We all have ever growing to-do lists.
We add items to them and check them off as they are completed. It’s great to know what you need or have to do, but what about all those things we do that we shouldn’t be? The things we do every day that kill our productivity. That’s what a “Stop Doing” list is for.
I first came across the “Stop Doing” list in an essay by Jim Collins. He stated that one of the commonalities of the companies who were able to propel themselves from being just good to being great is that they all looked at what they were currently doing that they needed to Stop Doing.
Collins also discusses how “Stop Doing” lists can relate to one’s personal and professional life in this essay:
1) What are you deeply passionate about?
2) What are you are genetically encoded for — what activities do you feel just “made to do”?
3) What makes economic sense — what can you make a living at?
Those fortunate enough to find or create a practical intersection of the three circles have the basis for a great work life.
Think of the three circles as a personal guidance mechanism. As you navigate the twists and turns of a chaotic world, it acts like a compass. Am I on target? Do I need to adjust left, up, down, right? If you make an inventory of your activities today, what percentage of your time falls outside the three circles?
If it is more than 50%, then the stop doing list might be your most important tool…
A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit — to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort — that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.
Below I created a visual of the above concept:
You need the discipline to discard what does not fit.
Seriously, the current state of our lives is that there is generally too much to do and not enough time. So, go through this exercise at least once and see what you can shed from your “to do” list. If you like the results, then establish a routine and do this every 6 months or a year. The point is that you want to spend your time on high impact tasks, and work that you enjoy. We have a (Not)ToDo.list pad that can help you with this.