The Don’t-Do-List

Pretty sure in many years of my life, I was starting one again and again, and never check all the items off it: To-Do-Lists are kind of a menace. You keep adding items and clean up a few, but keep adding more items. Then at some point, you end up letting the list rot and settle dust on in some dark, far away hidden drawer.

Sometimes these lists then bubble up again and make you feel remorse — “hey sh** I wanted to write that article about don’t-do-lists, which I never did…”

Well — here’s your remedy. Replace those bloody lists with another one, which will create effortless gratification almost instantly (practising my marketing speach here ;) Instead of collecting items that you’ll procrastinate forever, just keep a list with things you shouldn’t do. This is the “Don’t-Do-List”.

Why a Don’t-Do-List is better

Of course there is nothing wrong with keeping To-Do-Lists. You cannot just stop doing anything and all be good, right? Well at least not without consequences. However, if you just have a random list with filling up item for item and set no due date to them, there’s a big danger that the list just keeps growing and growing, because there is just so much stuff to do! And that will make you feel bad and worse.

With a Don’t-Do-List, this will never happen. You add things, tasks or items, where you know it’s better not to do them. After a day, you can come back to your list and gratefully check all the things you didn’t do. And that’s easy, because — well, you did not have to do anything for it. But you’re still getting the satisfaction of checking something off a list.

And if in turn you did do something that day, which you though you shouldn’t, that’s not bad either, because at least you did something that day. And what’s wrong with doing something? Right.

As this is sounding pretty silly, there is some positive psychology behind it. I have found using Don’t-Do-Lists helpful in times where I felt overloaded or had a bad mood in general. I’m usually not keeping lists all year, but in times it can be useful. So let’s give you five examples for your brand new Don’t-Do-List:

1. Don’t create To-Do-Lists

You figured — that’s an easy one. But of course sometimes it’s helpful to have reminders, because there’s just so much important stuff going on in your life. Well here is another advice: instead of just adding to a list without giving a due date to your items, why not create a calendar entry with a dedicated time slot reserved for the task? This way you have a better commitment to it. And even if you need to reschedule, it’s still better than to just add to a pile. And you’ll know much earlier when you plan on doing too much. So put To-Do-Lists on your Don’t-Do-List.

2. Don’t let Twitter and Facebook distract you today

Well, yes, it’s entertaining to see the exciting world flow by in a timeline, or to collect those thumbs-ups in Facebook. But let’s be honest: you don’t really do anything much useful. And having the Twitter feed open next to your Medium article editor will likely lead to it having many more spelling errors and taking three times as long as without. So no, you won’t check Twitter and Facebook today. If you really must, why not schedule a time in your calendar, too? Say, 30 minutes after lunch? That way, you have it “sandboxed”, and social media won’t spoil your entire day.

3. Don’t drink that second, third, hundredth coffee

I know. I’m a coffee addict, too. And it’s hard to let it be enjoyed by your colleagues, while you’re watching. But drinking too much coffee is really not that good. It increases blood pressure (which in turn is bad for your temper and heart), it pretends to your brain that you’re not tired (when actually you are), so the resting time, which is so needed, is skipped. It let’s you sleep worse, so the next morning you need more coffee. So as a good start, just leave one out tomorrow?

4. Don’t take the car

Instead walk. More often. Or take the bike. That short jump over to the grocery store just 2 blocks away? With the car? It’s not only better for the environment, it also costs less to not use cars, and is better for your overall health. And who knows? You might meet new friends on the way to the store!

5. Don’t drink that last beer.

Beer is okay. But as everybody knows who had a drink too much, for the next day it’s vital that you just skip that last one. Because the last one is always bad. And have you said to yourself once “never again”? But it happened again? Right. So add this to your list.

These are just a few examples on how you could fill your Don’t-Do-List. It really does not have to be long. And of course you can add much simpler tasks not to do — just try it out, and see if it helps you. Or don’t do it. ;)