In our increasingly demanding world, it often seems like there is just never enough time to get everything done. Deadlines for work projects, family obligations, and social events all have the potential to leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and burnt out. But even when time management strategies fail, there is another method of getting things done that remains relatively unknown – the To-Don't List.
A To-Don't List is essentially a list of ideas, activities, or outlooks that an individual wishes to eliminate from their life. The list forces us to confront our own bad habits in order to change them, and refocuses our energy on what is truly important to us. When we feel overwhelmed and stuck trying to accomplish something, it can be incredibly beneficial to utilize a To-Don't List to discover what mental blocks and internal resistance are preventing us from making progress.
The concept of the To-Don't List was pioneered by industrial engineer Joseph M. Juran, who understood the true importance of eliminating the activities and habits that pose a hindrance to achieving our goals. He laid the foundation for a strategy that has made way for extremely successful people, like Mark Zuckerberg and Arianna Huffington, who have each applied their own versions of the To-Don't List.
When thinking of creating a To-Don't List, it is important to keep in mind that it does not necessarily involve completely avoiding anything that is deemed bad for you. Instead, the idea is to identify and limit the negative experiences or attitudes that are interfering with our goals. For example, if you are feeling lost, overwhelmed, or stuck in your career, you might consider setting limitations on the amount of time spent procrastinating or indulging in unhealthy habits like spending too much time on social media. Instead, focus your energy on healthier pursuits such as working out or reevaluating your goals.
Creating a To-Don't List also allows for a greater level of self-awareness, enabling us to recognize the events and experiences that create a feeling of stagnation. Once we have identified these problem areas, we can address them head on and develop practices to break away from them. What's more, removing unwanted activities or mindsets can also open up our minds and hearts to receive new, stimulating experiences.
When beginning to form a To-Don't List, it is important to think of the goals we wish to achieve. This may include things like reading more books, taking up a hobby, learning a new skill, volunteering in the community, or finding a better job. Everything that is on the list should represent an activity or action that will help us reach that goal. Then, think of every negative or unproductive activity or attitude that inhibits or gets between us and our goals.
In fact, it may be beneficial to look at the opposite end of the spectrum to find clarity about what we don't want in our lives. For example, if we want to become healthier, identifying anything that holds us back from reaching our fitness goals (such as eating junk food or skipping workouts) could easily become part of the To-Don't List. Allowing ourselves to focus on the things we hate offers a unique way to move forward because it offers a degree of clarity and direction.
Making a To-Don't List can also be very powerful when it comes to addressing anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles. Following a specific list can help provide structure and organization, allowing us to change behaviors and attitudes that exacerbate our mental health problems. Bearing in mind that a To-Don't list is not meant to be restrictive but instead used to examine and refine our goals and to keep moving forward, it can be an invaluable tool for life success.
At its core, the To-Don't List is about understanding ourselves better and figuring out the things that hinder our growth and development. We can use our lists to learn more about our values, desires, and commitments, while using our newfound knowledge to direct our actions in meaningful and productive ways. From a stance of exploration, commitment, and growth, a To-Don't list can serve as an invaluable tool for getting unstuck and finding motivation.