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From a To-Do List to a To-Don’t List


I have a love-hate relationship with my to-do list. On the one hand, I find it useful to jot things down on the list, so that I will remember to do them. I like having all my “to-dos” in one place. And I must confess that I really like checking things off my list. It is so satisfying!

woman writing a to-don't list

BUT my list can be a tyrant! Its voice is way too loud and it takes up far too much brain space. There are times when I find it really hard to enjoy the moment because I am so conscious of all the things left to do. And that’s the trouble, isn’t it? The wretched thing is never satisfied because I rarely cross everything off my list. It nags in the back of my subconscious.

You should answer that e-mail.

You should clean the bathroom, suppose someone comes to the house?

Do you mean you haven’t written that book yet? What’s wrong with you?

The garden is in a state! What will people think?

What? You didn’t exercise again!

Do this

Do that.




Get better at silencing your to-do list

Now I have to admit that I have got much better at silencing my list. I think it’s something that comes with age and of course, I no longer have children at home. Still, there are times when I allow that darn list to drive me hard. I end up trying to do too much and neglecting what is really important. Then I get cranky and sometimes take out my frustration on my loved ones or those around me. Sound familiar?

Last January I read an inspired post over at The Art of Simple about a different kind of list. The to-don’t list.  Have you ever read a post that really changes the way you think? This was one of those posts. Here are a few snips

“We get so wrapped up about Getting Stuff Done, or about defining our value in our accomplishments, our busyness. But is that really what life’s all about? Crossing off a to-do list isn’t a bad thing, but this isn’t the core of our life’s meaning, what really makes up the sum purpose of our days.”

“So notice what you don’t want to accomplish, just as much as you do. And if it’s hard for you to even think of what you don’t want to do, ask yourself if you’re trying to do too much—or, at least feel like you’re supposed to do more than what’s possible. Because it’s perfectly okay—no, it’s AWESOMELY okay—that you don’t do stuff. Really. Slow down and smell the roses, and if you’re too busy to get a whiff, it’s time to make a to-don’t list.”

WAIT… I don’t have to do everything on my to-do list?! I can have a to-don’t list? This sounded really good to me.

free from the to-do list


To-don’t list examples

I can hear you asking what things might be on your to-don’t list? Here are a few of mine:

Don’t do everything on my to-do list. YES!!

Don’t clean the bathroom; it’s good enough for today.

Don’t have my e-mail on 24/7. I can check twice a day.

Don’t read that book, just because everyone else is reading it. Read what YOU want.

Don’t buy an iPhone 6

Don’t stay up too late.

Don’t keep all that china I don’t use.

Here are some of the things that I might have had on my list when my boys were still at home

Don’t feel guilty about jumping in the leaves instead of spending hours organizing fall activities

Don’t make beautifully decorated cupcakes for school. Buy them instead.

Don’t worry if your children leave the house in mismatched socks! (Can you believe I would obsess about that?! How silly!)

Don’t say yes to every request.

Don’t sign up for after school activities every day of the week.

Don’t volunteer at church/school/extracurricular groups – unless you will be energized by the activity.

Don’t feel guilty about cooking something frozen for supper.

Don’t cook something new every day. Reheat leftovers.

Don’t feel you have to justify anything that is on your to-don’t list. You don’t!

So if you want to find freedom from the tyranny of your to-do list, realize that your world doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to do everything. Take a moment, look at your list, and move most of the items to your to-don’t list.

Apply the 3 d’s defer, delete, or delegate.

to don't list

A to-don’t list is the way to get to the things that call to our heart

Perhaps if we get good at moving stuff to our to-don’t list then we can get to the things that call to our heart. Things like exercising, spending time with family, writing that book or other creative endeavours. Try it you will find it quite liberating. Then go and enjoy the space you have created in your life.

We are enjoying the glory days of fall here in northern Alberta. We know that there are a few warm weeks left before the colder weather settles in. Today I DON’T have to spend every waking minute in front of my computer working. Instead, I will spend some time on the veranda with Ken Follett’s latest novel and go for a walk with my fella.

So tell me what things will you put on your to-don’t list right now?

Grab your To-Don’t List Printable

to-don't list printable

This post was originally published 24/7/2014 and was written by Sharon from Rediscovered Families.  At Rediscovered Families, Sharon writes about building relationships and creating deep connections with your family. It’s a very fun blog and I’m sure she’d love your company!


Eva Lewis

1 Comment

  1. September 28, 2014 / 10:28 pm

    A To Don’t list – I like it! Mind you, I’d probably become just as anal about my to don’ts as I am about my to dos. Sigh. x