One night, after the kids were in bed and my night to-dos were completed, I sat down and started a show on Netflix. While my show played, I scrolled through Instagram. When I got bored with Insta, I switched over to Facebook for awhile. Then I went back to Instagram. And then I started in on Pinterest. Before I knew it, it was midnight and I was so upset that I’d stayed up so late and that tomorrow was so close.
The next night, I did the same thing (but this time I learned my lesson about the midnight thing and went to bed an hour earlier). And the next night and the next night. And each time it happened, I went to bed upset.
Because I didn’t feel fulfilled or relaxed or anything. I just felt sort of blah. It’s not that watching Netflix or looking at social media were bad things to do to relax, but I was doing them mindlessly and I wasn’t really focusing on either one. I had no purpose behind them.
I needed a plan–not necessarily of things TO do, but of things to NOT do. A Don’t List.
What’s a Don’t List
So what exactly is a Don’t List?
A Don’t List is a list of activities you don’t want to do or that you only want to do under certain conditions (at specific times, for certain amounts of time, after you’ve done something else, etc.). It’s typically made up of things you think you want to do or that you think you enjoy or that you have a hard time saying no to, but that leave you feeling very BLAH.
You know, those activities that, when you’re done, you feel like you’ve been living in a cave for the past ten years? Or that make you want to cry? Or–perhaps worst of all–the ones that make you feel bad about yourself. Those ones definitely deserve a place on your Don’t List!
How to Make a Don’t List
To make your Don’t List, you’re first going to have to sit down and think about your day-to-day and weekly activities. Obviously there are going to be things you don’t like to do that you have to do (I’m looking at you, dishes!), so skip over those.
But what about the things you think you have to do or you think are good for you? Or the ones you think you like? Focus on those. Maybe you do really have to do them or want to do them. Maybe they are really good for you.
Or maybe you don’t and maybe they aren’t.
Think about each activity and ask yourself these questions (be honest!):
- Why do I do this activity?
- What would happen if I didn’t do this activity?
- How do I feel BEFORE I do this activity?
- How do I feel AFTER I do this activity?
- Do I feel differently about this activity when I do it at certain times of day? Or at certain times of the week?
- Does this activity make me feel differently when done for a short period of time vs. a long period of time?
- Are there certain conditions that make this activity better or worse (i.e. location, who I’m with, time of year, etc.)?
Examine your answers. It may be helpful to write down your answers so you can look at everything as a whole. If your answers sway toward the negative, that may be an activity to add to your Don’t List. Or, depending on the answer to questions 5-7, you may want to add it to your list with conditions.
My Don’t List
If you’re curious or need some inspiration, my Don’t List has the following items:
- Don’t mindlessly scroll social media (either be deliberate in why I’m on there OR set a timer for mindless scrolling).
- Don’t plan something I’ve already planned (sometimes I plan to get out of acting on my plans–mostly due to fear).
- Don’t do exercises that hurt my knees for more than a couple minutes if I want to be able to walk the next day (I have bad knees).
- Don’t watch more than thirty minutes worth of YouTube videos in one sitting.
- Don’t go to bed without washing my face (no matter how tired I am).
- Don’t drink caffeinated soda after 4pm.
- Don’t binge watch a tv show (a couple times a year or so when I’ve hit my stress limit, I’ll binge watch a show for a Friday night and Saturday night with my husband and it’s fine!).
- Don’t sit in a bath for more than twenty minutes.
- Don’t eat pineapple, no matter how good it tastes! (I have a food sensitivity that just isn’t worth it 😩. Thanks, pregnancy!).
- Don’t watch more than a few tv shows a week (and deliberately choose which shows I watch!).
- Don’t try to do multiple things at once.
- Don’t read solely nonfiction books (I LOVE nonfiction, so sometimes I neglect my fiction books…and then I’m SO SAD!).
- Don’t browse the Internet.
- Don’t go to PTO meetings unless they’re discussing something I feel passionate about giving an opinion on (I’ve learned my evenings are important to me and filling them with events stresses me out).
- Don’t check Facebook in the middle of a task.
- Don’t lay back in bed after the kids leave for school (unless I’m sick or honestly didn’t sleep the night before).
- Don’t let the laundry or dishes pile up.
Putting Your Don’t List into Practice
Once you’ve created your Don’t List, hang it somewhere you can see it and look at it frequently. When you catch yourself doing something on your list, stop. It’s not serving you. And if something isn’t serving you (or your family), it’s not worth your time and energy. Use your precious minutes on something that makes you feel fulfilled, happy, refreshed, BETTER THAN YOU DID BEFORE. That’s where the magic happens.
You’re going to mess up. You’re going to do things on your Don’t List–and often. I can name things on my list that I still do every week 🤦♀️. Because it’s HARD! The point isn’t about being perfect. The point is about being aware of how certain activities make you feel and striving to be a little better, a little more intentional, to get you one step closer to your dream life!
So if you you “fail” and do three things on your Don’t List in one day, don’t fret. Just take note of how you felt when you did the activities and move on.
Also be in tune with your emotional and physical state. Sometimes the activities that USUALLY make us feel like crap are actually what we need! For instance, if I’m sick, you better believe I’m going to watch tv and mindlessly scroll through social media most of the day. And those random tv binge weekends I have are amazing because I take them when I’m SPENT–when I’ve been pushing myself a little too hard and haven’t been taking care of myself. So I let myself veg a little bit more and I feel so much more relaxed afterward. And then I’m better able to tackle the following week.
It’s all about AWARENESS and INTENTION.
I created this download so you can get started making your Don’t List today.
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What’s one thing you’re going to put on your Don’t List?