anxious cat

As the summer begins, many of us are busy setting writing goals, drawing up to-do lists for household projects, and scheduling a bit of travel, whether for work or play. All of those are good things to be doing right now.

But in addition to planning out what you want to do this summer, it can be really helpful to figure out what it is that you don’t want to do.

I call this the No-Do List. You could also call it the Not-To-Do List, but I like putting the word No at the forefront, since Not Doing things often requires learning to say No.


So, what do you want to Not Do this summer? Brainstorming a list of at least three No-Do things helps clarify your priorities and reveal action steps you can start taking right away to make this a great summer. Here are some ideas to consider, drawn from my own No-Do lists, and years of conversations with colleagues, friends, and coaching clients about theirs.

What are you currently doing that you’d like to give up or change?

  • checking email first thing in the morning
  • staying up too late at night
  • eating too much sugar
  • worrying
  • procrastinating about an important project

What did you do last summer that you don’t want to repeat this year?

  • got stressed out about hosting family events
  • kept saying we would go to the beach one weekend, but never actually did it
  • put off planning fall courses until two weeks before the term starts
  • felt anxious the whole time about what I wasn’t getting done

If you said No to some of those things, what could you do instead?

  • relax
  • get my writing done
  • enjoy time with friends and family
  • take a painting class
  • garden

Once you draw up your list of three No-Do items, use these questions to explore each one further:

  • What’s the first step I need to take to stop doing this?
  • What obstacles or temptations might I encounter?
  • What information do I need to help me stop doing this?
  • What support do I need to help me say no to this?

So, what’s on your No-Do list for this summer? Let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image by flickr user]