In our everyday lives we have learned how to be efficient by making a to do list. These not only enable us to remember the important matters that need action, but also help us release an emotional burden when we check off or cross out the things we have accomplished.

But are we really effective in making our to do lists? Sometimes we ask ourselves why, in spite of the to do list, we still cram and rush to beat deadlines. Is it because even though we do our to do list, we also do things we ought not to do?

Maybe it’s time to have a to don’t list so we can live better-quality lives. Check out these 20 things everyone should have in a to don’t list: things that you like doing but you don’t need to do; things that you keep doing but that are not that important; or things that you thought you needed to do but that are not really necessary.

Regarding your outlook in life

1. Don’t look at things from a single or short-term perspective.

Like a putting together a puzzle, imagine what the big picture is in any situation.

Don’t be carried away by the urgency of things and be pressured to give attention to something that is only needed momentarily. Think of its impact on a bigger scale and in the long term.

2. Don’t conform to what everyone else does or what everyone else chooses.

Answer your calling. Be unique. Challenge yourself. Do not be afraid to be different.

Just because everyone else is going into a particular field, don’t join the bandwagon if you feel you are better suited to something else.

3. Don’t be carried away by the mediocrity of others.

Stand up for your own principles. Raise the bar of expectation. Don’t conform to the general practice if it doesn’t satisfy your standards.

If you feel there is a better way of doing things, then go ahead and experiment. Ask yourself: “Is there a better way of doing things? Is there a room for improvement? Is there a way to make things fun and innovative?”

4. Don’t just be on the receiving end.

In any endeavor it’s always a give and take. You have to find a way to contribute according to your status in a group, community or team. Every member of the team is an essential part and therefore no task or duty is insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

5. Don’t wait for the perfect time.

Fear holds us back from trying new things or pursuing a dream. There is never the best time to do what you have always wanted to do.

Trial and error is the better option. Start doing. Learn from your mistakes.

6. Don’t try to hold on to everything.

Not everything that worked before will necessarily work now. Be open to change. Be observant and take note if something doesn’t work anymore. Embrace ‘newness.’

7. Don’t judge before you have tried to understand.

It’s easy to immediately jump to a conclusion based on what we already know. That’s prejudgment or bias.

Face ideas, opinions and people with an open mind. Seek to understand and you will discover there’s a lot more to human understanding and harmony.

Regarding productivity

8. Don’t spend too much time on your to do list.

Okay, perhaps when you do your to do list for the first time, it’s understandable if you are excited and careful. But when you do this every day, you cannot spend more time on it than you have to. Though there can’t be a general rule on how much time to spend on your list, looking at it for more than 15 minutes is just a waste of time.

Regarding relationships

9. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you in very tense situations.

Strength of character is not demonstrated by your ability to scare people or make a scene. If you give in to emotional outbursts when under pressure, even if you have an excuse, it will simply come back to haunt you and you will regret it.

10. Don’t ignore your loved ones, family and friends, in spite of your busy day.

Every single day, spend time with those special to you, whether it’s through quality face-to-face time, or a few minutes of talking on the phone if they are far away. Worst case scenario: you should be able to think of them, glance at their photos or simply cherish missing them.

11. Don’t let your pet peeves get in the way of your relationships.

Grammar, cleanliness, standard operating procedures, or whatever else you have as a pet peeve, no matter how much you are required to follow these to the letter, they should not be a reason to turn a relationship sour.

There is always a good way to say things. There is always a better way to put it. There are also times when you can let go of the less important obsessions. After all, what is more important?

12. Don’t be a slave driver.

No matter how much we have a passion for excellence, it cannot be used to justify a drive to get people to run to exhaustion point in their work, to develop tension in their relationships, or to feel pressure to abandon personal commitments for their career or something else.

Have a balance of work and rest for your team. Do not accept unreasonable deadlines if they will sacrifice the quality of output and the team’s balance between work and personal lives.

13. Don’t deny your emotions.

Be grounded with your feelings. Open your heart and have time to reflect and feel what is there going on inside. Not that you will just follow your heart. Listen to it. Reflect on how to harmonize the heart and the mind.

If you feel a negative emotion, acknowledge it, feel it and find ways to express it appropriately. Afterwards, you will be able to move on with a reasonable action.

Regarding personal development

14. Don’t try to be perfect and flawless.

As the song from the recent Disney movie, Frozen, advises, “Let it go.” We need to let go of strident perfectionism. Yes, we have to strive for our best, but we cannot hold back because we think we are not ready and it’s not the ‘perfect time.’

Prepare for a task, be ready for a challenge, do your homework judiciously. And that should be enough to move on.

15. Don’t be too nice. That just gives others reason to ask for more.

If you are naturally Mr Nice or Ms Congeniality, you have to tone it down and give yourself some justice. Set your boundaries. Learn to say no when enough is enough. Oftentimes, being nice and not knowing how to say no leads to abuse (whether intentional or not).

Remember: we cannot please everybody.

16. Don’t be intimidated by seemingly powerful characters, because they only know how to act.

Some people are good at making themselves visible to important people, playing politics to get what they want, or leaving a stunning impression on everyone. Some of these people are legitimate, but many are simply show-offs.

Do not be intimidated by them. Find your own confidence, get yourself noticed and most importantly do your job well.

Regarding peace of mind

17. Don’t brood over your mistakes.

It is but natural to feel guilty for our mistakes. Whether petty or big, many of us cannot let go of the thought: “What could have been if only…?”

Let go! For petty things, turn cold turkey and just move on. For big mistakes, reflect on what went wrong, talk it out to a trusted confidant and learn from the experience.

18. Don’t let your mind wander in little free moments.

We have a lot of free moments: while waiting for our meeting to start, while waiting for the train, while walking on the street, etc.

While nowadays gadgets have taken over these moments, we have an alternative to this. For example, think of the things you need to do that are not yet in the to do list; think of how you can do certain tasks better and be more efficient in them. Write down the fruits of your thoughts and apply as appropriate.

When possible, reading a book is another alternative.

Regarding time wasters

19. Don’t spend too much time on social networks.

We are a generation of Facebook users. Haven’t you noticed that there’s only so much we can get out of it in terms of gossiping and stalking? Imagine your day without Facebook. Would it make any difference?

As I have written in the past and say again now: Use social networks for only 15 minutes a day.

20. Don’t spend too much time on the gadgets and toys.

We are also a generation of gadget-users—tablets, smartphones and what have you. There seems no more time when we are unoccupied. And unfortunately, there is no more time for the beautiful moments of life—such as enjoying the view while traveling, or socializing with our friends—because we are all so busy with our gadgets!

Set aside some time and space to use your gadgets. Then you can be free to spend time talking to the people you love or work with, and find the means to enjoy (or learn to!) viewing daily life wherever you go.

A challenge to you

Which item in the to don’t list resonates most with you? How do you intend to act upon this?

I would like to challenge you to stop doing at least one of the items above that is most relevant to you. Tell us how you go in the comments below, or if you are serious enough about making a self-improvement move, send me an email and share how you will change yourself with a to don’t.

Featured photo credit: kimb

Featured photo credit: Elsie esq via flickr.com

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