Where's your to-stop-doing list?

Create your personal "to-stop-doing" list and simplify your life.

Create your personal "to-stop-doing" list and simplify your life.

All of us have some kind of a to-do list. We keep track of what we need to accomplish and relish the moment when we scratch off an item on our list. I had a colleague who would make a list that includes a few items already completed just so she can start by scratching a few things off!

But where's your “to-stop-doing" list?

Many things have changed over the years. We no longer blast faxes, nor do we use paper maps or go online to prepare and print directions.

So, what are you still doing that you simply shouldn't anymore? What tasks aren't relevant, valuable or important? I'm not talking about delegating or postponing; I'm talking about eliminating completely. Stop.

We've stopped learning how to shoe horses or maintain our simple engine cars, or at least most of us have.

There is great value in traditions in our family lore and faith. But if the only answer to a question in business is, “Well, we’ve always done it that way,” stop doing it!

This is concurrently both a terrifying and liberating process for leaders. I've personally coached a number of executives through this process. It's powerful, and it really works.

We can all eliminate 10 percent of our to-dos

Start with a pen and a blank sheet. Or a new  document. From memory, make a list of all your to-dos that come to mind. Stop when you reach 10. Then, step back and reflect. There will be at least one item that doesn’t need to be done anymore. It may be that mid-month meeting or report, the pre-planning meeting for the meeting or a status update nobody really reviews.

At least 10 percent of everyone's to-do list can simply be eliminated with no real loss.

What are the characteristics of good things to put on a to-stop-doing list? I believe they fall into three categories:

  • Used to be important, but isn't anymore (that mid-month update, etc.)
  • Can now be replaced more efficiently with different technology (instead of printing, stamping and mailing invoices, email a PDF.)
  • Your responsibilities have evolved, but you are still doing the old things (it's now someone else's to-do now, not yours!)

Ask the right questions

One of our clients issued daily software updates. In addition, at the end of each month, he consolidated all of the monthly changes into one summary. But he wondered how much value his colleagues received from this monthly summary.

He surveyed all 300 of the recipients of his monthly report, and he only received nine responses. #9 told him, “I never read your summary, but I really like you, and wanted to respond to your request.”

Clearly, this activity should immediately go to the top of his to-stop-doing list.

Simplify to add value

Another example takes me back to the time I asked a client if our monthly activity reports were helpful. He said, “Absolutely, yes. I compile them into a quarterly report I provide to my boss.”

Hmmm. I then asked if it would be easier for him if we prepared quarterly updates instead of monthly updates. This not only helped our client, but it took activities off our team’s monthly to-do list.

Consider simply stop-doing a specific task that you don't think serves a purpose anymore, and observe if anyone notices or complains. If so, start right back up again. You will be pleasantly surprised by how many tasks you simply don't have to do anymore.

Create your personal to-stop-doing list today and then scratch that task off your to-do list.