My to-do list this week is insane. The list seems endless, there are arrows to other items, things marked out, and things underlined. I couldn’t survive without a list to help make sense of my day. In some ways my list is healthy. It allows me to stay focused and to prioritize my activities during the day. In other ways, my list is unhealthy. It feeds a compulsion that I have been battling for a while. It’s just so easy to add one more thing to the list, to pretend that I have an infinite amount of time and unlimited resources. There’s a quote from Jim Collins incredible book, