Why You Need a To-Don’t List

Chelsea Streifeneder shares her new blog series, Studio Sweet Home, with us on pilatesstyle.com. First up: When you have a list of things you want to focus on not doing, you’ll free up time to focus on the things that really matter.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” ― Warren Buffett

I’m a list maker. Always have been. I like lists because they make me feel like I’m moving forward (or at least trying to), and because checking things off feels great. But how often do we actually complete our entire To-Do list? I usually get so overwhelmed by mine that I end up spending two or three hours looking at complete strangers and adorable puppy videos on social media and getting nothing done! If this sounds like you, it may be time to make a To-Don’t list.  

I’ve found that, unlike a To-Do list, which makes me feel anxious or even break out in hives, a To-Don’t list keeps me sane (and hive-free). The To-Don’t list is a list of things you want to constantly focus on not doing and which will free up your schedule so you can focus on the things that really matter, and so you don’t get lost doing things that don’t move you forward.

The To-Don’t list is going to be around for a while and you’ll want to keep referring back to it. You can’t accomplish the items once, check them off, crumple the list and throw it out. You have to start developing your To-Don’t list as a habit. This can also be exhausting, but it’s super beneficial in the long run. There are only so many hours in the day and there’s no sense wasting them on things that don’t matter.

I know, I can hear you saying that your studio or situation is different and you have dozens of important things you must do. But the truth is, not everything is equally important and you are the one who can best decide how to spend your time.

Keep your list short so you don’t get overwhelmed. Here’s a sample of mine:

  • Don’t schedule meetings with everyone who asks.

There were times when I rearranged my schedule (I even moved clients’ sessions around) to have a meeting with someone I didn’t even know. I had no clue what the meeting was supposed to accomplish, I didn’t know the goal or purpose and there was no plan or resolution at the end. No more. I only schedule meetings when I am 100 percent sure that they will be productive and help move me forward.

  • Don’t do stuff you hate.

Whether it’s training a certain toxic client, attending a useless networking event or eating beets…just stop! Stop wasting your time and energy.

  • Don’t wait for the perfect time.

This includes making time for you. Let’s face it there’s often going to be something in the way of what you want or need to do—someone coming to visit, your kids’ lacrosse schedule, work, the weather, money, your mother or mother-in-law, your goldfish, etc. Whatever it is, you can always find a reason for it “not being the right time” to do something. Do it anyway.

You can also use your To-Don’t list as a way to set stronger boundaries for yourself and your business. Saying no to certain things makes the things you choose to say yes to that much more clear and powerful.

Remember, giving up and saying no are two very different things. When things aren’t adding up in your life, it’s time to start subtracting. You will be surprised at how much more you can get done in less time, while growing your business and having a life.

Once you have your To-Don’t list ready, keep it in a place where you can see it throughout the day. Each morning, think about what you want to accomplish and remind yourself of what you will not be doing. You can always add new things to your list as you become more aware of how you spend your time.

» Chelsea Streifeneder is a recognized Pilates Method Alliance® Certified Pilates Teacher, speaker, pilatespreneur and the proud owner of Body Be Well Pilates in Red Hook and Catskill, NY. Chelsea began her career as a Pilates teacher in Los Angeles after graduating from Bard College with a B.A. in Writing and Dance. With more than a decade of experience in her field, Chelsea has been featured in Prevention, Women’s Health and on the cover of Pilates Style. She is the author of Studio Shape Up.


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