I tried making a ‘to-don’t list’ instead of a to-do list

p 1 i tried a and8216to donand8217t listand8217 for 2 weeks hereand8217s what i learned

The fog of the pandemic has made it troublesome to get stuff completed. After a sure level, our standard modes of time administration now not really feel environment friendly. The basic to-do list could really feel much less like a motivational software and extra like a hanging obligation—and a very acquainted one, at that.

Throughout the course of this remote-work experiment, I’ve seen in myself a waning of power. Slowly however absolutely the afternoon could descend into moments of low motivation and sluggishness, if I don’t search out some “wake-up” exercise, resembling doing 50 leaping jacks or (extra generally) glugging down a mug of espresso. In current weeks, I’ve been attempting out numerous productiveness strategies just like the Pomodoro Approach and time-blocking, however I determined to test-drive one other method.

For the final two weeks, I’ve been utilizing “to-don’t” list, which appears like an inverse to a to-do list, however is a bit extra exacting. In essence, the list is a curated assortment of actions that may derail your power and motivation. They’re typically alluring however find yourself creating a distracting spiral, sapping you of your best hours.


When creating a “to-don’t list,” take a look at what works for you and tailor it. Training self-awareness is a place to begin, says Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a time administration coach and common Quick Firm contributor.

She recommends starting the train with an end-of-the-day evaluation, not less than while you first begin: “You possibly can mirror again in your day throughout a every day wrap-up. On this time, you may take a look at what you achieved and what didn’t get accomplished. And you too can consider the actions that you simply did that weren’t half of your plan. You possibly can ask your self: Was that value it? Did I get pleasure from it? Did I really feel pissed off or derailed? By protecting observe of your personal emotions concerning the selections you made, you can begin to find what’s or isn’t wholesome for you.”

That is what I took away from my two-week experiment:

The list served as a reminder of all of the tiny issues that take up my time

Much like a pal who doesn’t simply buoy you with compliments, however provides their “tough-love” suggestions while you want it, my to-don’t list hold me centered on probably the most important components of my day by serving as an accountability visible.

To start out my list, I started occupied with which of my every day actions weren’t serving me effectively. Some of these have been fairly apparent; some which have been sneakily inlaid to my every day schedule. Some of these actions, which I would later invert for my to-don’t list, included not transferring for eight hours, spending an excessive amount of time consuming information, and letting random muddle construct up on my desk.

I initially collected these things in a Google Doc, however really determined to maintain my “keep away from me” actions to a refreshingly easy format: a piece of lined paper. This separate, tactile medium helped me to not solely to separate initiatives, but in addition cut-down on my tendency to task-switch between laptop home windows and purposes.


All seven of the directives on my closing list have been easy issues like “Don’t neglect to take a break to relaxation your eyes,” and “Don’t sit in a single place for multiple hour.”

At first I was pissed off when adhering to those new guidelines briefly disrupted my circulate. Nonetheless, over time, I seen they honestly paid off. I discovered that I felt much less of the standard bodily and psychological indicators of fatigue (i.e. extra sustained alertness, much less more likely to flip to longer breaks). My sense of weariness appeared much less pronounced within the afternoon and instead, extra aligned with my precise work day.

My to-don’t reminder to guzzle much less caffeine helped encourage me to not solely devour extra water, but in addition helped to set off a psychological observe to disconnect from my display screen and take a second to breathe.

I seen when sure duties have been taken out of my routine, their worth (or extra so, lack of worth) was extra obvious. As an illustration, all through the day, I often commonly refresh my social media information feeds. This apply retains me up-to-date on the most recent headlines, which could be helpful for my job, however the course of typically means I waste time viewing many comparable tales, all printed by totally different shops. The method was inadvertently draining my power and taking an excessive amount of of my time.

So, instead of leaping on every exclamatory headline, I restricted myself to reviewing information for less than 10-minute durations, forcing myself to skim for comparable key phrases and making a psychological observe to skip over repetitive info.

