The Stop Doing List

If you’re like me, you have a To Do list — whether the high-tech version on your smart phone or the low-tech kind written on a Post-It, or perhaps just maintained in your head. But do you have a Stop Doing list? Maybe you should.

I got this idea from Jim Collin’s illuminating book, Good to Great — Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. Part of what makes good companies great is not being overly diversified. The great companies he studied pursued a single “Hedgehog Concept” (being the best at one thing rather than being an also-ran at a bunch of different things) and were utterly disciplined in sticking to it. They eliminated all activities that did not contribute to the pursuit of their mission.

How does this translate to you and me? It means that both at work and at home we become more disciplined about our To Do list. Rather than just piling more and more items onto the list, we ask ourselves whether it is really worth our time. At work you might ask:  Is your effort contributing to your core mission? Are you good at it (or could you become good at it?) Are you doing something that no one else could do? At home you might ask: Does this task contribute to your family’s core needs? Does this activity add to the joy or meaning of your life? Is it healthy/good for you? Is it adding to rather than taking away from things you care about?  If the answer is No, then you need STOP and either drop it entirely or delegate.

If you “drop the extraneous junk” you can focus more effectively on the To Dos that matter. The result is better performance and less stress. Essentially, you need to check in with your values and make some choices.

What belongs on your Stop Doing list? A work function you should have delegated but have a hard time letting go of? A pet project that is going nowhere? Volunteering for every cause that comes along? Free yourself and your energy for a better use and see what becomes possible.