We All Need a {Not To-Do} List – Now More Than Ever

morning bliss

It is a new year, and I am sure most people are familiar with a to-do list and its benefits. I have used to-do lists for years, and they proved to help increase my productivity and accountability. The problem with to-do lists is that they make us less flexible and less likely to adapt to unforeseen obstacles. I learned during the pandemic that the future is uncertain, and we don’t know for sure what the coming days, weeks, or months will look like.

I feel that I have more things to keep track of than my mind can handle at this point in my life. This is why I am an advocate for meditation, mindfulness, and self-compassion. I want to spend more time daydreaming and letting my thoughts flow, and less worrying about the type of mask I need to buy because of the new variant that just arrived in the US.

Listen, I find it extremely difficult to see the big picture if I can’t free my mind from a never-ending list of things I need to do each day. So the question is, “How do you find time for productivity these days?” Only when you periodically decide what you are NOT going to do.

I spent some time during the holiday break asking myself, “Elaine, how do you want to show up in life this year?” I have asked myself that same question multiple times, but instead of creating a never-ending list of goals and tasks, I decided a change was needed. I knew that I needed to be crystal clear on the things I would stop doing to make room for the things I wanted to pay attention to, such as giving back, advocating for others, and my mental health.

Here are some of the questions I asked myself before creating my NOT-to-do list:

  1. What am I saying “yes” to but don’t want to do?
  2. What things are out of my control?
  3. What are the things that waste my time?
  4. What do I want to be intentional about?
  5. How do I want to show up in the world?
  6. What are the things that stress me out the most?
  7. What things drain me from energy?

These questions helped me develop an initial list that I then put away and came back to a week later for a final review. I read the items aloud and put an asterisk next to the ones that seemed the most relevant to me. This list will change over time, the same way you will change, so come back to it each year and review it. Here is my list of things I will stop doing (or want to stop doing, I am not perfect, so don’t be so hard on yourself):

  1. Looking at social media the first hour of my day
  2. Multitasking
  3. Saying Yes when I want to say No (People-Pleasing)
  4. Responding to e-mails late at night
  5. Thinking that I must have all the answers
  6. Checking e-mails 100 times a day
  7. Attending meetings that have nothing to do with me or my work
  8. Feeling guilty when I don’t respond to a text immediately
  9. Thinking my post needs to be perfect before publishing
  10. Being so serious all the time (Help Please!)

I don’t know about you, but I feel exhausted, and living in NYC doesn’t make it any easier. Whenever I leave my home, I feel stressed when taking the train, walking into a store, bumping into friends I can no longer hug, and even having meetings over zoom with colleagues that are two doors away from me in the office, and the list goes on and on and on.

If an Egg Is Broken by Outside Force, Life Ends. If Broken by Inside Force, Life Begins: Great Things Always Begin from Inside

Jim Kwik

We all need to take a step back and ensure our mental health takes priority over anything else this year. The goal of creating this NOT-to-do list is to help you eliminate bad habits and tasks that are very low on your list of priorities. This will give you the time you need to take care of your commitments with others and yourself.

Today, I ask you to be more comfortable having nothing to do and, most importantly, saying no. Please make time to wonder and daydream and allow your brain to disconnect from the never-ending busyness we sometimes create ourselves. Your mental health MUST be a priority this year, and I cannot stress that enough. Remember that you belong just for being.

Much Love,


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