About a month ago, I assigned my positive psychology students a "to-don't" list. I got the idea from an article I read (and then I discovered another one) and, as is often the case, I did the activity along with them.
I know. A "to-don't" list doesn't sound very positive but, there are definitely ways to make it so, especially when we make it less about productivity (don't turn on the television when you're supposed to be working), and more about getting out of our own way.
Still, this turned out to be harder than I thought. I'm excellent at making to-do lists (and perhaps a bit less excellent at actually accomplishing everything on them), but this was different. In the end, I adjusted the title, turning my list into a "Don't Forget to..." list -- which is probably just a fancier spin on a to-do list -- but it worked to get me out of the mundane and into something a little deeper, or at least a few things I sometimes do but want to make a habit of.
My students did a great job without making any tweaks and we all came away with ways to be kinder to ourselves. Lists included items like "don't give up on yourself" and "don't self-sabotage" -- things that were much bigger than "don't leave dirty dishes in the sink" and more about growing as people than about getting things done.
Or were they? Yes, they were about growing as people and a sort of reverse Golden Rule (treating ourselves as well as we'd treat others), but aren't those also ways that lead us to the habits that get things done?
My list, too, had grander goals than a clean house and an avoidance of distractions. I realized belatedly that I could easily have reworded these to make them fit the original "to-don't" prompt but, instead, I'm posting the list here as-is because "don't rework things that are fine as they are" would, indeed, be a good addition to my to-don't list.
I'm posting my original list here (yes, I plan to add to it) in case it's helpful to anyone who wants to try this at home. It's very short (in order to make it more likely I'll remember it, and therefore stick to it, but feel free to skip it if it's not of interest to you. "Don't waste time reading things that don't matter to you" might also be a welcome addition to a "to-don't" list, and especially useful when we find ourselves mindlessly scrolling when mindfully engaging (or going to bed) might be a better option.
Whatever you do (or don't) remember to add "take care of myself" to your to-do list, preferably every day.
Lisa's "Don't Forget to..." List
1. Look up :-)
3. Believe in yourself.
4. Say "thank you" and/or leave a tip.
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