. So you start working longer hours, or maybe you’re unable to finish as many projects as you’d like because there’s just a lack of time and resources, even when you’re pushing yourself. You’re missing out on opportunities for collaborations and major growth because you’re simply struggling to balance the day-to-day operations of maintaining your business.
Or maybe you’re just, plain and simple, TIRED. You’ve been grinding it out for a few years and have experienced solid acceleration within your business, but you’ve been running the show solo and you just can’t see how you’ll do it all on your own for another year, let alone 30. Or maybe, like me, life knocks you to your knees and you realize that the dream business you’ve built stops the minute you stop — this was me when we had our first miscarriage.
Hi, hello, welcome to burnout central. If you’re not there already, you’re probably about to reach it rather soon. I want to introduce you to a NOT-to-do list. A list filled with the responsibilities that you end up dreading or avoiding. I’ve learned to outsource and rely on others to work their magic on those tasks, OR I just completely say no to them.
How to create your not-to-do list
When I talk about a not-to-do list, you might picture taking a day off and just relaxing with a Netflix marathon, a bottle of rosé, and snacks on the couch. When we hear this notion of NOT doing things, this idea of relaxation pops to mind, but it’s actually not what I mean in this context. Although, hey, if you need a day off, I firmly believe you should take it! Get those snacks and Netflix, girl.
But when I bring up the idea of a not-to-do list, I’m talking about those tasks within your business or your life that don’t bring you joy when you do them or don’t come naturally to you, stress you out, or take a lot longer than they should to either start or complete them.
Basically, it’s the stuff you always procrastinate and dread doing. Another great name for the not-to-do list is the list of stuff that always ends up at the BOTTOM of your normal to-do list! The stuff you avoid and dread and put off until you absolutely HAVE to take action.
Y’all know what I’m talking about, right? If you don’t, then hear me out as I walk you through a quick exercise. You know I love a good exercise, and this one’s a quickie that will outline exactly what you should, and shouldn’t, be focusing your time and energy on in your business.
This is called process mapping, and what I want you to do is write down all of the major, overarching tasks, projects and responsibilities in your business. These are the big overviews of what it takes to run your business. Now underneath each overarching task, write down all the smaller subtasks it takes to complete each one.
Once you have a master list of all of your main tasks and their subtasks all drafted up, I want you to go through the list and circle every single item that absolutely lights you up, comes easily and naturally to you, and fills you with joy to do it. Like do this part quickly, don’t overthink it! Lean into your intuition right there! Odds are, there are going to be a few because, after all, you hopefully got into your business because you liked doing much of the work it takes.
And those tasks that bring you elation and pure bliss to do? They fall within your genius spot. These are the things that you don’t procrastinate doing, that make you happy when you check them off, and that you wish you could spend all your work time focusing on. They are the things that, as long as you have the time and energy to devote to them, you should continue showing up for and pouring your heart and energy into.
I say “as long as you have the time and energy” because that scale will shift as your business grows and your life changes, too.
What Your Time is Worth
I think the BIGGEST thing holding people back from asking for help is the fact that you don’t know how much an hour of your time is worth — whether it’s a monetary value or just priceless being with who you love.
Now, your not-to do list will ebb and flow and change with the seasons of life so while that example is from my early days, I am still practicing this notion years later as my life and business has changed. I had to reconfigure and bring in more help for my business once I entered the season of pregnancy knowing I’d want to devote much of my time to motherhood once Conley arrived.
Going into this year, I blacked out my entire calendar. I literally had ZERO launches, zero speaking gigs, zero appearances, zero anything. I freed up my entire calendar for the entire year because I had no clue how motherhood would feel, what I’d want to do, when I’d feel comfortable to travel and so on. And maybe you’re thinking I’m crazy but I want to tell you that my “not-to-do” list looked a lot like not boxing myself in and giving myself the space and freedom to find a new norm.
Now before you think I sat on my booty all year, I’ve actually had my biggest year as an entrepreneur by a landslide and I honestly think it’s BECAUSE everywhere you see me showing up this year is because it was a clear hell yes when presented to me. I wasn’t locked in to a single thing and was able to make decisions closer to the date and it gave me freedom to say no — I said no a lot — but it also gave me freedom to say YES when it was the right fit.
So going into this year, I was ready to be a little radical and really laser focus my energy in the right places. I got clear on what I wanted: time, freedom, travels, and set boundaries in place to help me stick to saying “no” even when things felt enticing or shiny. For me, it had to be an all or nothing, because I’m a people pleaser to my core.
Your Not-T0-Do List in Action
Okay, now, back to the list. Take a look at the items that are left without a circle. Maybe it’s literally everything having to do with billing and accounting. It might be writing and scheduling your social posts, or maybe it’s just a specific social platform you don’t totally love, like Pinterest or Facebook. You might not enjoy the more administrative type stuff, like organizing your files, keeping records structured, and planning your calendar. Whatever those un-circled tasks might be, they are part of your NOT-to-do list.
And guess what? The way that you feel about your genius spot tasks — the feeling they give you and the sense of purpose and elation they bring when you work on them — someone else out there feels that EXACT same way about your not-to-do list items. Someone had the God-given gift to look at numbers and organize them with ease, to craft captivating social captions and know the exact and best and most strategic hashtags each post requires. Someone can respond to the emails that normally stress you out with grace and finesse, and in half the time it normally takes you.
And some of those things might just need more boundaries in place to feel more doable. Like, maybe you’re cool with posting on social media but you need a boundary that says you’re OFF your phone by 6 p.m. That way, you can spend time with your family every evening and stop feeling stressed about responding to DMs or getting a post up late into the night. Maybe you just need to be more intentional about where your focus is, too.
Your not-to-do list is about creating hard and fast rules so you feel okay with saying no to offers that may be tempting, but that would ultimately take away from your focus.
Isn’t that just the most freeing thing to think about? So that’s why I think it is so utterly important — and arguably necessary for the success of your business — to hand over your not-to-do list to someone else OR to start setting up more structure for you to feel free to say no when things aren’t the best fit right now.
The Big Picture
Determining my not-to-do list and entrusting those tasks and responsibilities to people whose strengths fill in where I have weaknesses has absolutely changed the trajectory of my business. Taking it one step further, allowing myself the freedom to say NO or create boundaries with the things that I dread or that drain me is actually life giving.
It’s given me time and flexibility to be with my family during this tender and beautiful time. It’s allowed me the space to brainstorm and dream up enormous new plans and ideas for my business. It’s freed up my schedule to be able to connect and partner with other entrepreneurs in this space. It’s honestly allowed my business to advance and thrive in new ways that I never would’ve imagined possible.
It’s kind of funny because so many of us are taught to work on our weaknesses and try to improve them, but when you hand them over to those who naturally excel in those spaces, it’s like this synergy happens. You can finally stop spending time trying to do better, and start spending time enjoying what you love doing, and being really damn good at it.