How to Learn From Your Mistakes and Make Better Decisions

How many times have you made a mental note to yourself that you were not going to repeat the same mistakes or same decisions?

We’ve all been there.

But how many times have we actually learnt from our mistakes?

Here’s the thing: human beings are emotional creatures. We often make decisions base on current feelings, not logic. Craving for a cheat meal? We buy chips anyway and throw the diet plan out of the window. Feeling lonely? We swipe for the next date. If we are not intentional about the decisions we make, we will be repeating behaviours and we will never change.


If you keep a list to remind you about things you have to do, you will be no stranger to this: that to-do list is neverending. It might actually be called a brain dump list – you just jot down whatever comes to mind. If you don’t prioritise your tasks and schedule them in your calendar, they never get done. I do think that to-do list is problematic in a sense. This is why we should have a guideline when it comes to what we should do – professionally and personally. Specifically, how we can play to our strengths and only work on high-level tasks. Such guideline is called a not-to-do list.

Why you should have a not-to-do list

  1. Protect your sanity

We only have that much time and energy to spare. Nobody’s got time for tasks or even people that are not necessary. Sometimes we all need a little reminder – not to call your ex when you’re drunk, not to talk sense to someone you know won’t listen etc. I’ve had countless experiences where I checked my phone first thing in the morning. Once I read a piece of sad news, the whole day’s ruined. As said, when we get emotional we tend to forget what history taught us and act out of character. Life will be better when we make more accurate decisions based on past experience, not emotions.

2. Focus on what really matters

Let’s end the loop of regrets now. What truly matters to you? What are your weaknesses and distractions? Reflect on your past. Why were you not able to do what you said you would? Did you spend time on things that are worthwhile? Set boundaries so that you can stay focused on what resonates with your core values. We all need more discipline in different areas of life so that we can achieve our goals. By having a not-to-do list, we can be more productive and efficient because we actively choose to work on things that are important, not urgent. It also helps us concentrate on our goals and not be distracted by noises or shiny objects.

What do put in the not-to-do list

Here are some suggestions if you’re not sure where to start – based on protecting our sanity, productivity and making sure we head towards our goals.

  1. What affects your mental health
    • Tasks or people that drain your energy
    • Work hours
    • Environment
    • Bad habits
    • Things that you tend to ignore when you get caught up but will affect your well-being in general, e.g. not enough hydration or exercise
  2. What causes negative consequences
    • Again, habits you want to eliminate
    • Other people’s responsibilities
    • Things that are time consuming but not urgent (can you delegate or outsource those tasks?)
    • Distractions (defined by you)
  3. What your future self WON’T do
    • Things that are not aligned with your core values
    • Things simply don’t matter


You can spend some time to reflect on your past decisions to curate your own list, or write it up as you go. I tend to do both since life is essentially a journey of learning and unlearning about yourself. Ultimately, it is all about raising self-awareness of your physical and emotional reactions when things happen. To truly grow, we have to learn from the past and make better decisions that benefit our well-being and get us closer to our goals.

Comment down below to let me know what’s the top of your not-to-do list! 👇🏻