To Don’t – purposeful not doing

Are you a BIG planner! Life goals, yearly goals, monthly goals, daily to do lists!

New Year's Resolutions - created in November 2000 and posted on the bedroom door poster style
New Year’s Resolutions – created in November 2000 and posted on the bedroom door poster style

List mania? Perhaps.

It feels great to get ideas out of the head and on to paper. But, it can be overwhelming – so many ideas, so many opportunities, so little time.

Years ago a friend gave me a pad of stationary that actually had a “To Don’t” list beside the “To Do” list. We had a good laugh about it, but both realized the importance of NOT doing certain things.

You must be intentional in determining what NOT to do. It doesn’t just happen. Some of the “To Don’t” goals will actually be legitimate personal goals.

One goal I’ve had was to obtain a certain level of certification in a field I work in, but it is just not obtainable without giving up something else that is more important to me!

Choices must be made. 

In this case, instead of getting level three certified, I will be satisfied at level two. It is still a great accomplishment.

What will giving it up give me?

It will allow me to move forward on some entrepreneurial ideas I’ve had FOREVER. It will allow me to focus on learning something else. It will help my family focus on getting healthy vs. spending that time sitting in another 400 hours of training!

How to “To Don’t”

So, how is this done?

There isn’t a hard and fast rule, but there are a few tips to keep in mind.

Assess new goals weekly 

Recently I had a bright idea! I’d go into work early and do some personal and work “stuff” in a private conference room before going to my desk. I actually got the idea from the book Quitter. This would provide the necessary alone time before I hit the ground running with meeting mania.

It backfired on me.

Starting too early actually had the unintended consequence of me staying later at work! Not cool. I have no idea why, but it resulted in more work and…less exercise! So, after a week or two, I had to drop that goal. Now I use that morning time to exercise and go into work later. I get something very important done (exercise) for myself before dealing with a full day of meetings.

 Add a “To Don’t” or “Dropped Goals” section to your list 

It seems minor, but it is important to track what you have decided not to do.


Because you forget! Seriously, I was starting to forget what I promised myself not to do!

Think of it like a diet. You decide not to eat sugar and no kidding – most of us will grab and eat something sugary right while we are in the process of thinking about the goal! Human nature, anxiety, whatever it is, we do it.

This week I added a section to the bottom of my monthly goals list and wrote down those decisions that I decided not to follow.


Every time I look at my monthly goals I am reminded of what I am not going to do. It re-enforces my conscious decision to not take further action on those items.

Remember – YOU are in charge, the world will keep adding “To Dos”

At my day job, I generate two or three pages of “To Dos” daily. A lot of them are tasks I need to assign to other people, but that still takes time! A lot of time!

The world will continue to fling opportunities, experiences, and activities your way. It is YOUR responsibility to determine what fits into your life. There will be a never ending parade of options, and some may appear very shiny and pretty at first, but actually detracted from your purpose and goals.

Take the time to remind yourself that you are in charge of your actions and don’t need to take on all that comes your way.

Reflect and Re-visit

Life has a way of going by quickly. It is made up of numerous small decisions day-to-day. Years can go by before we realize that we are WAY off track with how we intended to live our lives!

We all keep our goals for life, each year, each month and each day in a format that works for us – paper, electronic, in our head (not recommended).

Take time each week or month to re-visit these. A few questions to ask:

  • Do my daily activities lead me toward the weekly, monthly, yearly and life goals I claim I’m after?
  • What activities detract from those goals? Should they become a “To Don’t?”
  • Do I have a new purpose? If so, what needs to come off the plate to ensure I take the actions necessary to fulfill this newly found purpose?
  • Am I too busy? Why? Are there some good things that need to be replaced by better options?
  • Can some of the goals be moved to a “To Don’t” list for now and be re-visited in a different season of my life?

Scratch it!

It is a constant balance, isn’t it?

So many ideas and not enough hours in the day. As you go about adding to your to do list, be patient with yourself. You are in a constant process of finding out who you are, what is important, and what just isn’t working. It is hard to give up on something that you wanted badly for something that might be a better fit for you!

Now, get out there and scratch something from that list!

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