The Not-To-Do List for 2023
Everybody talks about things they want to do this year. Instead, let's talk about what not to do in 2023.
New beginnings are perfect inflection points to make a change.
Every new year.
Every first of the month.
There are 365 opportunities per year to make a change, to start anew, but a new year is the most powerful one.
If you’ve been to the gym for the past few weeks, you know what I’m talking about.
And you can tell a lot of people haven’t been there in a while, if ever.
Might look like this:
(Just kidding, that’s just an average CrossFit training group)
And in February, everything’s back to normal. With New Year’s Resolutions, we usually try to add things to our routine. But where exactly will you find the time and energy if you don’t cut out anything?
Enter the Not-To-Do List: a list of things that you’re not going to do in 2023.
 Charging my phone inside of my bedroom
Two key pieces of advice that you can read everywhere:
No blue-light exposure before bed, ideally up to 1 hour
Don’t look at your phone first thing in the morning (happiness is abundant by design, scarce by accident).
Needless to say, I don’t follow either - and most of this is due to environmental design:
I use a WiFi-based lighting system. Therefore, in order to turn the light on and off, I need my phone.
My phone charger is right beside my bed.
If I wake up during the night and want to know what time it is, I need to look at my phone.
Therefore, by way of design in my room, my phone is around. And then, it’s just too tempting to “just take a quick look”.
This temptation needs to be removed, by doing these three things:
Get a reading lamp that can be turned on and off with a switch (revolutionary, I know)
Move phone charger out of the bedroom
Get an alarm clock that displays the time and the time only (and can double as an alarm if necessary)
On top of this: with the phone out of the bedroom, I need to get out of bed even if I just wanted to get it. And once I’m out of bed, it’s easier to just start the day anyway - thus creating time for all the other things I do.
Change your environment, change your behaviour.
 Keeping Slack and Email open at all times during the workday (+ have my phone in visible reach)
Back in my university days, my studying schedule (when I was actually studying, so for about 4 weeks per semester) looked like this:
Three blocks of 2h per day
1h break between the blocks
Each block is made up of 4 “pomodoros” with 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of break.
This schedule of largely undistracted work allowed me to study the whole contents of a semester in four weeks and still finish top 10% of my class.
Fast forward to today: I find it incredibly difficult to focus for even 15 minutes at a time, especially at work. Distractions everywhere: a new Slack message here, a new email there, WhatsApp message on my phone, new subscriber on my newsletter.
Absolute productivity killer.
Not just when doing deep work, but also in meetings. I notice that I sometimes don’t pay attention when I really should.
Again: change your environment, change your behaviour.
Once I close Slack and Email, and put my phone out of sight (behind the laptop is actually enough) with muted notifications, the focus comes back.
So this year, I vow to open up my communication tools maximally once per hour, and focus on my work in between. This will save time and energy.
 Moving apartments
Since 2016, there have been only two years in which I didn’t move apartments once: 2019 and 2021.
This year, I do not want to move apartments.
It takes time, energy, re-design of environment, new habits, it’s expensive, … nothing good about it. Just keep everything the way it is so I can focus on other things.
 Drinking coffee within 90 minutes of waking
Recently, I learned that drinking coffee within a short time of waking really screws with your circadian rhythm (see IG#1). I am guilty of sometimes grabbing a coffee 30 minutes after waking - even though that’s totally unnecessary. So this year, just wait it out a bit. With healthy sleeping habits, there shouldn’t be any need for coffee this early.
 Accepting things “the way they are” when they’re really annoying me
I’ve been dealing with a plantar fasciitis for a while now, and it hasn’t really been getting any better. I’ve noticed falling into a thought pattern of just accepting it how it is, thinking: “guess I just won’t play Lacrosse this year.”
NO. My foot shouldn’t be hurting with every step I take.
And I will keep working on it, doing everything I can in order to get that back on track. I recently had a breakthrough with a physical therapist, and I will be back.
Reclaim your locus of control. You CAN always do something, regardless whether it’s in your personal or professional life.
 Only traveling to countries that I’ve been to before
2022 was the first year since … I don’t even know when where I didn’t travel to a new country. Even in 2020, I managed to briefly touch down in a new country.
I love exploring new cultures, new places, and while it is getting increasingly more difficult to travel to new countries. It gives me a ton of energy.
Following the first principle of “do things that give you energy”, let’s get back to exploring.
These are the things I want to particularly focus on, but the Not-To-Dos from past years haven’t changed and apply as well. You know that feeling when you look at something you’ve created a while ago, and realise: damn, that was actually pretty good? I don’t get it often, but looking back at these lists I’m a bit happy.
On top of these things, the Not-To-Do Lists from the past still apply: the principles have been tested and work well. Here’s a refresher of things already on m not-to-do list:
Going to bed after 2am
Avoiding tough conversations
Trying to solve every problem myself
Living in the past or the future too much
Letting external validation drive my sense of self-value
Putting these measures into place should free up both time and energy: the two most valuable resources available to every single one of us.
With the new year just starting out, it’s a good time to make these resources available.
We have a lot of new beginnings ahead of us.
Let’s make the most of them.