The good thing about to-do lists is that they help keep you focused.

But having a "not to do list" can actually be more effective, since if you follow it, you will free up a lot more time and energy--and be more productive.

Who doesn't want that?

Here are eight things you want to stop doing today.

1. Procrastinating

We only have so much time. Why would you ever want to waste it?

2. Whining

No one goes through life unscathed. We all have problems. Complaining about them doesn't make them go away, and worse, it is a very short step from complaining to feeling like a victim.

3. Having others determine your life

Sure, it's easier to react to situations as they come along and hope to make something good out of them. But why be passive? Take the initiative. More specifically, take a small step toward your goal and see what happens. Waiting for the phone to ring or someone to get back to you is frustrating and nothing is happening while you wait.

4. Taking anything for granted

If you are in a good place, say thank you--often. If you are in a bad place, don't assume it will be that way forever. Constantly probe to find an opening.

5. Planning (when you can't)

This one is similar to waiting, and it is equally bad. Yes, there are some situations in which planning is a good idea. If you know tomorrow is going to be remarkably similar to today, it makes sense to plan. For example, having a detailed plan makes sense if you want to introduce an existing product into a market similar to one you are already in. But most situations are not predictable. When you are facing the unknown, don't plan. Act. Take that small step we talked about in point No. 3, and see what happens.

6. Adding stress to your life

You are always going to have too much to do. Too many meetings. Too many emails. Too many things you are going to need to check off your list. And things beyond your control are going to go wrong. They'll cancel the plane. The computer will crash. There will be a huge traffic tie-up as you are trying to get to that important meeting. Those things are inevitable. Don't add to them by making your life harder than it has to be by leaving yourself 20 minutes to do something that you know should take an hour. The point? Don't leave things to chance. Eliminate every variable you can. In short, stay out of your own way.

7. Being negative

There will be people all around you who like to complain, gossip, whisper, and roll their eyes. Don't be one of them. It's never productive.

8. Going it alone

There are other smart people in the universe. Join and partner with them. Ask them for their ideas and their help.

There is no guarantee that eliminating any or all of these self-imposed obstacles will make you successful.

But putting them on your "not to do" list will, I promise, make you happier.