American White Pelican on a rock at the zoo

This guy is going to make sure I do everything on my to-don't list.

I’m sure most people have made a to-do list at some point in their lives. Some are even obsessed with the satisfaction of ticking things off the to-do lists. I’ve added things to my list just for the pleasure of ticking them off as done. I’ve made honey-do lists, things-I-need-to-do-someday-today lists, stuff-that-will-drive-me-insane-if-I-don’t-do-them-soon lists. But have you ever made a to-don’t list?

My husband says women are good at making to-don’t lists. “Don’t look at her.” “Don’t leave the toilet seat up.” “Don’t leave your underwear on the floor.” “Don’t eat that.”

But that’s not what I mean.

If you have a goal or project that is taking top priority in your life, some other things are going to slide off the list of things to do. When I’m writing, stuff like dishes, laundry, grocery shopping and making phone calls all wind up on the to-don’t list.

After a couple of weeks of focus on my story, I’ll look up in surprise at the horrific state of affairs around me. Dust an inch thick, desk covered in crumbs from eating over the keyboard, sink piled full of dishes, and the carpet…let’s not even talk about it. I look like a hoarder. And I immediately feel guilty about letting those things get so far out of hand.

I’ve decided I no longer need to feel guilty about ignoring some tasks so that others can be accomplished. Guilt is, as they say, over rated. And it drains energy. Instead of worrying about what I’m not doing, or feeling like I’m the worst human on the planet for not being able to do it all, I’m making a to-don’t list instead. For the next two weeks, I’m focused solely on revising my work in progress. If I don’t focus on it, I’ll never be able to publish it and instead of being a published author I’ll be that crazy lady who sits alone all day grumbling at her computer surrounded by cats. I’ve therefore given myself permission to not even try to juggle it all.

For the next two weeks, I will not:

1. Dust, sweep, mop or vacuum.

2. Bother to make sure my shirt matches my pants.

3. Use real dishes. Paper plates are a lot easier to clean up.

4. Do laundry. I have enough underwear to make it two weeks, which is the time allotted for revisions.

5. Cook any meal that requires more than two steps. We may be eating a lot of sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.

It’s incredibly freeing to put things on the to-don’t list. Try it. For the next two weeks make two lists. To-do, and to-don’t. See how it goes. No guilt allowed. What will you sacrifice in order to make the to-do list happen?

By the way, it’s just as satisfying to check off the to-don’t list as it is the to-do list. Just sayin’