You Need a To Don’t List

Those of us with an excess of things to do almost invariably end up generating a ‘To Do” list in an effort to keep things straight. I imagine there aren’t many of you that actually generate a To Don’t list. It’s great that we remind ourselves to complete our tasks. But what about those habits, tics, mistakes and general issues that prevent us from experiencing the width of life along with the length?

So how do you provide for your expenses and fulfill your passion? You first have to accept one very simple fact. It does not matter how hard you work you can never get it all done. You have to prioritize and get to the important things. Sometimes that will be your job and other times it will be your life. You can have many jobs but you only get one shot at this life.

Your To Do list and your To Don’t list should be joined at the hip.  They are the most inseparable of friends despite being enemies in their goals. If your To Do list is wild, imaginative, ambitious and driven then your To Don’t list should be responsible, practical, grounding, or perhaps a culmination of lessons learned.

Here’s why I find this idea to be compelling:

  • We find obligation in a “To Do” list and in most cases obligations become resentments.
  • We do a good job of not thinking about the changes we wish to make in ourselves.
  • We need a reminder to avoid destructive patterns.
  • Writing anything down helps commit the thought to memory.
  • Stop thinking about it and just do it.

What belongs on a To Don’t list?

That’s where you come in. This list is going to be different for every person. This list speaks to your personality, interests, values and desires. You know the items when you think about them. “I wish I wouldn’t…”, ”I wish I were…”,  “I need to stop doing…”, etc. These thoughts are the core of your list.

What about the things you’ve learned along the way? Those lessons learned the hard way. You have undoubtedly learned much in your life and many of those items make great To Don’t list items. The list can be as short or as long as you need it to be.

Sharing your list

While it’s not necessary to share your “To Don’t” list with anyone, it can certainly be helpful to have someone to hold you accountable. Especially when items on your list are the embodiment of self-imposed roadblocks you put in front of yourself.

My To Don’t List? (I expect the question sooner or later)

  • Do not be satisfied with mediocrity when you are capable of being the best.
  • Do not allow your creative ideas to carry with them doubts.
  • Do not stop short of creating because you’re afraid of how your ideas will be received.
  • Do not create for them… create for yourself the only person who matters to your creation. Without you, your creation might never exist.
  • Do not sell yourself short. You have a unique skillset that many people would love to have.
  • Do not put off doing that which is important to you.
  • Do not avoid making your own needs a priority.
  • Do not be so selfless that you lose track of self.
  • Do not go more than a week without writing.

Do you have a To Don’t list already or did you just make one?

What’s on it?


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