Here's Something to Try: A To-Don't List

Try writing a to don't list instead of just a to do list.
Photo by Jose Aragones.

I am intrigued by this concept: in addition to making a to-do list, why not make a to-don't list of all the things you don't want to do that day.

This might be habits you're trying to break, like smoke or cuss or eat junk food. Or it could be identifying your most common procrastination voids and declaring that you will not stroll mindlessly into them.

What I like about this idea is that it forces you not only to consider what you want to do with your day (and by extension, your life) but also to look at the obstacles that frequently get in your way: if you want to go to bed early, but find you usually watch one too many episodes The Good Place or lose track of time while texting and scrolling on your phone, make that a to don't!

(Okay, I know there is no such thing as too many episodes of The Good Place, but we're dealing with finite time and a need to do a few other things with our lives, so let's just accept the fact that we can't spend all our time watching The Good Place and doing nothing else.)

Phrase it in whatever way will be most impactful for you: I will not scroll on Instagram past 9pm; I will not watch more than two episodes; I will not worry about what I'm missing on the internet after 9pm because I know there is actually nothing.

As I write this, I am realizing two things:

One: that we're going to want to have something in the to-do column to help us when the habit strikes. If I always lie on the couch with my phone for indeterminate amounts of time in the evening, I'm going to be hard pressed for ideas of other things to do when 9pm rolls around and I said I would stop. Best to think of some ideas of what I could be doing with that time instead. (Read a book? Do yoga? Do the unthinkable and talk to someone on the phone? I've heard other people like to take baths in the evening, so maybe that?)

Two: The phrasing of "Today I Will Not" for the to-don't list made me realize that it would be awesome to write "Today I Will" for my daily to-do lists instead of just "to do." It just feels better. More intentional. I think I will approach what I write on the list a little differently if I do this.


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