While a to-do list helps us to keep track of the things we need to accomplish, a “To-Don’t List” is essentially a list of things we want to avoid.

Think of it as our own personal ‘no-go zone’ for habits or tasks that derail our productivity, waste our time, or just don’t contribute to our well being.

Just like eating one more slice of cake can sabotage our diet, certain tasks or habits can divert us from our productivity goals. For example, Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek“, uses a To-Don’t List to avoid time-consuming meetings and endless email checks. By actively choosing not to do these things, he frees up time for more important tasks.

According to research in the field of psychology, the reason making a list of things we ought not to do is so powerful is because our willpower is limited. Each time we make a decision – whether it’s resisting a chocolate bar or choosing not to check Facebook – we’re depleting out mental energy.

So a “to-don’t list” helps us save this energy by making the decision in advance not to engage in draining or distracting activities. This way, we’re not wrestling with temptation all day; we’ve already made up our mind.

In essence, what we’re doing here is actively curating the contents of our mental “brain attic,” a concept wonderfully illustrated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character, Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes likens the human mind to an attic where you can only store a finite amount of information. The detective is extremely selective about what he allows into his “brain attic.” He keeps only what’s essential for solving criminal cases and filters out what he deems irrelevant. This mirrors the idea of a To-Don’t List where we pre-select what not to do, thus saving our cognitive resources for more important decisions and actions.

By filtering out distractions and useless information, Holmes maintains a streamlined and efficient cognitive process, which is exactly what a To-Don’t List aims to help us achieve.

The concept of the “brain attic” is akin to being your own cognitive curator; you decide what goes in and what stays out, making sure that you’re not wasting valuable mental space and energy on things that aren’t aligned with your goals.

So, to create your own To-Don’t List, just jot down actions or habits that don’t align with your goals or values. It could be anything from “don’t check social media before noon” to “avoid multitasking during important tasks.” Stick it somewhere you’ll see often, and boom – you’ve got a daily reminder of what not to do.

Quote of the Day

Where your attention goes, your time goes.
Idowu Koyenikan

Tool of the Day

🤔 Quizlet

Quizlet is an equally effective flashcard app for using across multiple platforms. One advantage that it can claim to hold over Anki is its superior user interface. It’s really simple to set-up and navigate, allowing you to easily create your own cards or download appropriate ‘decks’ that have been made by other students. The app is used by over 50 million students and teachers worldwide, so you’ll have access to literally millions of sets before you’ve even made your own. The downside is that the app is supported by ads – you can upgrade at a reasonably low cost but it means it’s not entirely free