Saturday, December 27, 2014

“NOT TO DO” and “NOT TO MEET” Lists : “TO DO” or “NOT TO DO” – “TO MEET” or “NOT TO MEET”

NAVY “GYAN” – Life Management Wisdom I Learnt in the Navy

Let me delve into my Self Help Archives and pull out a Self Help article I wrote long back titled   “TO DO” or “NOT TO DO”

The article is based on Management Wisdom in Uniform a glimpse of Navy “Gyan”  plenty of which I learnt during my long career in the Navy.

Here is an abridged version of the article for you to read...

“NOT TO DO” and “NOT TO MEET” Lists
Self Help Mantra


When I was in the Navy I always had a “to do” list or a “slop chit” (in naval parlance).

It was standard naval practice for navy officers to carry a “slop chit” in their pocket at all times, especially in work-intensive appointments like those on board ships and in Naval Dockyards.

At the start of the day we wrote down all the jobs to be done on the “slop chit”.

When a task was completed, we struck off that entry – and whenever there was a new job to be done, we added that job to the “slop chit”.

The tasks which remained incomplete at the end of the day, we transferred to the next day’s page.

I am sure you maintain such “to do” lists too – nowadays you can maintain these “slop chits” in digital form on your mobile cellphone, smartphone, ipad, tablet or on your laptop too.

At work, these “to do” lists are obligations you have to perform in return for the money your employer pays you as salary.

Sometimes, the “obligations” can be non-monetary too – like marital obligations towards your spouse – or familial obligations towards your family, children, parents or relatives  or a commitment you have made to someone.

In short, “to do” lists are related to “obligations”.


Now that I have retired, I have a “not to do” list.

Now there is no need for a “to do” list as far as “work” is concerned.

Once you retire, you don’t work for anyone – you do not have an employer who pays you money – so you have no obligations as far as “work” is concerned.

There is no “job” for you to do – and hence there is no need to maintain a “slop chit” or “to do” list as far as “work” is concerned.

In most cases, by the time you retire, your children have “flown away” from your nest – so you do not have any parenting responsibilities either.

Yes, even after retirement, you may have some “bare minimum inescapable obligations  – like essential daily chores, paying bills etc.

In India, even after retirement, they hassle you with sundry issues.

For example, all pensioners have to visit their banks in November every year to render a “life certificate” in person in order to prove that they are alive.

Various types of bills and taxes are to be paid, returns are to be filed, but you can reduce these to the bare minimum inescapable requirements.

You must try to delegate these tasks to someone else.

Or you can use information technology to do these tasks online with minimal effort.

To put it in a nutshell, once you retire, your aim should be to minimize these sundry tasks to bare minimum.

Now, once you have reduced these so-called “inescapable” tasks to the bare minimum, almost zero, you will find there is no need to maintain a daily “slop chit” or a “to do list” for these very few “inescapable” tasks.

However, in order to enjoy bliss you must make sure you do not get tied down in unnecessary “obligations” which will eat into your time (like Parkinson’s Law).

In fact, after retirement, what you must do every day, is to maintain a daily “not to do” list.

Yes, you must maintain a “not to do” list.

“TO DO” or “NOT TO DO” – The Secret of Blissful Retirement

After retirement you are supposed to enjoy a peaceful and blissful retired life “doing nothing”.

Every person has a different concept of how to enjoy “blissful retirement”.

I like to spend my time reading, writing, blogging, social networking, watching TV and taking long walks.

Some of my ex “fauji” friends like to play golf every morning followed by chilled beer with their navy buddies talking of the “good old days”.

There is a crazy guy who is enjoying his retired life indulging in adventure sports, despite his age.

Some like to spend their time indulging in spiritual activities.

Others travel, many take up a hobby, and some involve themselves in social activities.

Everyone has different ideas of “bliss” – “to each his own bliss  as they say.

I know what “blissful retirement” means for me.

You know what “blissful retirement” means for you.

Every individual knows his or her idea of bliss.

