Parenting Guild



Do a "Don't Do" List!



"I know that keeping lists can be beneficial in terms of helping us figure out what's important. But if, as many of us did, you got carried away with your lists, you may have to reconsider and cut your lists back to more realistic proportions".

      - Source: Elaine St. James, Living the Simple Life (Hyperion, 1996)



"Reducing the volume of our activities makes it possible not only to ease time pressure but to get more out of life overall".

      - Source: Ralph Keyes, TIMELOCK How Life Got So Hectic and What You Can Do About It (HarperCollins, 1991)


STOP! Before you read any further, take out a piece of paper. Draw a large circle.

Ready now?

Look at the circle you've drawn and think of it as a clock with 24 hours. Halfway around would equal 12 hours.

Put a dot at the top of the circle and label that dot with the time you get up to begin your day. Put a second dot at the point on the circle proportional to the number of hours later when you go to bed. Draw a pie-shaped wedge to the center of your circle from the two dots.

For example, if you sleep about eight hours, your "sleep section" will fill about one third of your 24-hour clock.

Next, quickly think through a typical day. Divide the rest of the clock into wedges that show how much time is spent in other activities. Label the different areas: work, eating, meal preparation, commuting, personal grooming, work around house, watch TV, etc.

If you're like most people, your circle could use a few more hours to accommodate your daily "to do" list activities. Or, you might wish for extra hours to accomplish personal goals such as learning to speak another language.

Rather than adding "take a time management class" to your "to do" list, consider starting a "don't do" list. You may discover what the authors cited at the beginning of this article found: Doing LESS can bring MORE enjoyment to your life. Especially if doing less allows you to spend time doing more to contribute to your health and happiness!

Exercise and diet are two areas often given short shrift in the typical time-squeezed day. Yet they are important for our overall quality of life.

The theme for the American Dietetic Association's (ADA) National Nutrition Month® this past March was "Make nutrition come alive. It's all about you." This year, free up your time so you can achieve your personal fitness goals.

"Great idea," you may be saying, "but how?" Here are some tips from time-savvy ADA registered dietitians who were asked: What one or more things have you STOPPED doing to have more time to focus on eating healthy and exercising? Perhaps one will trigger a "don't do" for you.

"The most helpful thing that I can think of that I have done to make more time is that we moved our TV set out of our living room on the main floor of our home, to the rec room in our basement. I watch very little TV now that I have to make the intentional decision to go downstairs to watch it; what I do watch is usually planned watching and not something I just happened to get interested in because the set was on and it caught my eye.

I also refuse to buy any clothing for me or my family members that requires ironing".

Carol Selden
Jackson, Michigan (Currently a full-time Mom)


"I stopped painting my fingernails to have time for a Master's Swimming program. I used to spend one night a week on my nails and now I spend it swimming instead.

I replaced styling my hair, mousse and hair spray and got a wash and wear haircut so I can work out during my lunch hour and still get back to work.

Instead of getting together with girlfriends for birthday lunches, we get together for birthday runs or bike rides."

Lizann Powers-Hammond
Benton County Cooperative Extension
Kennewick, Washington


"Don't stay up late watching lame shows on TV. Go to bed early, get up early, and head to the gym to exercise. You'll feel better all day long."

Jane Erickson, Food Service Director
St.Joseph's Medical Center, Brainerd, Minnesota


Don't go near the kitchen or any place else there's food while you're on the telephone."

Shari P. Mermelstein,
Editorial Assistant/Nutritionist
Good Housekeeping Magazine


"Don't try so hard to please your family with all the proper food groups and favorites when pushed for time -- whole-grain cereal with milk, fresh fruit, yogurt, juice, and peanut butter are favorites for all family members, take just minutes to put on the table, and can fulfill all of the food groups. The five course meal will have to wait.

Don't keep searching your calendar for an hour block of time to go to the gym or health club and away from your family -- look for those opportunities to play and be active -- it counts!!! Playing in the park, biking, walking at the zoo, raking and playing in the leaves are all fun for kids and provide a chance to be active. Physical activity . . . it's everywhere you go!!!"

Barbara Fraser,
Cardiovascular Health Program
NE Department of Health and Human Services.


"I no longer answer the phone in the middle of exercising. Important messages are now left on my answering machine -- other callers simply hang up! I can always return a call, but . . . I may not return to exercising."

Alice Henneman,
FoodTalk listowner

Now. Go back to the circle that you divided into time spent on daily activities. Look it over and ask "What can I leave out?" Start thinking "don't do" and start "don't doing" it NOW!



This article used with permission by the author:
FoodTalk E-mail Newsletter, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County.




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