I came across an author unknown quote recently, it goes “sometimes your not-to-do list should be shorter than your to-do list”. These words are life-changing.

Our society is intent on progress. It is geared to more than, greater than, higher than and better than. As individuals we feel pressure every single day to do better than we did the day before. Society asks us to be more loving parents, more efficient workers, more successful students and to do so while looking as if it’s easy.

On the other hand, we’re infrequently asked how we might achieve less. Can you imagine your boss asking you to work fewer hours, or to put less effort into a campaign or to forget about reaching for your KPI’s so that you can have more balanced life?

It’s unthinkable that society would ask less of us, yet how often do we consider whether more is actually better.How often do we consider what it is we are actually working towards and whether our lives will improve because of it? Are we overworking ourselves for things that won’t pay off in the long run?

Is also wonder if working harder is better for our health, whether having more material possessions increases happiness and how progress affects relationships with our loved ones.

The big question is; by continually achieving and doing more, are we adding value to our lives?

I’m willing to argue, contrary to what our teachers, lecturers, boss’ and society in general has told and continues to tell us – more is not necessarily better. I’m also willing to argue that having less items on our to-do lists might be just what we need to free us and enable more beautiful and meaningful lives.

As Arianna Huffington said, “Today we often use deadlines—real and imaginary—to imprison ourselves.”

But how do we remove things when everything on our list seems so important?

One of the most successful TED Talks –The habits of highly boring people is about elimination rather than addition. In his talk, Chris Sauve claims a simple two-by-two grid can simplify our lives. The grid is split on one axis into things we love to do and things we hate to do. On the other, it’s split into things we have to do and things we don’t have to do.

How does he apply the grid to everyday life? Enjoy the things you like to do, automate the things you have to do, but don’t want to do and, the biggest takeaway – if you don’t want to do it and you don’t have to do it – don’t do it. 

This life simplifying methodology is simple yet many of us find it hard to eliminate things from our lives. In fact, most of us aren’t intentionally making our lives busy, we are just programmed and expected to do so.

The problem is, when we fill our lives and race from one moment to the next, all in the name of progress, we barely allow ourselves a chance to look internally. We might be moving quickly in a direction whose destination is unclear, unconsidered and in the long-run, not what we truely want.

And here is the key; reduced, but more considered to-do list, gives us the opportunity to create less busy, but more meaningful lives. What else? We might even get a chance to enjoy our progress too.

Quick ways to reduce your to-do list:

  • Don’t go to the party if you don’t want to
  • Refuse unnecessary meetings
  • Release control – learn to delegate
  • Forget perfection and embrace enjoyment
  • Admit that you can’t do everything

And remember – if you don’t want to do it and you don’t have to do it  – don’t do it.