Should you start writing a “to-don’t” list?

We all write to-do lists during our working week to keep organised. But have you heard of keeping a “to-don’t” list to keep you on track?

Should you start writing a “to-don’t” list?
We all know about the trusty "to-do" list, which helps us prioritise and get sh*t done. But have you ever considered creating a "to-don't" list? A list of things you don't want to do that day. This may sound counterintuitive, but it can actually be incredibly helpful in achieving your goals and feeling proud of avoiding things that you feel don’t better your productivity and health.

What is a “to-don’t” list?

A "to-don't" list is a list of tasks or activities that you want to avoid doing during the day. Unlike a "to-do" list, which focuses on what you need to get done, a "to-don't" list helps you identify the habits and behaviours that are holding you back. It’s basically popping down a list things that in a perfect day, you wouldn’t do. And then setting a goal to avoid doing them. Bye bye procrastination.

What do you put on a “to-don’t” list?

You can include personal to-don’t as well as professional ones. Examples of things that might be on your daily "to-don't" list include:
  • Check social media during work hours
  • Use your phone at the dinner table
  • Snack on too much sugar
  • Drink too much caffeine
  • Leave [important task] to the last minute
  • Go to bed after 11pm
These are everyday examples, but you could do these at the beginning of each month, quarter or year to set yourself goals. These could be bigger to-don’ts such as “don’t neglect your friendships” or “don’t hold on to small things that don’t matter in the bigger picture”.

How do you start a “to-don’t” list?

Creating a "to-don't" list is easy. Here are some steps to get started:

1. Identify the habits you want to stop doing

Think about the habits and behaviours that are holding you back from being productive or impacting your health. These could be anything from spending too much time on social media to leaving work tasks to the last minute.

2. Prioritise 3 to start with and make sure they’re achievable

Take a few minutes to write down the habits you want to avoid during the day. This can help you become more aware of them and make a conscious effort to avoid them. Then choose your top three to combat first.
Not all habits are created equal and giving yourself too much to ‘not’ do can be demoralising. Prioritise your list based on the habits that are having the biggest negative impact on your life. Focus on changing those habits first.

3. Write them down on a separate list to your “to-do” list

Write these on a separate piece of paper to your to do list. Keep your "to-don't" list visible and refer to it throughout the day. This can help you stay focused and remind yourself that if you quickly check social media, you won’t be able to tick that off at the end of the day.

4. At the end of the day tick them off if you didn’t do them

Review your “to-don’t” list and tick off the things you didn’t do. If there’s something on there you didn’t manage, try setting a more achievable way of avoiding it for tomorrow. For example, if you said don’t check social media during working hours then tomorrow write “Don’t check social media during 9am-12pm”.
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5. Repeat for 2 weeks

Try this for 2 weeks and adjust your list each day to make sure you’re ticking each to-don’t off. By the end of the two weeks you should be able to focus on the things you want to do, rather than being held back by the things you don’t. Convinced? Continue indefinitely.
A "to-don't" list is a simple yet powerful tool that can help you stay focused, increase productivity and increase satisfaction. By identifying the habits and behaviours that are holding you back and consciously avoiding them, you can create a more productive and fulfilling daily routine. So why not give it a try and see how it works for you?
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