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Maximizing Productivity with The Can’t Do List

by Matthew O'Brien on October 2, 2013

motivational and productivity tips listThe word “can’t” can be a motivator. Have you ever told a child they can’t do something? Relentless pursuit of what they can’t have or do typically follows. Remember when we were told not to stare into the sun or it will burn our eyes? Did you end up doing it anyways? I had to try it. There is something about being told you can’t do “X” that makes us want to do it even more.

I think we would all agree that that crossing things off a list gives us a sense of accomplishment and motivates us. However, what about those things that you don’t get done or never get started…and still remain on your “To Do” list?

Reverse Psychology at Work

What would happen if we use reverse psychology for creating a “Can’t Do” list for the things we don’t do yet fool ourselves into thinking we will do someday?

If you are up for the challenge, click on the image above to print out your “Can’t Do” list and start with a task such as exercising every day or taking time out of the day to pray, meditate or rest the brain. Now commit to a duration that you feel is too challenging and physically write it and see if you treat this task differently.

I tested this theory out the other day and decided that I was not going to be able to fit three, 30 minute workouts/yoga sessions into my day. Sure enough, I kept thinking about this task all day because this was now a challenge that I  became obsessed with proving could do done. Not surprising, my “Can’t Do” list was completed and felt great about it. My entire day was more productive.

Lively Up Yourself

There is an interesting parallel with Bob Marley and the “Can’t Do” challenge for getting focused and being productive. Bob Marley would make his band play soccer, or “Lively Up Yourself”, before they got together and jammed. He was a strong believer in getting your heart pumping and your mind focused to get the most out of each day and jam session.

Bob Marley’s Can’t Do List: You can’t be in the band unless you “Lively Up Yourself” with exercise before music.

Results: Legendary

Making a ‘Can’t Do’ list with tasks that you think are unrealistic to accomplish creates an internal competitiveness and a top of mind awareness. I have found reverse psychology tricks like this work and they do not need to be a big time commitment as much as an ongoing commit. If you can get a daily routine down, you can take on more challenging tasks for a greater sense of accomplishment, such as learning a new language in one year.

Strategically, I was looking to create a break-through with being more productive throughout the day by fitting in a few exercise breaks, first thing in the morning and around 2pm when I tend to drag a little. So far, my days are more rewarding and have more focus when a “Can’t Do” challenge is on my radar.

You Can’t Do It!?

Take on what you feel you can’t do. Start with one thing that you have been putting off and put it on the ‘Can’t Do’ list and commit to it daily. See if reverse psychology is a motivator for you. Below is the start of my “Can’t Do” list, motivated by a friend on mine, Chris Bird, who was successful with this very challenge. What is going on your “Can’t Do” list?

Productivity tips Can't Do List

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