Most everyone has a To Do list.

Mine is filled with routine tasks for the day, various steps towards long-term business planning and the more complex carry-overs from the last To Do list. And the one before that. And the one from July, 2015. All the stuff I haven’t yet gotten around to. That’s a lengthy list.

So much To Do. And so much I shouldn’t be doing at all.

When there’s not enough time to get it all done, the last thing to do is spend time on things that don’t matter or that get in your way.

And so, I’m pinning to the top of my To Do list a “To Don’t” list. These are the time and energy wasters I need to STOP doing so I can have the time and energy to tackle that To Do list.

I’m willing to bet you have a To Do list. Here are six things to top your To Don’t list:

  1. DON’T Overthink to the Point of Underacting. Maybe it won’t work. Then again, maybe it will. You won’t know until you put it out there. Consider that no one at the meeting knows you have the potential answer in your head until you speak up, no one can help you with that business idea until you pitch it and no one can assess and display your art work until you’re brave enough to share it. Unless you put yourself out there and simply remain curious about what happens next. Stop thinking, start doing.
  2. DON’T Label Yourself with Negatives. Just because you lost your glasses again doesn’t make you “stupid.” Ordering dessert doesn’t mean you’re “fat.” Staying in on a Saturday night doesn’t announce to the world you are “lame.” Tell that negative narrator in your head to voice over someone else’s story – it doesn’t belong in yours – and replace it with another more positive version. You control your voice. What do you want to say to yourself?
  3. DON’T Make Excuses for People Who Treat You Poorly. They were busy. They were having a bad day. They didn’t mean it. You know who I’m talking about. The friend who never shows up for you. The colleague who undermines you. The boss who belittles you. Who do you keep giving a pass that no longer deserves it? Sometimes we add most to our lives what we delete from it. Read more on what you can gain from what you get rid of in Edit Mode: Less is More.
  4. DON’T Use Social Media as a Benchmark. I posted pictures of beautiful scenics and smiling family photos from my recent vacation. I took these pictures because I wanted to remember the joy of those moments. I do not take pictures when I am yelling at my kids for the third time to get out of bed or they’re going to miss the school bus. I do not take pictures when I have my hair in foil and I am sipping a glass of red wine at the hair salon. At 11 am. On a Tuesday. If you are comparing your daily life to someone else’s highlight reel, you are likely to think you’re doing it all wrong. Create memorable moments and document them to preserve those happy memories, not for anyone else’s impressions on social media.
  5. DON’T Ruminate, Second-Guess or Regret. Nothing will sap your energy more than being stuck in the past. There’s little value in going back and rereading your past chapters with any regret or embarrassment or dismay. Consider that your choices then might have been the right ones for you at the time. Take what you’ve learned from the experience and apply it towards the next part of your story. And get on to crafting the next.
  6. DON’T Forget Rome Wasn’t Built in One Day. We’re in such a rush for results that we often bail when the journey gets rocky, long before the ship has reached its destination. Don’t. So you need to write that book, get that promotion, lose 20 lbs.? Create forward movement with short-term, reachable goals and stay the course. Start now. And practice patience. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll eventually get where you’re going. Read Start with a Single Step for the unlikely encounter that helped motivate me!

How about you? What should be on your own To Don’t list? How can these Don’ts get you more Do?

Valerie Gordon is a long-time television producer, award-winning storyteller and now the Founder of Commander-in-She, LLC. She offers keynote presentations, group workshops and individual strategizing sessions to help clients use storytelling as a device towards greater career success and satisfaction.

Originally published at


  • Valerie Gordon

    Commander-in-She - helping clients harness the power of their stories

    Valerie Gordon is a 10-time Emmy winning TV producer whose work has been seen on ESPN, HBO Sports, CBS News, Weekend TODAY and Lifetime. Now the founder of Commander-in-She, a communications and career strategy firm, Valerie combines her background in storytelling with her passion for the important conversations and skills women need to harness the power in their stories and create satisfying and successful next chapters. Commander-in-She offers presentations, group workshops, team-building and individual coaching.