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.


One Honey of a Purpose

When I was a kid, I loved dancing around to music. I had several Disney records as well as a beloved Strawberry Shortcake album (the latter was even strawberry in color and hit a particular nerve in my parents with its high-pitched singing. Much to their chagrin, I loved it). I carefully choreographed dance routines in addition to my freeform interpretive dance.

My grandmother, Honey, came over one day. We always called my Dad’s mother Honey because years ago my oldest cousin had overheard my grandfather calling her “honey”, and started calling her Honey too. The name stuck.

Honey watched my inspired dance moves and then looked over to me and asked, “Did you create that dance all by yourself?”

I nodded, positively bursting with pride.

“Wow”, said Honey. “I can’t believe you created that beautiful dance all by yourself.”

Needless to say, I was floating on cloud nine. I danced on, certain that it was only a matter of time before I was on Broadway.

Honey had this special way of making you feel like you were the center of the universe. She had fun touches that made things special, whether it was serving us milk in fancy goblets or giving us presents that had lots of little gifts within one box. Her manner always instilled in me a feeling of my own greatness.

We lost Honey all too early to a heart attack. I was only eight at the time, but I always remembered Honey’s admiration of my dancing.

This memory fuels what I like to think of as my purpose for how I want to be in the world. I love that as a yoga teacher, I have the opportunity to help students achieve that feeling of their own greatness by nailing a challenging pose or realizing their progress in the practice. Whether it’s through teaching yoga, hanging out with friends, or even just in the small everyday interactions with the sales clerk or the person in the elevator with me, I strive to add a little brightness to each person’s day.

I definitely fall short of this all the time (that four-letter word I uttered at the car in front of me in traffic comes to mind, as does last night’s grumpy complaining to my husband). However, when I’m feeling particularly cranky or negative, it helps me a lot to re-focus back to my purpose. When I reconnect to my purpose, it ends up making me feel better. I feel more creative too, as one pleasant interaction gets me thinking of another way I might be able to add something positive to someone’s day.

Today is the anniversary of Honey’s death. I still miss her, but noting this date reminds me of the purpose she inspired.

A picture I took of Honey and my family when I was about five. I was very proud of my picture-taking skills.

What’s your purpose? What helps you stay connected to it?