I was talking with someone the other day about how he’s trying to say no more. When he mentioned something he’s considering not doing anymore, I said he should add that activity to his don’t-do list.
Have you ever heard of a don’t-do list? If you’re like me, you have a long to-do list when you wake up each day (I currently love organizing my day’s/week’s/month’s to-do’s in the Todoist app). You’re well familiar with all the things you have to do.
But you’ve never thought about what you don’t do.
Well, let me ask you this: do you find it difficult to say no?
I do. Imagine this, though: instead of hesitating when someone asks you if you can XYZ because you really want to make them happy but you know you don’t have time, you can freely say, “Oh, I’d love to, but I just don’t do XYZ.”
They may be frustrated with you in the moment, but that’s a whole lot better than if you said yes and struggled to make good on your commitment. Or worse yet, you said yes but then you couldn’t follow through and let them down!
It doesn’t have to be long, but I encourage you to pull up your favorite note-taking app (or a post-it!) right now and walk through the following five questions to make your own don’t-do list.
1. What doesn’t bring you joy?
Think about the last time you did something that made you frustrated.
My mom, for instance, used to outsource untangling the Christmas lights each year when we started decorating for the holidays. It’s not that she wasn’t good at it. She just said she found the tedious task frustrating. (She’s the same way about tangled extension cords lying on the garage floor like snakes strewn about!)
For me, it’s house plants.
My mom loves plants. She’s a horticulturist and plant guru—and will probably roll her eyes that I’m blogging about the fact that I just do not find joy in house plants. I don’t smile when I pass them, remember to water them, or talk to them to help them grow.
So house plants are on my don’t-do list.
One last thing about my mom: she lets me untangle her extension cords (the Christmas tree is now pre-lit so no untangling needed)! I’m not kidding when I say untangling things is something I enjoy. Weird, I know, but bringing calm from chaos is my jam.
Just think about that! By putting something your don’t-do list and passing on your next opportunity to do that thing, you may be handing someone else the blessing of being able to accomplish something they love.
2. What is something you find draining?
Think about the last time you felt emotionally depleted.
Things and activities that bring you joy usually also energize you. Which is where the term “Time flies when you’re having fun” comes from! When you’re enjoying yourself, time passes quickly and you feel filled up.
In contrast, when you do things you don’t feel fulfilled by, you usually feel tired afterward. So this question is similar to the first question but adds a little more depth. What is something that you don’t enjoy and depletes you?
Maybe you dislike group fitness classes and would rather workout in the comfort of your own home or by running around your neighborhood. Then cancel the gym membership and add that to your don’t-do list!
3. What is something you know isn’t good for you to do?
Think about that thing you know you should start saying no to.
For me, this is social media. It not only drains me; getting sucked into social media can lead to an hour lost here, an hour lost there. I don’t have the self-control to have social media apps on my phone. I get lost in the scroll, caught up in other peoples’ lives (and drama).
So this year I’ve deleted all my social media apps from my phone, just checking in on Facebook and Instagram a couple times a week—because Facebook Messenger is the best way to keep up with some friends and Instastories are sooo entertaining.
I’ve missed having the apps on my phone—a lot. But this is still on my don’t-do list because I just know it’s not good for me.
Another thing on my don’t-do list because it’s the answer to this question is a sugary, carb-heavy breakfast. My blood sugar crashes mid-morning if I have toast or cereal for breakfast, so I’m working on a new habit: eggs for breakfast. I miss cereal and muffins a lot, but I’ve noticed my energy levels staying, well, level throughout the day.
When I’m tempted in the morning to go for a less-healthy breakfast, I remind myself I want to still be awake at 10am.
Bonus Question: Who might be able to connect the dots?
It’s so hard to say no to people. And sometimes there’s just no way around it. Other times, you can soften your “no, I don’t do that” with “However, I know so-and-so does. I’ll put you in contact with them.”
So when saying no, think of who might be able to connect the dots and fill the need you’re being asked to fill. I do this all the time when my editing queue is full but a writer needs a rush job. I highly recommend my fellow editors to the rescue!
I hope these questions have been helpful to you as you write out your own don’t-do list! If you haven’t started one already, do it now! Then comment below with one thing from your list (or the whole thing!). I’d love to see what you list out.
My Don’t-Do List
- Email (or online work) after 6pm.
- House plants
- Facebook groups (I just can’t keep up with them! See #3)
- Social media apps on my phone
- Sugary breakfasts
- More than 2-3 social engagements in one week.
- Paper planners (I use Todoist instead!)
- Respond to email from my phone (Because not allowing myself to respond to emails from my phone helps me keep up my early morning routine and rest in the evenings.)
What is on your don’t-do list?
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