If you get decent value from making TO-DO lists, you’ll also get significant returns – in productivity, in improved relationships, in financial stability, and in heightened levels of happiness – from adding certain things to a TO-DON’T list.
As you may have guessed, a TO-DON’T list is a list of things not to do. It might seem a bit amusing, but it’s an incredibly useful tool for keeping track of unproductive habits like these:
1. Worrying about the wrong people.
The ladies of The Real Housewives of Orange County, they’ll survive without you. The family members and friends of Duck Dynasty, they won’t notice your absence if you stop watching their show. Even the private lives of your elected politicians and local public figures mean nothing in the grand scheme of your own life.
But your significant other, your friends, your children, your siblings, extended family members, business partners, employees and customers – these are the people who truly matter to you. Give them your time and attention. They’re the ones who deserve it.
And as you meet new individuals, be polite, but don’t try to be best friends with everyone. Take things slow and remain focused on your core people – the individuals whose absence would immediately make your life less fulfilling.
2. Focusing all your attention on future events instead of present moments.
This moment will never happen again. Look around. Cherish your time as you’re living it. Work towards something, but enjoy the journey of getting from here to there. Experience each step. Don’t succumb to a vicious cycle of overbearing productivity that forces you to constantly think about every imaginable time and place except right here, right now.
It’s often hard to tell the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory. And someday you will likely discover that the small moments you’re living now are really the big ones worth dreaming about. So learn to appreciate what you HAVE NOW before time forces you appreciate what you HAD THEN.
3. Delaying decisions.
Sometimes it doesn’t take as much strength to do things as it does to decide what to do.
Life is filled with difficult decisions. As you move through life you will come up on many forks in the road where both paths look equally as promising. The important thing is not which path you choose, but that you do in fact choose a path.
Deciding sometimes hurts. Not knowing which path to take can be painful. But nothing is more disheartening than never making a decision. If you never choose a road, you will never know where it leads. So when you’re faced with two equally good options, don’t be one of the people who choose the third option: to not choose.
4. Saying “yes” when you really mean “no.”
Stop over-committing. While saying yes can take you down some wonderful roads, there’s also a ton of value in saying “no.” Your time in life is extremely limited; do you really want to give it away so easily?
If you don’t have time to commit to a new project, fulfill a favor, etc., it’s a good idea to just say “no.” Refusing a new request from friends, family, customers, etc. can be difficult, but rarely is it as stressful as over-committing and leaving no time for yourself.
The ambition to be successful in life is not always the biggest challenge, narrowing the number of commitments to be successful in is. Even when you have the knowledge and ability to access highly productive states, you get to a point where being simultaneously productive on too many fronts at once causes all activities to slow down, stand still, and sometimes even slide backwards.
Bottom line: Say no when you know you should.
5. Buying stuff you don’t need.
Proper money management is one of the most beneficial skills we can master to create a comfortable, happy future for ourselves, and yet it’s a skill that we are often culturally cut off from understanding. The consumerist society we live in tries to make us feel that happiness lies in owning things and continuously buying new things, and fails to teach us about the happiness not found in things.
When external influences suddenly motivate you to consider a new purchase, ask yourself this: “Is this thing I’m thinking of purchasing really better than the things I already have? Do I really need it? Or am I just being persuaded to be displeased with what I have now?”
You’ve heard the saying, “The best things in life are free.” Believe it. Spending time with friends, laughing, enjoying the antics of a pet, seeing a child smile, experiencing intimate and heart-felt moments with a significant other – these gifts are precious and free. Money brings comfort, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying that comfort. But it’s important to spend money on the things that matter to you, and let go of spending that doesn’t add value to your life. Spend on what you need, but don’t forget why you’re buying what you’re buying, or the spending will becomes a destructive habit.
Gossip is the evil. If you want to know something about someone, ask. Don’t assume; that’s how gossip grows and spreads.
If you’ve talked to more than one person about something someone else is doing, it’s time to step forward and actually talk to the person you’ve been talking about it. And if it’s truly ‘not your place’ to talk to this person, it’s likely ‘not your place’ to talk about them either.
Ultimately, you should focus on judging less, loving more, and resisting the temptation to gossip about others, or portray them in a poor light. Be impeccable with your words. Speak with integrity. Avoid using your words to gossip about others. Use the power of your voice to spread truth and love only.
7. Filling every waking moment with activity.
Downtime is imperative. In all walks of life, the highest human performance occurs when there is equilibrium between activity and rest. This is due to the fact that the human body is designed to labor in short pulses, and requires rest and renewal at regular intervals, both physically and mentally. In other words, your productive working days should look something like this: activity, short rest, activity, short rest, etc.
Make time every day to not be busy. Have dedicated downtime moments – clear points in the day to reflect, rest and recharge. Don’t fool yourself; you’re not so busy that you can’t afford a few minutes of sanity.
You deserve quiet moments away from the daily hustle, in which no problems are confronted, no solutions explored, and no demands are being made of your time. At least twice a day, while you’re awake, withdraw yourself from the sources of stress that refuse to withdraw from you. Do so for a few minutes and simply be and breathe.