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The Not-To-Do List for 2021

2020 didn’t go as planned. Let’s make sure we learn from it and make 2021 better.

Dominik Nitsch
5 min read
The Not-To-Do List for 2021
Photo by Xiyu Zhang on Unsplash

Last year, I published my Not-To-Do list for the first time. It’s my type new year’s resolution, because I believe that new year’s resolutions don’t work.

The Not-To-Do List for 2020
Instead of trying to figure out what you should be doing in 2020, ask yourself: what should I NOT be doing?

New year’s resolutions add to our life: do more of this, do more of that. But in reality, our lives are full already. We don’t have time for more things. We don’t have money for more things, or don’t need more things either.

What we need is less. Less destructive habits. Less negative thinking. Less stress.

So let’s think about what we shouldn’t do, instead of what we should do. Because — as I’m certain you know from experience — knowing that we “should do” something doesn’t mean we’ll actually do it.

Here is my Not-To-Do List for 2021.

In 2021, I do not want to …

1. Let external validation define my sense of self-value

Most of the things I’ve done so far were ultimately driven by the desire to gain validation: from my family, from my friends, from my colleagues, from women.

Validation is human. We’re tribal creatures, and if you don’t get validation from the tribe, you will likely not survive. And it can be used as a positive driver: after all, I’m proud of all the things that I’ve achieved.

But eventually, it’ll lead to misery. Because it means that you cannot be happy without others.

Who will be there to tell you that you’re awesome, that you’re doing great, that you’re good enough? When you’re alone, nobody.

We need to learn how to be happy with ourselves.

Take romantic relationships. Good relationships are greater than the sum of its parts. They take two functional and reflected humans, and create value on top of those.

But many relationships are the exact opposite: both partners use the relationship to address an issue that they have, just as you would use a band-aid. They siphon energy from each other, and instead of allowing the partners to be the best versions of themselves, they become subpar versions of themselves — because they’re too busy filling each other’s holes.*

The same goes for writing. I strongly believe one should write because he or she enjoys the process. But then again, I check my Medium stats at least once per day, and every clap gives me a new dopamine hit from validation. And if the post does not perform, I’m unhappy.

But why? I write because I enjoy the process. Or do I?

This year, I want to work on valuing myself regardless of what others say or do.

2. Live in the past or the future too much

I’m a planner. I love organizing things, scheduling my weeks and months, and knowing what I’m up to at every single minute.

This also keeps me from thoroughly enjoying the moment. I glance at my watch way too often, checking how much time I still have before I have to run off to my next appointment, or go to bed.

Once I’m in bed, I think about what happened today, or yesterday, or five years ago. Or I plan out what I’m going to do in the future.

A certain degree of that is fine. But not all the time.

If 2020 has taught us one thing, it is that joy is fleeting. Who knows when and if we can go to concerts again? Who knows when and if we can spend time with our grandparents again?

When the moment arrives, embrace it. Be there. Be present. The future will sort itself out.

This year, I want to life in the present and simply enjoy the days as they come and go.

3. Wear comfortable clothes all the time

If one clothing item defined 2020, it’s sweatpants (or the utter lack of pants). Working from home robbed us of the best catwalk we can get: the office. Now, it’s perfectly acceptable to hang out in sweatpants or shorts all the time, as long as you’re wearing a somewhat decent t-shirt.

As athlete, I certainly embraced that.

And now, it has to change.

Cam Newton said it best in All Or Nothing (S4E4, min 32:18):

“you look good, you feel good. you feel good, you play good. you play good, they pay good.”

What are you suggesting to yourself when you wear your chill clothes all the time?

That it’s time to chill.

And when we were able to go back to the office, I hadn’t really lost that notion. While still putting on normal pants, I usually wore hoodies, and didn’t really give a damn about the rest of my clothing.

Which kept me in this “chill” state of mind. Just like you shouldn’t work in bed, you shouldn’t work in the clothes in which you hang out.

Outside appearance matters, folks. And this year I wanna make sure that I look the part — even if it’s just at home.

As I’m typing these lines wearing my suit, I also realize that I haven’t worn it in almost a year — and the 6kg (muscle mass, you fools) I gained in 2020 definitely make it a bit tight. Probably need to fly to Southeast Asia this year to get a new one tailored.

Suiting up at home for no reason other than being less chill and more productive. Photo by the author.

4. Multitask and have distractions open

Case in point: before writing this section, I spent ±20 mins looking at email, other articles on Medium, simply because my browser tabs were open.

Multitasking is the #1 enemy of productivity. Context switching costs us a lot of attention, and everything I’ve done today probably could’ve been done within 120 minutes. Yet I’m standing here at 2:59pm (having started at 10am), still not done with everything I wanted to achieve today.

A few underlying not-to-dos are:

  • leaving your phone in plain sight and/or on loud
  • having more than 3 browser tabs open (if you want to preserve your tabs regardless, I recommend the OneTab Chrome extension)
  • leaving notifications on your computer open when trying to do work (especially Slack, WhatsApp Web and Email)

This year, I want to work with intensity. Multitasking isn’t part of it.

Work Hard, Recover Hard: Getting Shit Done Without Working Yourselves To Death
Intensity. Whatever you do, do it with Intensity.

I’m very happy with the not-to-dos from last year — they helped me quite a lot, so I want to take most of those into this year as well. The work is never over.

This way, I hope to build an ever-growing lists of not-to-dos in order to become the most effective person I can be.

Now hold on one second. Don’t close this tab yet and go back to the lovely distractions that you have everywhere.

You have work to do.

What are the things you shouldn’t do in 2021?

Write your list, and feel free to share it with me.

Thanks for reading! If you like what you read, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter. On a not-so-regular basis, I send out emails with cool stuff I’ve read or written, and other inspiring stories I come across.

[*]: and no, I do not mean sexually. what were you thinking?!

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