As a recovering Type-A personality, I’m a devotee of to-do lists. Do you love crossing items off a to-do list or checking them off as much as me? I have a confession. Sometimes, I write a task down on my list that I’ve completed. This gives me the satisfaction of checking it complete. I know I’m not the only one who does this, right?

I’m going to introduce to you to a different kind of list. Peter Bregman, whom I first learned the concept from, calls it a TO-DON’T list. Michael Hyatt refers to it as a NOT-TO-DO list.

Danielle LaPorte calls it a STOP DOING list. What she says about it I’ve found true in my life:

“In terms of being successful (meaning YOUR definition of personal “success”), what you stop doing is just as important as what you start doing.”

Danielle LaPorte

Stop doing lists protect what matters to you

Photo by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

By any name, I find the concept brilliant. A breathe easier list? A sanity-saving list? Or an ease booster list? This is what I could name the list because it does all those things for me.

Why do I create a stop doing list every season and sometimes even every week? In short, because it helps me protect what matters to me. It helps me do things that help me feel how I want to feel and align with my values and strengths.

It covers all areas of my life:

  • Livelihood and Lifestyle
  • Relationships and Society
  • Creativity and Learning
  • Body and Wellness
  • Essence and Spirituality

A stop doing list serves as my personal bodyguard by protecting me and my highest priorities. (Strange aside: The daughter of Prince’s bodyguard was a high school classmate of mine. She looked like her father was a bodyguard and former professional wrestler.)

My stop doing list

Here are some things that have been on my stop doing lists over the years:

  • Lifestyle: Stop wearing the color black because it does not flatter me.
  • Lifestyle: Stop wearing high heels. I can’t walk in them and they aren’t comfortable. I could use a few inches when I stand next to my husband who is over a foot taller than me, but it’s not worth it.
  • Livelihood: Stop working so hard and long. This habit prevents makes me from being present for my family during the week and taking care of myself. It also causes me to crash with exhaustion on the weekends rendering me useless.
  • Livelihood: Stop freezing and not doing anything OR getting caught up in a tornado on un-important tasks when the going gets rough. These are both forms of self-sabotage.
  • Creativity: Give myself permission to stop reading a book if I don’t enjoy it or find it useful after a few chapters.
  • Learning: If I find myself getting sucked down a rabbit hole by my curiosity, set a time limit if I have other things to do.
  • Relationships: Getting worked up about clutter instead of being loving with family
  • Society: Stop saying yes to serving on boards. Instead, choose volunteer opportunities where I interact with one on one with others.
  • Body and wellness: Stop ignoring the signs my body is trying to tell me, and sometimes shouting at me. Yes, I mean you a headache that lasted for two months.
  • Body and wellness: Stop trying to squeeze in one more task or chapter of a book. This prevents me from getting enough sleep.
  • Essence and spirituality: Stop attending religious services, except for significant holidays. Instead, practice my faith less formally and more spiritually. More walks in nature and meditation and less church.
  • Stop trying to make everything perfect out of fear or to please other people. Some things need only a C effort, not an A+ effort. Remind myself that I am perfectly imperfect.

Here’s how to create your own stop doing list

I’m excited for you to create your own list. You’ll know you’re choosing the right thing to stop doing if you feel a sense of relief at letting it go. Stopping some items may be easy, while others may be hard and require courage.

Your list can deal with obvious actions like habits or behaviors that prevent you from feeling joy. For example, always forgetting where you put your keys, which makes you run late and adds to your stress.

But you can also dive deeper to uncover how you self-sabotage. What behaviors or thoughts that keep you away from what you most desire in life? This is much harder. It requires self-compassion and time for introspection.

You may want to ask your trusted loved ones, friends, or relatives to support and assist you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a coach or therapist. They can help you uncover from what pain or fears your subconscious is trying to protect you.

  1. Gather your supplies: notebook, pen or pencil, calendar, and an open mind.
  2. Head to an environment where you can think. Where will you go? Your desk, couch, porch swing, bed, favorite coffee shop, or the library? Bottle of water, a mug of tea, or glass of wine? Silence or music that helps you concentrate?
  3. Deep breaths. Then, remind yourself of how you want to feel, your values, your priorities, and any goals and intentions you have set for yourself.
  4. Take a look at your calendar for a few months. What meetings or appointments don’t light you up? Write them down.
  5. Now onto your projects and to-do lists. What tasks can you cut or delegate?
  6. Think about your relationships. Are there any that are draining rather than energizing you?
  7. Are there any opportunities that you are considering? Only say yes, if you can answer hell yes and feel great about it. If you think you “should” say yes, say no thank you.
  8. Think about times you have not felt how you want to feel recently? How can you prevent that from happening? Are there thoughts or mindsets that aren’t serving you?
  9. Run through the five life areas to make sure you are considering all areas of your life. What can you stop doing to help you feel how you want to in that area?
  10. Now you get to choose what items to put on your stop doing list. Put it in a place where you will see if often. I put mine in an Evernote note and link to it in my weekly review.

What are you going to stop doing to feel the way you truly want to feel?