How To Create A Powerful “Not To Do List” When Coping With CFS

You’ve probably heard of a to do list before. But have you ever considered creating a “not to do” list?

As someone who suffers from CFS, to-do lists serve as a lifeline. They help you plan out what you need to do and when you need to do it, in order to prevent the dreaded burnout that leads to symptom flare-ups. 

But a not do list could be just as beneficial to your health as a to-do list can be, if not better. 

How To Create A Powerful "Not To Do List" When Coping With CFS | Quit Chronic Fatigue

What Is A Not To Do List? 

Although this might sound like a list of bad habits or things to avoid, it’s actually meant to draw attention to tasks we think we need to spend our time on, but don’t really. 

A not to do list is a compiled list of things you believe you should be doing. This kind of list sheds light on the tasks that draw our attention but aren’t actually that important to us. 

If the tasks you’re spending time on each day aren’t helping you toward any of your goals, then you’re going to want to start adding them to a not to do list. 

Why Should You Consider Creating A Not To Do List? 

A not to do list forces you to accept the concept of saying no. We are all busy people and none of us have enough time in the day to accomplish everything on our lists. That’s why it’s important for us to choose which tasks matter most and which don’t! 

By choosing the essential tasks for your to-do list, you’re increasing the amount of energy you have to work on what matters most. 

Putting certain tasks on a not to do list helps you recognize what tasks aren’t necessary. As a result, you’ll have an easier time seeing how much time you’ll save. 

And for someone with CFS, being able to prioritize is key. You’ll conserve your energy, save time, and still accomplish what matters most. It’s a great way to ease the guilt of feeling like you aren’t doing enough! 

It also has surprising benefits for your mental health. Think about how it feels when you don’t finish everything you wanted to. Pretty rough, right? 

Introducing a not to do list can help you let go of the frustration and shame. As a result, you can help reduce your anxiety around completing tasks and feel more at peace with your work. 

Related: How to Deal With Chronic Fatigue And Be More Productive

How To Create A Not To Do List As Someone With CFS

Receiving a CFS diagnosis is life-changing. With extreme fatigue and other symptoms, you need to be ready to make adjustments to the schedule you once had. That includes the task you completed on a daily basis. 

Your to-do list is going to look different if you have CFS. You will not be able to have every task on there that you used to have. If that were the case, your list wouldn’t be compatible with your health. And if you push yourself past your limit, you can run the risk of burnout and intense symptoms!

Creating a not to do list can help you let go of tasks and preserve your mental and physical health. 

Remember That You Cannot Do Everything

You can’t accomplish everything. With your symptoms and your overall health as a priority, you need to change the way you’re looking at tasks. 

Look at your tasks on a to-do list and cut the ones that aren’t important anymore. What tasks are most essential to your everyday life? Keep those on your to-do list and move the rest to a not-do list. 

While it can be hard to acknowledge that you can’t do everything you once did, creating a not-do list can help you create a new routine in your life. 

On That Note, Remember That Not Everything Has To Be Done Right Now

Additionally, keep in mind that your to-do list can be spread out over time. All of your tasks don’t need to be completed at once. The more you are able to acknowledge that, the more time you give yourself to focus on your health. 

If you try to complete everything at one time, you could tire yourself out too quickly. This can cause a flare-up and completely burn out your health. 

Be Strategic In Answering Messages

It doesn’t matter if it’s for work or for your social life, prioritizing messages is another great way of establishing a not do to list. Not every message needs to be answered (or answered right away). 

Choose the messages that you think are the most important to respond to, and schedule times each day to respond. That way, you can focus on what matters without being distracted by your inbox or texts.  

By ‘triaging’ your messages (and not replying to all of them), you’re opening up your schedule. You have more time to rest or do activities that are essential to your health or happiness. 

Set Clear (and Truly Attainable) Goals

Setting goals for yourself not only helps build your to-do list, but it automatically creates a not to do list as well. 

Try to create a variety of long-term and short-term goals. Setting short-term goals can help you work your way to your long-term goals

If you are more honest about what you want out of your life, you are able to see what you don’t actually need. 

Focusing on your goals isn’t always easy. It may take some time before you feel like you’ve developed a clear routine that only fixates on your goals. But remember how much time and emotional energy you save from cutting out unimportant tasks. 

Prioritize Breaks

There is a common misconception that rest makes you unproductive. That’s simply wrong. In order to be more productive, you need to find time to rest. Especially if you’re experiencing symptoms of CFS, rest is one of the most important parts of your recovery. 

Putting your rest above certain tasks can actually help you figure out what tasks are unimportant. 

Ask yourself: what tasks would I give up in order to give myself a break? From there, you can start to create your not to do list with tasks that aren’t as valuable as the rest. 

Related: 5 Strategies for Living with Chronic Fatigue Every Day

Make Sure You Aren’t Procrastinating Important Tasks

Procrastination isn’t going to get you anywhere. As someone living with CFS, you value every second you get with energy. That’s why avoiding procrastination is a necessity. 

Avoid putting off the tasks you have on your to-do list. If you find yourself constantly procrastinating on a specific task, then you may need to re-evaluate whether or not this task should be on your to-do list. Procrastination does open up the possibility of moving tasks from your to-do list over to a not to do list. 

Your Not To Do List Should Definitely Include Being Overly Perfectionistic

Much like procrastination, perfectionism will make you crazy. Not every task you do will be perfect. Adding perfectionism onto your not to do list can help you see what perfectionism really is. 

Remember that everyone sets their own notion of what perfect is. That means that there really isn’t one perfect way of doing things. 

Everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes. Acknowledging that your work is good enough can help you exit out of the perfectionist mindset. 

Don’t Try To Make Everyone Else Happy Over Yourself

If you’re putting tasks on your to-do list to fulfill other people’s happiness, you need to stop immediately. Put those tasks on your not to do list.  Making other people happy should not be your priority. 

As a CFS patient, you already have so much on your plate, including your own happiness. Don’t put your own happiness at risk for someone else’s. 

This is easier said than done, but remember that you are only in control of yourself and how you see yourself. Focus on what makes you happy and what tasks help you achieve your goals. 


A CFS diagnosis means a shift in priorities. Having a not to do list will help you recognize the tasks that are unimportant. 

By focusing on what tasks are truly necessary, you’ll have more time and energy to focus on your health and overall happiness.

How To Create A Powerful "Not To Do List" When Coping With CFS | Quit Chronic Fatigue

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