Forget the "To Do List" Start Making a "Stop Doing List"!

by / ⠀Personal Branding Startup Advice / October 4, 2010

When you need to accomplish a goal, you have that final report due in, that essay or even just needing to push yourself to run the 100 meters in 12 seconds flat, we seem fascinated by ‘To Do Lists’. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, a To Do List is a prioritized list of items to achieve, usually by the end of the day or week, and often include some what mundane tasks like grocery shopping or gardening, all the way up to important tasks, such as apply for ten jobs, make 60% on the next maths test or find a way to earn $100,000 cash by Thursday (we may as well aim high). In simple terms a ‘To do list’ is a list of goals, some daily goals with a few weekly goals. We know this concept, with most people having some form of To Do List, few are however aware of or apply the powerful principal Jim Collins discovered in his ground breaking research summarized in his seminal business management  book ‘Good to Great’. This is the principal of the ‘STOP doing lists’.

A STOP Doing List is a basic tool which seeks to reduce the amount of time people waste, and in effect, focus their time and energy on achieving results.  After all, how much time does Facebook really need? And why reply to that email instantly when you’re busy writing a report? People waste so much of their time by simply not utilizing their time productivity. Your STOP Doing List is a personal list you don’t have to show anyone, but something that everyone should have, and it will enable you to both find your wasted time and then work out how you can use that time to the greatest effect and start kicking goals.

When writing your STOP Doing List firstly think about what you enjoy, then where your income is derived, and finally anything you do which is blatantly wasteful. Next you need to write each and every one out, keeping activities grouped into “Things to completely stop” and “Things to limit”. Don’t worry if your list goes for 5, 6 or 7 pages, mine went to 8. The longer the list the more excited you should be, as this means it will be easier for you to start using your time more efficiently and you will start seeing results sooner, so be as open and honest with yourself as you possibly can.

It’s quite possible that watching Entertainment Tonight every night to find out the latest gossip on Paris Hilton will fall into the ‘things to completely stop’ and ‘things to limit’ would be for example Facebook and Twitter – useful tools, but many people go overboard with their time on these sites. A neat tip for websites is that you can set up a program to block access to the website after a certain amount of time spent on there each day or block the site from one time to another. An example from my life of one thing I needed to limit: I spent almost 2 hours a DAY on Facebook, so I installed the program and set a limiter of 1 hour, this was too long again so limited it to 35mins per day other than Sunday to ensure the use of my time was best spent, now I have the time back to write these blogs!

The key to remember is, when writing your Stop Doing List the best use of your time might not always be the most fun or the most enjoyable but you need to find a strong drive and desire for something more in your life. Then start using the time you were previously wasting to work towards this dream.

Scott Cowley is an 18 year old entrepreneur, writer and student currently writing a book about the opportunities available for Gen Y.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.