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Should We Do A To-Don’t List? Efficiency Versus Inspiration

Like most twenty-somethings, I spend a stupid amount of time trying to figure out what exactly I want to do, not only with my time day-to-day but with the big LIFE question. Sometimes I feel more angsty than I did at 15, when at least there were clear goals that I could reach for and check off my to-do list.





It’s not even a problem of not having enough options, despite the fact that the economy is still total crap and doesn’t seem to be drastically improving any time soon. I come from a supportive family and am college educated, so theoretically I should be able to do whatever I want.


And that is the problem. We’re a generation that was raised to pack our college apps with extracurriculars, but now that we’re adults, what do we do with all of these interests and half formed talents?


According to Allen Gannett over at TheNextWeb, it’s time to throw them in the garbage. I’ve got two reactions to that advice:


      1. Yeah, it’s probably true.
      2. No!!! I don’t want to! I’m a special, talented flower with thousands of talents that need to be nurtured!



Gannett says that creating a “To-Don’t” list can help us focus on the things that are realistic, efficient, and productive in our lives. According to him, we need to stop talking, thinking, and working on projects that aren’t very good or are honestly going nowhere.


He says that by not talking about those things we free up our identities, by not thinking about them we let our minds become clearer for other projects, and by not working on them we free up more time to actually work on projects that are going to go somewhere.


Obviously spreadsheets run our lives, so Gannet suggests making a really simple one to work out what you should and shouldn’t cut out of your life. Make a list of all your projects and then create three columns: one for whether the project makes you happy, one for whether it’s essential or helpful to your career and one for whether it’s efficient.




I know my half-baked ideas include creating art on a more regular basis, getting back on stage, working on my own blog, making clothes and maybe someday owning my own store. Those would all definitely go on the list and they would definitely get the Xs that designate them as waste basket material.


But, ultimately, I say so what? I’m sorry but I just can’t buy into the idea that something has to be efficient and help my career in order to be valuable. If there’s one thing I’ve seen time and time again with startups it’s that the best ideas often come from outside the tech world.


Your weirdo hobbies and interests might just lead you to your next big investor who also really loves collecting taxidermy or maybe a problem you run into while playing basketball with your buddies will click something in your brain that has been percolating for weeks at work.



I agree that it’s important to focus, and the idea of creating a “To-Don’t” list with your to-do list is a really valuable one, but just don’t take it to the extreme. If there’s something that’s seriously taking up all of your time and really, really isn’t giving you anything back, then yeah, ex it out.


But keep some things for yourself. I promise, they’re important too.


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Author : Emma McGowan

Emma is a proud native of Burlington, Vermont, who has lived in six different countries over the past two years. She's living and loving the global nomad life and writing about technology and startups everywhere she goes. Check out more of her writing about tech on (the more titillating stuff) KinkAndCode.. Follow her on Twitter @MissEmmaMcG.

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