The ‘To Not Do’ List — Helpful Tool or waste of time?

Effective Faith
4 min readNov 20, 2023

Have you ever heard of the concept of having a ‘To Not Do’ list? I have and I’ll be honest it is something that I have never used — or have I? And it is that ‘or have I?’ that is making me revisit this. So today I am asking the question The ‘To Not Do’ list — helpful tool or waste of time?

The To Not Do List

The basic idea is that you will make a list of all of the things that you are wanting to not do. I don’t really mean request or opportunities that you say no to. This is more about avoiding distractions and stopping procrastination. The idea is that if we have it written down, and that list is kept somewhere we will see it all the time, then we are one step closer to winning our war. This represents a concrete decision to NOT act in certain ways.

Some examples I have seen of the kind of things people put on the list would be:

  • Do not go to bed after 11pm
  • Do not open up my email account unless I have planned to
  • Do not allow notifications to sound whilst I am in focussed work
  • Do not snack
  • Do not go to social media sites unless I have planned to
  • etc

Is it a waste of time?

I have always thought so. I have always thought that writing taking time to write out a list like this is unneccesary. Far better to just commit to the things that you do want to do.

I am great believer of not including things in our system that cannot justify themselves and this would be an example of system bloat.

Or so I thought.

I have realised two things that have combined to make me think I should revisit this:

  1. This is something I have done, but the things I have written down are spread all over the place in various notes. So, in one note about sleep you will have not to drink caffeine after 2pm. A different note about health mentions not eating after dinner. Another about focus lists not having pop up notifications on my computer except from my calendar.
  2. All my desires to focus on the things I do want to do, doesn’t do enough to restrain my…

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Effective Faith

How to live effectively as a Christian in the 21st Century