To-Do lists are pretty common. People are often encouraged to make these lists. You might sit down and make one when you have a big task in front of you, you will go through and write out all the steps and parts of the one big job. Or you might take your time to go over all kinds of different tasks you need to complete in one timeframe. Or you may be the sort who can’t sleep at night, going over in your head all your various To-Do’s, so you get up and write a list to clear your mind for slumber. Whatever way you engage with them, I think we know how To-Do lists work: you jot down several tasks, and as you go through them, you cross them off, or check them off your list (or both!).
But have you ever heard of a To-Don’t list, or rather a Don’t Do List? This sounds fairly counterintuitive. Why would you want to write down things NOT to do? Well, this is a semi-static list of things that GET. IN. THE. WAY. of your To-Do list. A Don’t Do list might look something like this:
1) Don’t watch youtube.
You know you will just get sucked in, caught up watching one short video after another, or down a rabbit hole of existential questions. And the same goes for TikTok or Instagram/Facebook stories or any other streaming site you might use.
2) Don’t check reddit.
Nope, not even once, not for a second, not a GLANCE until you are done. AITA can wait until later; there will still be cute animals to aww at later; and TIL that I can get off reddit for an hour or three to complete my tasks!
3) Don’t turn on the TV.
Not even just for the news. Leave it off, you know you will browse and it will be hours before you turn it off. There is never anything good on the news anyway!
4) Don’t drink more than one coffee today.
Yes you will still want that second cup, but no you don’t need it, you will spend more time going to the bathroom than is worth it for a second mug of java. Stay focused!
5) Don’t answer the door.
If you are working from home, there is no one that knows you are not in the office today, anyone who comes by would have missed you while you were at work anyhow, you will just get sucked into watching your neighbour’s dog while they run an errand. DO NOT ANSWER THE DOOR!
6) Don’t check your text messages.
You have everyone on mute, your favourites list can get through if there is an emergency, there is no reason for you to check in until you are done. Turn that phone face down and get back to work.
Whatever your habits tend toward, maybe you need to restrict yourself to only one yoga session, or only one meditation until you are done. Maybe you need to say “no” to some people, or your kids, or your partner about requests on your time. Maybe you need to restrict snacks, like no pretzels until you finish or you will get carried away and not come back to your task. This To-Don’t list will be just as personal as your To-Do list.
You get the basic idea — your distractions get a whole list of their own. Writing it down, typing it out, however you want to record them, tell yourself that you CAN NOT do this list of things until you have completed your To-Do list. It will not be easy. But by writing them out you hold yourself accountable to the most bothersome nuisances, the activities that will just get in the way of your continued success.
And … Don’t forget to reward yourself when you DO complete your To-Do list! That is a great accomplishment all in itself, even if it was only a short list!