The list helped me wrangle my power and focus

Whereas working with a “to-don’t” list, I seen I was extra naturally conscious of what instances of day and which areas I was pouring extra of my bandwidth into. With the attention of which actions weren’t including to my day, I was capable of establish pockets the place my power was at its greatest and my focus at its sharpest—for me that’s sometimes in the course of the morning and typically, a last-minute jolt earlier than the top of my work day.

In response to Saunders, this consciousness could be notably helpful for individuals who are feeling the pressure of an excessive amount of time working from house or those that simply would really like a novel method to scheduling. “I suppose a to-don’t list is useful in case you’re working remotely,” she says. “Quite a bit of instances our minds wander as a result of we’re merely bored and in search of stimulation. Figuring out what your unhealthy patterns could also be while you’re bored, and preemptively limiting them, can assist you to make higher selections within the second. ”

Additional, I seen the extra mundane, non-work-related duties on my to-do list typically led me to waste time and power. Sure actions, like making appointments or restocking a family merchandise by means of a web based order, served my schedule higher in the event that they have been automated or accomplished in a batch. In any other case I discovered myself taking place a rabbit-hole doing a spontaneous home-cleaning, or sinking into a very leisurely break after finishing a non-work chore.

With my list of “no-no’s” positioned bodily in entrance of me, I was capable of extra successfully monitor unhealthy habits, which I initially thought have been utterly productive. This included spending an excessive amount of time in my inbox. The examination lead me to take up extra intentional, “10-second skims” of messages, and solely reply to the related ones. I additionally seen my “to-don’t list” helped me in the reduction of on task-switching, additional emphasizing the toll hopping round amongst tasks can have in your resolve and focus. By catching sight of my list, I was capable of save myself from a day of solely half-completing duties.

The list lead me to extra wins and fewer afternoon slumps

By regularly referring to this list of avoidable behaviors, I not solely refined the place I put my  power, but in addition elevated my feeling of accomplishment on the finish of the day. One thing could be mentioned for having the ability to look over your list of “to-don’t’s” and not crossing them off, however congratulating your self on the self-control wanted to comply with them. I felt much less defeated, since I didn’t have a complete duties to deal with by late-afternoon. Furthermore, my “to-don’t” bulletin made me conscious of why it was I hit a wall. For instance, someday, I was feeling particularly drained and regarded over my list, and noticed I had failed to deal with quantity three on my list: “Don’t go overboard on carbohydrates at lunch.”

Saunders says that a to-don’t list is useful as a result of it could pull us out of a rut of unproductive actions, many of which we could unconsciously repeat. “Generally we do these actions as a result of they’re straightforward, tempting, or just a behavior, however they’re [usually] not satisfying.”


For a lot of distant employees like myself, a extra constrained and fewer socially participating work house has elevated the time I spend on-line, even when I inform myself, “Diana, you’re off the clock now.” On this manner, a to-don’t list’s assist set guardrails between my work and leisure time, additional including to the method’s advantages.

Saunders agrees this blurring of boundaries is one cause to show to a “to-don’t list” for intervention. She says, “I’ve heard many [people and clients] say that they’ve in the reduction of dramatically on social media and information in the previous few months and all really feel significantly better. With the inflow of info so available on many issues [from] our day-to-day lives, we’ve to be taught the place and easy methods to set limits.

The constraints of a to-don’t list

General, I discovered the to-don’t list to be a useful experiment in that it helped me cherry-pick the dangerous behaviors in my day. Nonetheless, it left me a bit wanting for the larger priorities that hold me centered on and conscious of my targets. I might see a to-don’t list serving as a pleasant list of reminders for when my tasks have been piling up, and when each avenues of work and life have been feeling notably chaotic. Because it doesn’t change dramatically from week to week, it received’t actually substitute your to-do list, however it could assist you establish and streamline your every day priorities.