Not ‘To Do’ List

I like the concept of a not-to-do list. Not just because it adheres to my flippant, rebellious nature, but also because life is as much about what we choose not to do as we choose to do.  Simplification, after all, is as much about removing things as adding them – peeling the layers to find the true self, rather than adding further complications.

“Our lives are frittered away by detail; simplify, simplify.” — Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862).

By not doing things, it’s possible to find the time for those things that we feel we don’t have enough time for, like family, friends, learning and instrument, exercise, laziness and general sloth.

Here is my current not-to-do list:

1)    Not check my e-mail or go online before 10 am, or after 7 pm (including iPads, iPhones and other pocket protrusions).

This prevents dipping your head straight back into the fire-hose of information and getting caught up in the chaos of ‘insta-replies’ in the morning. The latter cutoff prevents e-mails drifting into your dreams. You know the one – you’re trying to run but the e-mails are closing in on you.

Rather easy in my current house with no power, but this is a longer-lasting not-to.

2)    Answer all correspondence. Sometimes I don’t reply. It’s the only way.

3)    Read newspapers or magazines.

4)    Use Facebook or Twitter or check messages on either. It gives me more time to do the important things, like see friends, read a book, write and so on.

5)    Buy new products, unless necessary.

6)    Listen to marketers. They lie – pure and simple. Even with the might of the advertising standards bodies, they create unnecessary wants and unhappiness. Ignore them. When an advertisement comes on, see it purely as an attempt to get you to do something, rather than because their intentions are straight and true. Read Affluenza by Oliver James for more information on this.

7)    Feel guilty about taking time off or not working. 

8)    Answer the telephone when I’m busy.

9)    Finishing books just because I’ve started them. According to Google, who seem fairly up on information nowadays, there are 129,864,880 books that have been published in the world today. If each takes a day to read (24 hours of non-stop reading), that’s a mere 5.4 m days, or 14,800 years of continuous reading. I’ve also given up maths, just in case my calculations don’t add up. My rule is that if I’m not enjoying a book within the first 10 to 50 pages, I chuck it. No matter whether it’s Shakespeare or Mills & Boon.

10) Biting off more than I can chew. I try to say ‘no’ more often. Yes, I suffer from that irritating individual habit of being eager to please.

11) Worrying about money. If you’ve got it, then, as long as you’re not a ‘shopaholic’, you’re unlikely to go bust imminently. Be frugal and fret not.

12) Thinking about the future or the past too much – something that came to a head for me in my Vipassana course.

13) Being too concerned about what people think about me. We have to realise that we’re not always going to please everyone.

14) Eating on the fly – “please sir, there’s a soup on the fly”

15) Writing lists. Feck.

Here are some successful people not doing things too:

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