So, after retirement, “blissful retirement” will be the only item on your daily “slop chit” or “to do” list.

Yes, after retirement, ideally, there will be just one item on your “to do” list  BLISSFUL RETIREMENT.

Thus, there is no need for you to maintain an exhaustive “to do” list.

Now, you have only one “to do” item in your life – to enjoy blissful retirement.


In order to enjoy retirement, what you must maintain is a “not to do” list.

Your “not to do” list will include all those activities which impede or interfere with the enjoyment of “blissful retirement”.

Whatever hassles you – those burdensome but unnecessary obligations and activities which waste your time and cause you stress – just put them on your “not to do” list.

I have realized that, after retirement, what you decide “not to do” is more important than what you decide “to do”.

The “not to do” list need not be not restricted to activities alone.

You must have a “not to do” list for people too

Maybe you can call it a “not to meet” list.

Yes, your “not to do” list must include a “not to meet” list as well.


Let me give you a simple example of “not to meet” situation from my life.

Long back, in the Navy, I once had a “toxic” boss who I did not like.

This boss hassled me and induced stress in me.

Our “vibes” just did not match.

Even being in his company was stressful for me.

Now, this boss had decreed that he would have a meeting at 9 every morning.

He wanted everyone, including me, to be present.

Since I was working in the Navy, I had no choice but to put the 9 AM meeting on the “to do” list, though I would rather have this painful morning meeting with the boss on my “not to do” list.

In the morning, this boss would ask us about our work, and then micromanage, ordering us to report on progress from time to time, and though I hated it, I had to put all this on my “to do” list – the progress reports which entailed meeting or speaking to the boss which I hated to do.

So after meeting the bare minimum inescapable requirement of the morning meeting – I put my boss (and other “toxic” types) on my “not to meet” list and adopted a series of measures to discourage the boss from meeting me.

After some time, the boss got the message and he stopped trying to micromanage me or monitor me – he would never call me, except for the structured scheduled morning meeting, unless there was a real emergency.

It is best to put people who hassle you on your “not to meet” list.

Now, I have retired, I am my own boss, and I am a free bird.

There is no obligation for me to meet anybody.

I can decide who I want to meet and who I do not want to meet. 

So now I have a “not to meet” list of toxic people I do not wish to meet.


Yes – you must make two lists:

1. What you do not want to do, you must put on your “not to do” list.

2. The persons whom you do not want to met you must put on your “not to meet” list.


Similarly, just before retirement, I was a Professor, and my “to do” list comprised the lecture assignments and guidance of research work which were an “obligation” since I was paid a salary.

Now, after retirement, I am often invited to deliver guest lectures and conduct training programs – but since I am under no obligation – I am free to decide whether “to do” or “not to do”.

And if I decide “to do” – then I do so on my own terms.



I will let you in on a secret.

I had started practicing this “not to do” and “not to meet” strategy long back in the early stages of my career – albeit covertly and tactfully.

How did I manage “not to do” and “not to meet” lists during my career?

Those tricks I will tell you some other time, but I am sure you can use your ingenuity to devise your own techniques.

For example, in order to make your “not to do” and “not to meet” strategy succeed you may have to project an “abrasive personality and practice “creative incompetence”.

As you grow wiser with experience, you will realise that the “not to do” and “not to meet” lists are closely intertwined.

So, you need not wait for retirement to make your first “not to do” and “not to meet” lists – you can do it right now.

During your career you will have to be a bit canny while practising this.

Of course, once you retire you can do it brazenly.

So, Dear Reader, why don’t you start right now?

Every morning, instead of a “to do” list, you must make a “not to do” list.

(Of course, like I said earlier, your “not to do” list must include “not to meet” list as well)

Decide what “NOT TO DO” rather than what “TO DO”.

Implement this daily life management strategy and you will see your efficiency rise, your mood become better and your stress will disappear.

As I said earlier, you will realize that deciding what “not to do” may be more beneficial rather than deciding what “to do”.

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All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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