The Surprising Magic of a Not-To-Do List

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By Sue Ingebretson

If you’re symptom free and have all the great health you could ever ask for, you can stop reading now. If so, you’re possibly already following what I’m about to share. Do you have a To-Do list that includes ways to stay healthy? What about a Not-To-Do list? If you haven’t written yours, it’s time to get started.

Got pen and paper?

As I mentioned, you may already have a To-Do list when it comes to the protocols you use to stay healthy. But if the focus is only on the items included on that list, you may be missing out on some much needed support.

Writing down what NOT to do is equally important. Making a clear statement regarding the activities you plan to eliminate gives you permission to avoid what’s not working.

There’s a psychological benefit to drawing a line in the sand. A Not-To-Do list helps you to streamline your activities, make a determination (in advance) of those you’ll skip, and crystalizes what’s important to you. For example, telling yourself that you won’t overdo it at parties, allows you the latitude to define your “stay or go home” boundaries beforehand.

Just as with To-Do lists, writing down the items to include on your Not-To-Do list is key. To begin, you’ll need to assess your personal goals and what activities (and/or thoughts) get in the way. Here are a few key steps to consider in advance.

How to create a Not-To-Do list

These steps are a few of those outlined by Michael Hyatt (1), former CEO of a large publishing house. He’s now an efficiency expert and success mentor helping others to streamline their goal-setting results. Here are a few of his tips about creating a Not-To-Do list.

  • Find a quiet moment to take a look at your current To-Do list. Are there any items that you can delegate? What about items that don’t make good use of your personal skills or strengths?
  • Look at your scheduled tasks and appointments for last month (or more). Can you see any “fruitless” tasks that you did more than once and didn’t achieve what you wanted?
  • Look at your scheduled tasks and appointments for the current month. Are there any tasks or appointments that can be combined or eliminated?
  • Create your own Not-To-Do list from what you’ve discovered in this process and be sure to write them down.

Your list will likely include activities, tasks, and responsibilities related to your household. In addition, I’d like to suggest that you add the following items to your list.

Here are a few key items from mine.

Do NOT Do:

1)    Define yourself with negativity.

The words that follow “I am” are extremely important. Be kind to yourself. The more you think of yourself as a work in progress the better. Perfection is NOT the goal, so don’t sell yourself short. Here’s a sample of one way to look at the do’s and don’ts of self-talk.

DO: I am a healthy eater.

DON’T: I am trying to avoid Twinkies.

The words you speak create pictures in your mind. Therefore, the picture you create in your mind’s eye of “healthy eater” is far different from the picture you may see from the words, “trying to avoid Twinkies.” The second image likely brings to mind an image of struggling, striving, or battling in some way. And, of course, it creates a glaring mental picture of the very food you’d rather not see.

Avoid words that depict struggle and self-judgement such as trying, should, shouldn’t, etc. Instead, keep your intentions positive and supportive – especially when referring to yourself.

2)   Skip meals.

To keep a healthy metabolism, the body needs regular and consistent meals. A healthy breakfast, a sustaining lunch, and a light dinner (supper) are an important part of keeping the metabolism working at peak efficiency.

Skipping meals is a sure-fire way to create an emotional feeling of lack or insufficiency when it comes to nutrition. Feeling deprived can create an environment for future binges or for unintentionally eating unhealthy foods.

3)   Ignore your bedtime.

Make a plan (and make it a priority) to set a consistent bedtime. The body’s inner clock – your circadian rhythm – needs consistency to establish a healthy balance. Regular meals and a consistent sleep schedule pairs together to create body systems that perform at peak efficiency.

An irregular sleep schedule not only affects your ability to achieve restorative sleep, it disrupts your body’s natural ability to establish healthy hormonal regulation.

4)   Stay indoors.

If you haven’t heard, Vitamin D3 is crucial for a wide number of healing factors. It can lower the inflammatory response, help strengthen the immune system, boost mood and cognitive function, and build strong teeth and bones. Supplement forms of Vitamin D3 can help, but careful exposure to the sun outdoors is important, too.

Besides the general benefits of spending time in nature, exposing your skin (without chemical-based and harmful sunscreens) for just a few minutes per day can help. Try to expose as much skin as possible on the arms and trunk of your body for 5 – 10 minutes at midday.

Small doses of sun exposure improve heart health, pain regulation, energy levels, and hormone regulation. For more information on healthy sun exposure – including information on skin cancer risks – check out this “Sensible Sun Exposure” article.

5)   Sit for long periods.

If you’re affected by mobility issues, you may be less active than you’d like to be. Stiff or painful muscles, joints, and soft tissues make exercise a challenge and often contribute to a sedentary lifestyle.

Healing protocols for fibromyalgia typically include recommendations to move the body in some way. Fitness programs for fibromyalgia may include yoga, tai chi, walking, stretching, rebounding, low intensity circuit training, swimming, or any other favorite activity that’s gentle to the joints.

There’s good reason to keep the body moving. Regular body movement can improve mood, digestion, blood flow, and blood sugar levels. It can also lengthen and strengthen muscles while improving flexibility and stamina.

A regular fitness routine can also help you throughout the day. A regular fitness activity can help you to improve your sleep patterns including falling asleep more quickly and staying asleep.

If sitting for long periods of time is an issue for you, check out this article, “The 50/10 Guide for Fibromyalgia Mobility” which shares tips on how to get active and stay active.

Are you ready to write your own Not-To-Do list? Be sure to share your list with family members so they can help to support your goals.


  1. Do You Have A Not To-Do List?

Sue Ingebretson is the Natural Healing Editor for as well as a frequent contributor to ProHealth’s Fibromyalgia site. She’s an Amazon best-selling author, speaker, and workshop leader. Additionally, Sue is an Integrative Nutrition & Health Coach, a Certified Nutritional Therapist, a Master NLP Practitioner, and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. You can find out more and contact Sue at

Would you like to find out more about the effects of STRESS on your body? Download Sue’s free Is Stress Making You Sick? guide and discover your own Stress Profile by taking the surveys provided in this detailed 23-page report.

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