I will admit it, most days I have a mental to do list a mile long. On the days that I write my list down it tends to get overwhelming. I have always supported the idea of saying “no” to things and have written about it in the past. But then I came across a similar idea that is supported in the business community by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.
Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We have ever expanding “to do” lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing – and doing more. And it rarely works. Those who build the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of “stop doing” lists as “to do” lists. They displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.
Isn’t it a freeing idea to think about creating a new “stop doing” list. I see the genius of it in running my home and my business. My husband is much better at some things than I am. He is the king of excel spreadsheets when it comes to tracking my business growth. He is also really good at cleaning up the kitchen after I have cooked dinner. But he is best at going through the mail.
I hated going through the mail as I saw it as something that created more action items in my day. It would be like that children’s book If You Give A Mouse A Cookie and I would find myself going from opening the mail….to needing to pay a bill…..to ordering something from a catalog….to realizing I am out of check blanks….to writing down an appointment in my calendar….and then look at the clock and an hour was gone. Now my husband processes the mail everyday and gives me anything that he thinks I need to give attention to. Usually I get a few things a week and it takes me minutes to do. My “stop doing” of processing the mail saved me tons of time and in the process it added just a few minutes a day to my husbands. The trade off was a huge bonus for both of us. I get an extra hour to do things that I normally didn’t have time to do that would flail to my husband to do. It is a win/win for both of us.
I have found many of my clients and my friends could save tons of time if they employed the “stop doing” list as well. For some it is making the dreaded frosting for classroom gingerbread house decorating every year. Or maybe it is the need to buy a gift for a family member you aren’t that close to and you resent the time and money each time you buy the gift. So stop doing those things. If you want to help in your child’s classroom, find what you are good at and play to your strengths. Maybe you like to drive for field trips….then that is what you should do. For the family member you dread buying a gift for..maybe you would rather take them out for lunch and spend time with them and become more close to them.
Usually by listening closely I can quickly figure out what people don’t enjoy doing. Even in their actions you can notice their shoulders raise up and their tone of voice changes. But if you ask them questions as to why they are doing things, their response is usually that they feel they “have to”. Nobody likes doing things because they have to. So stop doing those things. If you feel guilty about your stop doing list, figure out a way to deal with the guilt. Remind yourself how much happier you will be if you stick to your stop doing list. When my kids were young I would be the mom signing up to bring homemade treats. Because at the time I enjoyed it. Now I find I don’t enjoy it but I can sign up to bring a case of water. I still get to volunteer in some form, but now I don’t feel like I “have to”.
So take a few minutes today to make your list of “stop doing” by just sitting and thinking. You may need to ask your friends and family what they hear you complain about, that is a good hint that you should start there. If you complain about doing laundry, maybe someone in your family enjoys it (I love doing laundry). The hardest thing when you make your list is to stick to it. You will feel tempted to say yes to things out of habit. But you need to change the way you think and realize that you are going to gain some much valuable time in the process. So what are you waiting for…..stop doing!
To a more simplified life,