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. (Read The Power of Now.)
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. (Read The Success Principles.)
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 become 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. 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. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the Relationships chapter of 1000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
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 are 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.
What do you need to stop doing? What belongs on your TO-DON’T list? Leave us a comment below and share your thoughts.
Photo by: Alex
Mine would be to “Stop expecting”. For a year I had a small alarm that would come up everyday to remind me to “let go of expectations”. This was written in relation to someone specific, but it fed into many other things—as it often does.
Expecting something different from this individual was only keeping me in misery and I was barely on her radar. I had asked for a different behavior, but finally realized she was incapable of modifying for my sake. I was the one who needed to change in order to stop the pain.
Marc Chernoff says
@Carol: Great quote! Thank you for sharing it. =)
@Patrik Edblad: I like your play on words and message.
@bf: Congratulations on making that decision. =) I think this article will help give you some direction: https://www.marcandangel.com/2013/04/10/5-ways-to-step-forward-when-youre-scared/
@All: Incredible! Honestly, I’m blown away again! I can relate to so many of your TO-DON’Ts. In fact, Angel and I just added several of your ideas to our own personal TO-DON’T list. =)
Now that we’ve listed these items, it’s time to follow through (all of us). Whatever you’ve put on your TO-DON’T list, stick to it. Keep track of it. When you stop doing the wrong things, the right things catch up to you.
As always, thank you for the great feedback and all the added value you create for the community here with your insightful comments.
The gossiping thing is important. I think it’s a lazy way of socializing. I noticed that I used to do it a lot when I was younger. When I got more perspective about how that made others perceive me, I started doing it a lot less. I find that I tend to gossip more in social situations that make me anxious or around/with people that make me anxious. When I deal with these people in a more direct way, not only do I feel less anxious, but I don’t feel the need to gossip anymore.
It seems like gossiping is a social reflex to an unpleasant situation or boredom. I think if you fill your life with people and things that are meaningful to you, there will be less gossiping.
Olumuyiwa J. says
1. To stop letting my curiosity and wandering mind overshadow what’s truly important to me.
2. To always be myself no matter what.
3. To stop putting too much confidence in others.
Lynne Palmer says
For me its not to believe that successful people I meet are somehow smarter or more capable than me. Self doubt and lack of confidence can be crippling.
KC @ genxfinance says
I should really try to say ‘no’ sometimes. You may not know it but other people sometimes take advantage of you if you just let them have their way all the time.
I totally agree with you, particularly point #5. I have seen friends spending on unnecessary luxuries during their hay times. Later when they lost jobs or went through a tough phase, they had to sell their basic stuff like house and car. We need to appreciate the value of saving.
Often we try to add things in order to achieve what we want. Stopping what we don’t want to continue (no matter what it is) allows the space and the energy required to start other things or to invest more in what we choose to.
pam shadbolt says
Totally agree, I try to get acceptance from the wrong people, it’s just energy wasting. Time to change.
Delaying what needs to be nipped in the bud–Not confronting someone with something that bothered/hurt you because you don’t want to hurt or make that someone mad…I wish that someone was as considerate.
Interesting read. Thanks.
Thuy Nguyen says
Great … 100% Thanks !
This is a great post. I really enjoy and appreciate your perspective. I must add mine too: do not let others pity you and do not let your past failures hinder every step of your present and future.
I agree with some of the points. Probably the ones that I feel might apply to me. I need to add one more, which is: Stop thinking and actually start doing!
Cindy L says
You guys are so wise. I love the first “Don’t” especially. In this over-connected, over-populated, celebrity driven universe of ours, it’s so easy to get caught up in the lives and opinions of others who really shouldn’t matter so much. I once read that you can only have a handful of truly close friends, plus your family, and that we’re deluded by thinking our hundreds of social media contacts are “close and personal.” At best, they are pleasant distractions from the real folks who need our love and attention.
This isn’t the first time you’ve made my day with real wisdom, advice I can actually use. Countless bloggers are ranting or sharing what they ate for lunch, but you are providing contents of quality. Thank you.