Diana Shi has written an article for Fast Company in which she describes how she tried to craft a "to-don't list" as a means of improving her effectiveness while working remotely. She defines it as follows: "In essence, the list is a curated collection of activities that can derail your energy and motivation. They’re often alluring but end up creating a distracting spiral, sapping you of your most productive hours." Shi began by reflecting on her daily activities and trying to identify those that derailed her and lowered her effectiveness and personal satisfaction. Shi discovered that the list helped her in several important ways:
1. The list offered helped her establish some personal accountability by providing a visible reminder of the actions that distracted her or prevented her from maintaining her energy and focus. Her list included items such as not sitting in one place for more than an hour, drinking too much caffeine, or engaging in a specific inefficient work practice to which she had become accustomed.
2. The list helped her spot unhealthy patterns in her daily routine. She identified the times and the activities during which she had high energy and productivity, as well as the practices that were not as effective. She quotes time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders: " “I think a to-don’t list is helpful if you’re working remotely. A lot of times our minds wander because we’re simply bored and seeking stimulation. Knowing what your unhealthy patterns may be when you’re bored, and preemptively limiting them, can help you to make better choices in the moment."
3. Finally, the list helped her feel a sense of accomplishment, just in a different way that a traditional to-do list. She writes, "Something can be said for being able to look over your list of “to-don’t’s” and not crossing them off, but congratulating yourself on the self-control needed to follow them. I felt less defeated, since I didn’t have an entire collection of tasks to address by late-afternoon. Moreover, my “to-don’t” bulletin made me aware of why it was I hit a wall."