Another year has come and gone, and we now find ourselves – as employees, employers, managers and leaders – already across the threshold of the new year. Many of us have (or will shortly) come back to the office and begin to play “catch-up” on items that accumulated while were were on end of year PTO. We’ll probably also review what we didn’t complete last year but still want to accomplish, and create a goal set for this year. While these are certainly important items, there is another exercise you should undertake even before you start the aforementioned review/planning – create a “stop doing list.”
What is a stop doing list?
I first learned of the stop doing list while reading “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. He, in turn, learned of it from Rochelle Myers during a creativity and innovation course he attended. Fundamentally, the list is a mechanism to help you identify current practices that are diverting time, energy and resources that should be allocated elsewhere. It boils down to helping you move from a state of being busy to one of increased effectiveness and discipline.
What should a stop doing list Look Like?
Items on a stop doing list vary from person to person, and will invariably change over time. The important thing to remember is that the list is about improving resource (and specifically time) allocation, and not about accomplishing a project or list-based goal. To help illustrate this, here is my 2013 list, which was particularly effective in helping me develop professionally:
- Stop doing tactical work without a larger strategy in place first
- Stop spending a disproportionate amount of time putting out fires
- Stop assuming a process or procedure already exists
Your list will undoubtedly be different, however I would caution you against making it too broad. As with annual goals, having too many items on your stop doing list may be an indication that you need to reassess. As many people have said, and I firmly believe, if you have too many priorities, you don’t have any. Keep your list manageable. I’d suggest between 3 and 6 Stop Doing items.
When should I develop my stop doing list?
I believe creating a stop doing list should be your highest priority, and the first piece of your annual plan; it will help in the development and execution of everything else you work on for the remainder of the year. As a bonus, it will also help you sift through the end-of-year PTO catch-up, as well as last year’s leftover projects, and serve as a guide for allocating your time in the most effective way possible going forward. As a result, you likely will experience productivity increases and a decrease in your frustration levels. You may also find you have more time and energy to direct towards major projects.
Make your stop doing list! Below are some resources you may want to review before undertaking this project. Good luck!