What is an Undo List?
I’ve always been the kind of person who lives life by her to-do list. Even before starting a bullet journal, I’d keep a running to-do list in a Word document on my computer. There’s a real satisfaction that comes from crossing completed tasks off that list, and I’ve always found it so much easier to prioritize when I can see everything laid out in front of me. Keeping a to-do list is the most effective way I’ve found to accomplish my goals. It helps me focus on what I want and take the necessary steps to get there, one task at a time. If this works so well at helping me stick to my good habits, couldn’t the same technique be used for breaking bad habits?
That’s where the idea of an undo list came into play. When I sit down to make a to-do list, I’m thinking about all the things that I need or want to do in order to have a full, happy life. It allows me to plot the most effective course to get there. An undo list does exactly the opposite. When making an undo list, the question becomes “What things am I doing now that I need to undo to have a full, happy life?”
I sat down with my bullet journal to attempt to answer this question, and my undo list was born. I discovered in the process that there are several easily-identifiable bad habits that are keeping me from living the life I want. I’m currently doing things that waste my time, add to my stress level, and even damage my health. These are things I want to undo, and so they went on my list. If you are struggling to identify your bad habits, you can use a habit tracker to help you track both good habits and bad.
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How an Und0 List Works
Just like a to-do list, an undo list helps you get focused on what you want and helps you take small steps to get there. When I was making my undo list, one of the first things I zeroed in on was the amount of time I waste on my smartphone. I spend upwards of three hours every day playing around on my phone. Some of that time is spent doing things I actually enjoy, like watching YouTube videos or getting in touch with people I care about on social media. However, probably 85% of that time is spent doing things that don’t matter at all and that I don’t even particularly enjoy.
Clearly, my smartphone addiction is a habit that I need to undo. I can use my undo list to outline small tasks that will help me break this bad habit. For example, one of my tasks is to stay off social media until 10 a.m. I can’t even tell you how many mornings I was almost late for work because I spent 25 minutes trawling Twitter instead of doing my hair. Another task is to silence my phone by 10 p.m. every evening. This gives me at least an hour every night to get ready for bed in peace. I can spend that time reading a book or talking to my husband instead, both of which I care about much more than whatever is happening on my smartphone.
The undo list is almost entirely about breaking bad habits. As we all know, habits have the power to change our lives. This is empowering when we’re creating positive habits, but it can be pretty terrifying when we think about negative ones. As you create an undo list, here are some tips that can help you undo your bad habits.
A Guide to Breaking Bad Habits
Understand your triggers
Another habit I want to undo is my excessive Pepsi drinking. We’re talking 64 oz. per day. I know it’s bad for my heart and my teeth and my digestive system. I know I should quit, but I do it anyway. The biggest trigger for my Pepsi drinking is stress. When I’m stressed, I want a Pepsi. I want that shot of caffeine. Knowing what triggers our bad habits helps us avoid those situations and eliminate them more easily.
For most things, quitting cold turkey doesn’t work. It’s much more sustainable to make gradual changes and improvements. It’s harder to break bad habits than to start good ones because they’re already so deeply ingrained. Getting out of old ruts can take time, so it’s important to take small steps.
Change your environment
Am I going to quit drinking Pepsi if there’s a 12-pack waiting in my fridge? Absolutely not. Will I spend less time on my smartphone if I carry it from room to room with me like a lifeline? No way. Make changes to the things around you to set yourself up for success.
Develop a substitute plan
You’ve probably heard it said that it’s not enough to break a bad habit; you have to replace it with a good one. That’s because leaving a hole in your life where a bad habit used to be, just causes you to dwell on the lack, and that means you’re more likely to relapse. Find something that brings you joy to fill that time instead.
In my opinion, this is one of the most important steps. When I decided to cut back on my smartphone usage, I immediately told my husband. He keeps me accountable. If I’m curled up on the couch with my face in my phone, he’ll call me out on it and encourage me to do something else instead. It’s easier to accomplish our goals when someone else is cheering us on or holding us accountable.
Plan for failure
You’ll probably slip up, and that’s when most people spiral and relapse into their old bad habits. Don’t do that. Plan ahead for how you’ll respond to situations where you fall off the wagon. Reevaluate, forgive yourself, and try again.
It’s Never Too Late to Undo
Breaking bad habits isn’t easy, especially if we’ve been doing them for a long time. I’ve had a Pepsi pretty much every single day since I was 16-years-old, and the thought of going without it makes me feel bereft on a strangely emotional level. Quitting will take work, but I know it will make my life better. It’s never too late to make changes, undo, and start over.