A good friend advised me one day that when life verges on “overwhelm,” that the best course is to take one “whelm” at a time. In trying to be the best wife, mother, friend, and professional that I can be, life can get “lifey” and I am forced to sit down, center myself, and go back to basics.

For me, back to basics means back to my journal. Journal writing is where I can dig deep, and find ways to work smarter and be happier. For years, I have dutifully used lists in my journal to clarify my goals and prioritize my tasks. Depending on what is going on in my life at any one time, my infamous “to-do” list has ranged in length from several pages to a blissful half a page. Somehow the old 80/20 rule always prevails, and I usually get done what I “need” to get done – not necessarily all that I “want” to get done.

One of my favorite journal writing tools is my “Not to-do” list. With this list, I can include line items such as “I will not overspend my clothing budget,” or “I will not take on that new client that my gut tells me to stay away from,” or “I will not eat that gorgeous piece of cheesecake.” With topics ranging from physical health to cooking to work to gardening to family, the not to-do list can reach every corner of your life!

What can a “not to-do” list do for you?

* A not to-do list can actually help shape down your to-do list. Tasks on your to-do list that seemed vital can be modified, enhanced or even deleted with this new perspective.

* Empowerment. Once we put an idea or oath in writing, it seems to take on deeper significance. I end up feeling more confident, creative and accomplished – with more energy for the important tasks in my life.

* When comparing your “to-do” list and your “not to-do” list, invariably there are tasks/projects that fall in between – those items that never seem to get done. Comparing these two lists helps pinpoint those items that you are procrastinating on. Once you see in black and white what has consistently been left undone, you are better able to understand why those tasks remain. After this exercise, I usually find myself more equipped in finding new solutions to the tasks that I am avoiding.

* Not to-do lists free you from unnecessary ritual tasks. For years, I felt that I had to set aside precious time to make holiday cookies. When I put that task on my not to-do list one year, the world didn’t stop. And, the following year, when I really felt like baking, I carved out the time to try new recipes – much to the delight of my family.
* Not to-do lists keep you centered in the present. When you free yourself from your to-do list and consciously choose not to engage in other tasks, you tend to value and focus your time on those projects that are meaningful. Your productivity soars and your contentment follows.

Try starting a “Not To Do” list in your journal today!

Author's Bio: 

Debi Wacker is a Journal Coach and co-owner of Write to Health, a creative writing adventure dedicated to helping people discover the healing benefits of journal writing. Write to Health’s journal circles explore and celebrate health through writing about spirituality, addiction recovery, cancer survivorship, life transition, grief process and life legacy. Write to Health’s online journal writing courses teach a variety of techniques including letter writing, clustering and lists. Inspirational blank journals and guided meditations complement the writing programs and help clients begin a writing practice in the comfort of their own homes. Debi is also co-author and publisher of The Sacred Purse, a collaborative book of women’s poetry and essays, and continues work on her first novel. She is president of LightSource Marketing, a marketing and business development consulting firm with offices in Virginia Beach and Washington D.C. Debi specializes in strategic and market planning, program design and development, and copywriting. Debi recently returned to the college campus as a part-time professor. Reach her at debi@writetohealth.com.