The Power of Creating a Do-Not-Do List

Updated: February 23, 2023

Most people create a To-Do List, and there are hundreds of apps and software that allow us to manage them.

I’m a bit of a productivity geek, so I always make sure that I write down all the important things that I must do. And this has served me well in getting things done.

However, several months ago, I also started creating a Do-Not-Do List. This is an enumeration of things that I should not do (obviously).

At first, I thought having this list was sort-of useless, and redundant with my To-Do List, which I’ll explain later.

But it’s a good thing that I persisted in doing my Do-Not-Do list because I then discovered how this simple task can be used as a powerful tool in changing bad habits.


A Redundant List

My first Do-Not-Do list looked like this:

  • Do not wait for article deadlines to come
  • Don’t forget to exercise at least 3x a week
  • Do not waste time doing things you can delegate
  • and so on…

The list makes sense, right? But it’s almost redundant with my To-Do list:

  • Write the article for MoneySense Magazine tomorrow
  • Go to the gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Submit weekly task list to your virtual assistant before Sunday
  • and so on…

So it seems that my initial Do-Not-Do list is just a negative version of my To-Do list. And after a couple of weeks, I really felt the urge to simply stop doing it.

Until I added this on my Do-Not-Do list:

  • Do not put negative versions of your To-Do list on this list

And then things started to become interesting…


A Productive List

Now, my Do-Not-Do list became more challenging to write because of that one “rule”.

Every time I have something in mind that I wanted to add, I’d now spend a few seconds to check if it’s just the opposite of what I already have on my To-Do list.

After a few days, I ended up with a list of things that I feel made me more productive as a person. That’s because my DND list now compliments my To-Do list:

  • Do not put negative versions of your To-Do list on this list
  • Don’t open Facebook whenever you’re writing an article
  • Do not sleep late tonight, so you can go to the gym tomorrow morning
  • Do not go out this weekend and just stay home
  • and so on…

Because I did not allow myself to check Facebook when I’m writing, I was able to finish the article faster. Because I slept early, I had more energy at the gym.

And because I decided to not go out during the weekend, I found more time to make a better and more detailed, weekly task list for my VA. But that’s not the end of this story as I eventually discovered a much more powerful use for the Do-Not-Do list.


A Powerful List

After experiencing a noticeable improvement in my productivity when I changed how I create my DND list, I decided to analyze why that happened and tried to see if there’s a way to optimize its power.

Slowly, I realized that the reason why they’re effective is that my Do-Not-Do list allows me to accomplish my To-Do list with fewer barriers.

For example, when I decided that I can’t open Facebook while writing, then I have consciously eliminated a possible cause of delay in finishing the article.

When I said to myself that I should not sleep late, I felt well-rested and more motivated to work out the next day.

And once I committed to just staying home for the weekend, I had more time to go an “extra mile” on the items on my To-Do list.

With that realization, I again opted to tweak my DND list.

This time, instead of just eliminating barriers to my To-Do list, I also used it to avoid specific cues and triggers of bad habits, procrastination, and unproductivity.

For you to understand what I mean, consider these items that I added to the list:

  • Do not sleep beside your phone
  • Do not proofread your emails more than once
  • Don’t sit in front of the computer for more than an hour
  • and so on…

Having my phone at arm’s reach from my bed made me lazy in the morning. I’d often stay in bed for almost an hour just checking email and social media instead of immediately getting up and starting my day.

But now, I just get up and get going. Emails and social media can wait until I’m in front of my computer.

Also, because I do not allow myself to check my spelling and grammar twice when writing emails, I tend to be more straightforward with my replies. I use simpler words, which in the long run, eliminates unnecessary writing time with my inbox.

And then, because I force myself to stand up every so often when working on my laptop, I now experience fewer lower back pains.

The Do-Not-Do List

Having both a To-Do and a Do-Not-Do list has helped me become more productive and plan my schedule better.

But more than that, a Do-Not-Do list now serves as a powerful tool for me to improve my lifestyle and eliminate bad habits more concretely and more effectively.

You should try it, and see if it does the same for you.

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Photo credits: puuikibeach, paloetic and swiv


  1. Thank you sir fritz for this tips will do this. when I saw my goal list that I wrote a couple of years ago it showed that I did a great job even though I thought on my self that I am hot makin my goals happen .

    I think this new not do to list is my next challenge since I have tons of things that makes my productive day less.

  2. Interesting. I initially doubted when I read the title, thinking that using “Do Not” may only tempt you to do it, as with reverse psychology. But after reading how things turned out, I will definitely try this. 🙂

  3. Thanks everyone for the comments. Yes, do tell me how it turned out for you. So far, it’s really been an effective strategy for me.

  4. Hi Fritz, I enjoyed reading your articles. But this, DND List looks very attractive to me. It’s more of giving a blow to how everyone can work much, much, much effectively and smartly. I tested it, and really it worked.

  5. This is cool ! I dont have either of the list. Maybe I will start first on the To-Do list

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