The “I Don’t Do” List Makes Possible the “I Do” List. You Must Revise Your Life

Think Tank: Why we all need a 'To Don't' List, just like Moses

 Have you ever thought of creating “I Don’t Do” lists instead of being “crazy-busy?” Check out Shauna Niequist’s or Mary DeMuth’s or Ann Lamott’s.

These lists have humility at their heart. You realize that if your goals differ from every other mum’s in church or at the school gate you cannot do what every other mum at church or at the school gate does. And this fact will come with some sadness and a sense of failure, and you accept that.

You recognize that you are never, never going to do what God has called you to do if you try to do everything that everyone else does. You realize that you can, at most, do one thing well, and so you focus.

* * *

Here is my extreme list, formulated through trial and error, through doing the opposite, and wearing myself out.

What I Don’t Do

1)   I don’t cook. At all. I have never learned to. Fortunately for me, I am an erratic cook. And a messy one. Fortunately, for me, too, my husband Roy is an excellent cook.

2)   I don’t clean. At all. We do have a splendid cleaner, and have weekly four hour cleans.

3)   I don’t enter stores!! Roy buys food. I buy clothes, books, and everything else I need online. And I only shop online for a definite need, not even looking at catalogues or websites or sales. No frivolous shopping any more.

4)   I don’t volunteer at my children’s schools. At all. I did some when Zoe was little for the joy it gave her, but I did not enjoy the experience, and would rather relate to my kids one-on-one.

5)   I don’t do gyms any more, but walk and do yoga instead.

6)   I don’t take meals round for people, except for close friends or in cases of genuine need. I did do that for several women who were ill or had babies, but the sight of the husband lolling with the remote control while we rushed there with their dinner was too galling.

Men are not genetically incapable of boiling spaghetti, grating cheese and chopping  a salad, and women should not impose on the good will of other women by asking for meals to be brought around in an age of grocery stores with healthy cooked meals and delivery services. Rant over.

6B) I resent the trivia which churches decide is women’s work. I resist calls on women to serve coffee at church breakfasts; hot cross buns at Easter, and mulled wine at Christmas. Men can heft a decanter of coffee or mulled wine as well as I. Flowers, altar linen, laying out the elements—nah!!  Women’s poetry reading and carol services during the work day. Nah!

7) I don’t “do” Christmas. I treat it as a time for rest.

What I Do Do

1) I do pray every day.

Without it, I lose my way, get depressed, forget priorities, get angry about silly things (notice my rant about meals), waste my time, waste my life.

2) I pretty much read or listen to my Bible every day. Many small tweaks in my daily life spring from my daily Bible reading.

Without Bible reading, I would soon lose my enthusiasm and passion for Christ, and for living as a Christian. That’s a fact.

3) I write every day.

4) I read every day.

5) I exercise pretty much every day, as much for mental health as well as for physical health.

6) And I nap every day I need to. Essential if I am to drag myself from my bed somewhat early.

7) We eat a family dinner together almost every day, and family lunches at weekends.

7B I spend time with friends twice a week

(P.S. I’d love to say 8) I wake up at 5 a.m. every day, but sadly, that wouldn’t be true L

Gosh, how much I had to cut to get this into place, and how much more unnecessary “fat” there is to cut. Facebook and Twitter, anyone?

Anne Lamott again: Every single day I try to figure out something I no longer agree to do. You get to change your mind—your parents may have accidentally forgotten to mention this to you. I cross one thing off the list of projects I mean to get done that day. 

How about you? What’s on your “I Don’t list”, and on your “I Do list?” 

Get all my posts quietly in your inbox by entering your email:


  1. says

    This is a great post Anita! I love the idea of making a “I Don’t List.” The more you know what you don’t do, the easier it will become to do what God wants you to do! Excellent post my friend!

  2. says

    This post is chock full of food for thought, Anita. I’d love to try my hand at something similar. I need to mull over my “do’s” and “don’t do’s” for a bit. But I’m envious of you re: not cooking and cleaning. Boy, what I’d give to not do those two! LOL