The fog of the pandemic has made it hard to get stuff done. Later on a certain point, our usual modes of time direction no longer feel efficient. The archetype to-practise list may feel less like a motivational tool and more similar a hanging obligation—and an overly familiar one, at that.

During the form of this remote-work experiment, I’ve noticed in myself a waning of energy. Slowly just surely the afternoon may descend into moments of low motivation and languor, if I don’t seek out some “wake-up” activity, such every bit doing fifty jumping jacks or (more commonly) glugging downward a mug of coffee. In recent weeks, I’ve been trying out various productivity methods like the Pomodoro Technique and time-blocking, only I decided to exam-drive another technique.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been using “to-don’t” list, which sounds like an inverse to a to-practice list, but is a scrap more exacting. In essence, the list is a curated collection of activities that can derail your energy and motivation. They’re often alluring merely terminate up creating a distracting screw, sapping you of your most productive hours.

When creating a “to-don’t listing,” look at what works for you and tailor it. Practicing self-awareness is a place to start, says Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a time management omnibus and regular
Fast Company
correspondent.

She recommends commencement the exercise with an end-of-the-twenty-four hours review, at least when you outset kickoff: “You tin can reflect dorsum on your day during a daily wrap-up. In this fourth dimension, you lot can look at what you achieved and what didn’t get completed. And you can also evaluate the activities that you did that weren’t part of your program. You tin inquire yourself:
Was that worth information technology? Did I enjoy it? Did I feel frustrated or derailed?
By keeping track of your own feelings about the choices you made, yous tin can start to discover what is or isn’t healthy for you.”

This is what I took away from my two-week experiment:

The list served every bit a reminder of all the tiny things that take upwards my fourth dimension

Like to a friend who doesn’t just buoy you with compliments, just offers their “tough-love” feedback when you need it, my to-don’t list keep me focused on the most meaning parts of my day by serving as an accountability visual.

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To kickoff my listing, I began thinking about which of my daily activities were not serving me well. Some of these were pretty obvious; some which were sneakily inlaid to my daily schedule. Some of these activities, which I would later capsize for my to-don’t list, included non moving for viii hours, spending too much time consuming news, and letting random clutter build up on my desk.

I initially collected these items in a Google Doc, only really decided to go on my “avert me” activities to a refreshingly simple format: a slice of lined newspaper. This split, tactile medium helped me to not only to separate projects, but also cutting-down on my trend to task-switch betwixt computer windows and applications.

All seven of the directives on my last list were uncomplicated things like “Don’t forget to accept a break to rest your eyes,” and “Don’t sit in one identify for more than one 60 minutes.”

At first I was frustrated when adhering to these new rules temporarily disrupted my flow. However, over time, I noticed they truly paid off. I found that I felt less of the usual physical and mental signs of fatigue (i.e. more sustained alertness, less likely to turn to longer breaks). My sense of weariness seemed less pronounced in the afternoon and instead, more aligned with my actual work day.

My to-don’t reminder to guzzle less caffeine helped encourage me to non only consume more water, but also helped to trigger a mental note to disconnect from my screen and take a moment to breathe.

I noticed when certain tasks were taken out of my routine, their value (or more so,
lack
of value) was more apparent. For instance, throughout the solar day, I usually regularly refresh my social media news feeds. This practice keeps me upward-to-engagement on the latest headlines, which tin be useful for my task, but the process often means I waste material time viewing many similar stories, all published by different outlets. The process was inadvertently draining my energy and taking too much of my fourth dimension.

So, instead of jumping on each exclamatory headline, I restricted myself to reviewing news for only 10-infinitesimal periods, forcing myself to skim for similar keywords and making a mental note to skip over repetitive information.

The listing helped me wrangle my free energy and focus

While working with a “to-don’t” list, I noticed I was more naturally enlightened of what times of solar day and which areas I was pouring more of my bandwidth into. With the awareness of which activities were not adding to my mean solar day, I was able to identify pockets where my energy was at its best and my focus at its sharpest—for me that’s typically during the morning and sometimes, a last-infinitesimal jolt earlier the finish of my work day.

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According to Saunders, this awareness can be specially useful for those who are feeling the strain of too much time working from habitation or those who just would like a novel approach to scheduling. “I think a to-don’t listing is helpful if you’re working remotely,” she says. “A lot of times our minds wander considering we’re simply bored and seeking stimulation. Knowing what your unhealthy patterns may be when you’re bored, and preemptively limiting them, can aid you to make better choices in the moment. ”

Further, I noticed the more mundane, non-work-related tasks on my to-do list oft led me to waste time and energy. Certain activities, like making appointments or restocking a household item through an online society, served my schedule better if they were automated or completed in a batch. Otherwise I found myself going downwardly a rabbit-hole doing a spontaneous home-cleaning, or sinking into an overly leisurely break after completing a not-work chore.

With my list of “no-no’due south” placed physically in forepart of me, I was able to more than finer monitor unhealthy habits, which I originally thought were completely productive. This included spending as well much time in my inbox. The examination lead me to take up more intentional, “10-2d skims” of messages, and only respond to the relevant ones. I too noticed my “to-don’t list” helped me cut back on job-switching, farther emphasizing the toll hopping around amid responsibilities tin can have on your resolve and focus. By catching sight of my listing, I was able to save myself from an afternoon of but half-completing tasks.

The list lead me to more wins and fewer afternoon slumps

By oftentimes referring to this list of avoidable behaviors, I not only refined where I put my  free energy, but also increased my feeling of accomplishment at the end of the 24-hour interval. Something can be said for being able to look over your list of “to-don’t’s” and
not
crossing them off, only congratulating yourself on the self-control needed to follow them. I felt less defeated, since I didn’t have an entire collection of tasks to address by late-afternoon. Moreover, my “to-don’t” message fabricated me aware of why it was I hit a wall. For example, one 24-hour interval, I was feeling especially drained and looked over my list, and saw I had failed to address number iii on my list: “Don’t become overboard on carbohydrates at tiffin.”

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Saunders says that a to-don’t list is helpful because it can pull us out of a rut of unproductive activities, many of which we may unconsciously repeat. “Sometimes we do these activities because they’re piece of cake, tempting, or but a habit, only they’re [usually] non satisfying.”

For many remote workers similar myself, a more constrained and less socially engaging work space has increased the time I spend online, even when I tell myself, “Diana, you’re off the clock now.” In this way, a to-don’t listing’s help ready guardrails betwixt my work and leisure fourth dimension, further calculation to the technique’south benefits.

Saunders agrees this blurring of boundaries is one reason to plow to a “to-don’t list” for intervention. She says, “I’ve heard many [people and clients] say that they’ve cutting back dramatically on social media and news in the concluding few months and all feel much better. With the influx of information so readily available on many things [from] our solar day-to-day lives, nosotros have to acquire where and how to set limits.

The limitations of a to-don’t listing

Overall, I establish the to-don’t list to be a helpful experiment in that it helped me ruby-red-pick the bad behaviors in my day. Yet, it left me a scrap wanting for the bigger priorities that keep me focused on and aware of my goals. I could see a to-don’t list serving equally a friendly list of reminders for when my responsibilities were piling up, and when both avenues of piece of work and life were feeling particularly chaotic. Since it doesn’t change dramatically from week to week, information technology won’t really supercede your to-practice listing, but it tin can assistance you lot place and streamline your daily priorities.