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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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How to Be a Better Time Manager With Your "To-Don't" List

We’ve all heard of, and some of us actually use to-do lists. They help us focus on our daily priorities, better manage our time, and increase our productivity.  Using these lists gives us an added benefit. We experience an endorphin rush, a ping of happy hormones when we cross off a completed task.

To-do lists are great, but have you considered making a to-don’t  list? In the article, 12 Things to Put on Your “To-Don’t” list Today, Marina Khidekel, editorial director at Thrive Global suggests adding to this list, “what you don’t actually need in your life, and which areas you can scale back on. The items on your to-don’t list are the tasks you should avoid for the sake of your focus, performance, and well-being. Below are several to-don’ts Marina shared from the Thrive Global community:


Thrive Global Community’s To-Don’t List

  • Don’t finish a book or movie you don’t enjoy
  • Don’t do tasks that can be delegated
  • Don’t work late all of the time
  • Don’t go to every social event you’re invited to
  • Don’t spend time with negative people


While my to-don’ts still reside in my brain, there are time management and productivity to-don’ts in addition to the ones mentioned above that I have on my internal list

Linda’s To-Don’t List:

  • Don’t check my email when I first wake up
  • Don’t let my priorities always come last
  • Don’t show up late without letting the person know I’m running behind schedule
  • Don’t automatically say “yes” to a request without considering if it’s feasible given my current schedule and commitments
  • Don’t make an appointment without entering it on my calendar
  • Don’t return from vacation, shopping, or the day and not put away my things
  • Don’t leave the house without my watch unless it’s a no-watch-day
  • Don’t worry about things that may never happen
  • Don’t work continuously without taking water, bio, nature, or snack breaks
  • Don’t wish away time
  • Don’t rush through life


As I develop my to-don’t list, I’ll continue to add ideas. Do you have a to-don’t list? Do you see a value to creating one? Even if you haven’t made a list yet, what single item would you include? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Join the conversation!





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Reader Comments (14)

Love the idea of a "to don't" list, Linda! Lots of wisdom here. What we intentionally keep out of our lives can be just as important as what we welcome in! I've never given intentional thought to my "to don't" list, although I think I will be as I go through my day:) A couple that I've adopted as an adult is "Don't drink coffee until I've had a glass of water," and "Don't stay out in the sun at the peak of the day." I guess I also would add "Don't listen to trendy dietary advice." In the realm of organizing, I think I'd add "Don't count on the bank to store my data." As it happens, if you close an account, all your online statements might disappear!

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

@Seana- Thanks so much. As I read what you wrote, "What we intentionally keep out of our lives can be just as important as what we welcome in," it made me think about the "yes/no" aspect. Some of us say "yes" to everything. Perhaps we're super enthusiastic, we don't weigh how it affects us, or we have trouble saying no. One of the values of creating a "to-don't" list, even if it's just in our heads, is that we create a "yes/no" filter or lens that we can use for making those choices.

I love your "to-don'ts!" What a good idea to drink water before coffee. As I'm sipping my morning coffee, I didn't do that before starting. That sounds like a healthy habit to adopt. It looks like you got a good jump on your "to-don't" list. Way to go, Seana!

June 17, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I'm a huge believer in to-do lists. I'm the one who gets great joy from crossing things off and looking back at what I've accomplished each day. I've never thought about a to-don't list. As Seana said, I will think about it today - for sure. Off the top of my head I would add Don't overfill your calendar - allow white space. Some days just get too crowded with things to do and I find myself moving from one appointment, task, client etc. to another without breaks - other than the break I get driving from one place to another (which is not a break). Thank you for bringing this up.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

When I saw your title, I thought it was going to be about removing tasks and activities from our lists that don't really provide any value. That's important too, but what you're proposing is brilliant! We all have habits and tendencies that are keeping us from living our best life and putting a list of them where we will see them could be a great reminder to keep us on track.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

I love the idea of a to-don't list. I think it is something that can be done on a Sunday afternoon for the week for a quick reminder to stay focused on the necessary tasks. Thanks for sharing your list for inspiration.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

@Diane- I can see your wheels turning. That's fantastic! And I love what you came up with for your "to-don't" list- as in, not overfilling your schedule and remembering to honor the white space. I'm with you on that one. I find that I can become overwhelmed if I don't pay enough attention to that white space. So when I'm scheduling and deciding to say "yes" or "no" to something, I try to consider that too.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Janet- How fascinating that the title made you think of one thing and then you discovered the post was about something else. I'm glad to know that you like the "to-don't" list concept. I like your idea of keeping that list front and center as a reminder and guide.

June 17, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Sabrina- This is so fun hearing each person's take on the "to-don't" list. You've added a useful idea for integrating it into one's weekly schedule as a way of focusing the upcoming week. What a wonderful approach!

June 17, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I love your to-don't list. Although I didn't realize it, I apparently follow some of those same "to-don'ts" in my life. I don't make an appointment without putting it in my calendar, and I don't return from a shopping trip or vacation without putting away the bags or unpacking. Thanks for making me think about a "to-don't" list.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Haworth

@Nancy- Thanks so much! I'm glad to be in good company with you as far as remembering to add appointments to the calendar and putting things away. The "to-don'ts" provide us with an alternative perspective to use for making decisions and setting boundaries.

June 17, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Using your To-Don't List could really enhance my life. I am going to add some of your thoughts to my list.

June 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Schiesl

@Janet S.- That's wonderful! Have fun crafting your "to-don't" list. I'm looking forward to hearing more if/when you feel like sharing.

June 18, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great tips, Linda! Here are a few more::
Don't skip breakfast.
Don't eat standing up!
Don't be on electronics after 9 pm.
Don't remember unkind things said to me.

September 23, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterOlive

@Olive- I love your additions to the "don't" list. Given the time, I'm getting close to that "no electronics after 9 pm," mark. In general, I try to adhere to that one, but there are some evenings when work expands longer into the evening than usual.

September 23, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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