By Breanna Olaveson, Contributor

why your don't list is as important as your to-do list

We task-oriented humans define ourselves by what we do. When we meet someone for the first time, we ask, “What do you do for a living?” When we reconnect with old friends, it’s “What have you been doing lately?” And there’s always the endearing greeting, “How do you do?”

So it’s only natural that we make ‘to-do’ lists. These handy little task managers give our days direction, help us reach goals, and keep our time organized. It’s easy—even important—to give our to-do lists a high priority. Surely scheduling enough time for work, school, shopping, meetings, volunteering, and appointments are a necessary part of every person’s life.

The danger comes when we become so concerned with accomplishing enough tasks that this once-helpful organizational tool becomes a ruthless dictator of our time and resources. When our to-do lists are too long, stress, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy dominate.

At the end of the day, most items on our to-do lists just aren’t all that fulfilling. While necessary, things like laundry and shopping don’t strengthen faith or turn our hearts to those around us. A properly constructed “don’t” list can be the perfect remedy.

So here’s a suggestion—instead of making a to-do list, make yourself a “don’t” list. Try it just once. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Don’t get discouraged.

Don’t give up.

Don’t hide your faith.

Don’t be afraid.

Or, you might have more specific ‘don’ts’ in mind. Maybe goals like “Don’t interrupt people when they’re talking” or “Don’t complain” or “Don’t gossip” would be more helpful for you. In any case, we can define ourselves just as much by what we don’t do as what we do.

Your “don’t” list can become just as important as your to-do list when it strengthens your faith in God and in yourself. So don’t lose faith. Don’t worry. Don’t ignore the people around you.

In the immortal words of Journey, “Don’t stop believin’.”

Breanna is the author of one book, the mother of two daughters, and a frequent contributor to several faith-based magazines and blogs. She blogs about her faith, her family, and her favorite books at