The Fountain of Wisdom – March 3, 2008

Free for the Taking − Help Yourself and Pass It On

Over the ages, we have indeed been blessed with a bountiful gift of wisdom from some of the world’s greatest minds representing every walk of life. This new series will share some of that wisdom along with suggestions for application to many of today’s growing challenges. If you’d like to contribute a personal favorite, please do so by sending your offering to


Let’s get started …

Start a “Stop-Doing” List

This one is so basic and makes so much sense that I’m shocked no one came up with it 100 years ago. A “To-Do” list has been a critical time management tool for a very long time and, of course, still provides tremendous value. However, if not prudent, you can allow that list to grow beyond reason. For that very reason, our “I Hate Time Management” program now explains the many benefits of a “Stop-Doing” list.

The renowned Peter Drucker focused on this concept in several of his early books and, more recently, research by Jim Collins (author of Good to Great and co-author of Built to Last) certainly solidifies this theory. Collins found that one of the commonalities of the companies that were able to propel themselves from being just good to being great is that they all looked at what they were currently doing that they needed to stop doing. Therefore, you can add those successful companies to the growing list of believers in this unique strategy.

A great place to begin is in sharing a basic definition of a “Stop-Doing” list. It’s nothing more than a simple inventory of bad habits or negative actions currently practiced by an individual, team or organization that would provide better results if they were discontinued.

I’d very much like to provide you with a list of those habits and/or actions which should appear on this list, but I’ve learned from our seminar break-out sessions that those lists differ considerably from person to person and group to group. Your list can be greatly impacted by a variety of factors such as culture, experience, education, product, service, competition, technology, team members, leadership, etc.

Once your list is compiled, evaluate each component by asking: “Does this task add value or generate positive results for me and/or my organization?” If the answer is no, it should go right on top of your “Stop-Doing” list. Should the answer be yes, then ask: “Am I the best person to do this task?” The first question tells you whether you can eliminate the task. The second question tells you whether you can delegate or empower that task to someone else.

Once you’ve successfully completed your “Stop-Doing” list and actually ceased doing those tasks on your list, you’ll quickly discover a great deal of additional time and energy which you can now divert to other challenges.

The obvious and very valuable lesson here is: Until you begin to stop doing some things, you will not make significant progress in your personal growth or the improvement of your organization.

Once you’ve recognized the tremendous value of this strategy, you should consider asking yourself:

  • “What else could and should I stop doing?”
  • “What should our organization stop doing?”
  • “What might others on our team stop doing?”

These questions should be routine in your organization from this day forward. This process is another example of Continuous And Never-Ending Improvement (CANI). We all seem to be very good at coming up with new things to add to our “To-Do” list. However, significant improvement will never come until we and our colleagues learn how to stop doing things and behaving in ways that are no longer effective. Now is the time to start.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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