Don’t Do List

To-Do Don’t Do List

I just got through reading Chris Guillebeau’s terrific book: The Art of Non-Conformity. The book is full of practical tips not just for having a non-conventional job, but for living a meaningful life regardless of what work you do.

Time, or rather, the lack of it, is one of the biggest challenges people often complain about or use as an excuse to not do something. In his book, Chris explores ways you can make time in your day for things that are important. One tip he suggests is making a “Don’t Do” list. Make a list of things that you do that drain your energy and do not contribute to your well-being or how you want to live your life.

Of course, there are some draining tasks (i.e. washing the dog, paying bills, etc.) that you won’t be able to drop from your life. However, aim for finding 3-5 things on your list that you can eliminate.

Some possible things that might be on your list

  • Constantly checking email
  • Watching a TV show you don’t really care about
  • Unproductive meetings
  • A volunteer commitment you do not enjoy

Here’s a few on my Don’t Do List that I’m working to eliminate (or at least cut back on):

  • Mindlessly surfing the internet
  • Staring into my closet trying to decide what to wear
  • Trying to stay current on reading numerous blogs and email newsletters

So in the last week, I’ve been doing a few things to help with my not doing. I unsubscribed to a number of email newsletters that I either don’t read or just aren’t particularly pertinent or useful to me. For the newsletters I do get, I set up a filter in my email to send these newsletters directly into a “newsletters” folder and skip my inbox. When I have time to catch up on some reading, I can go to the folder and read then. Similarly, I went into my Google Reader, where I have a list of blogs I read and eliminated many from the list and put the ones I read most often at the top of my list.

The closet indecision? Going through my clothes and giving things I no longer wear nor want to Goodwill helped, as did organizing my drawers a bit so I can easily see my options.

For me, the hardest on the list is limiting my internet time. One technique suggested by many people is to set a timer for internet time. For example, set the clock for thirty minutes to check email and after that, closing your email and moving on to the next task. Another strategy I try when I have writing or other non-internet-related computer work is to work at a cafe and purposely not sign on to the wifi so I’m not tempted by the distraction of Facebook or the latest tweets coming in. It’s an ongoing challenge for sure–I easily can fall back into the internet time-suck!

This not-doing is often a lot harder than the to-do list, but it is pretty humbling to see how much time I spend on things that don’t really matter. Yet it’s incredibly satisfying to simply consciously drop doing something. It’s freeing to know that nothing will happen if I miss reading an article or two or don’t respond to an email for a couple of more hours. Best of all, there is more time in my day for the dos and the simply being.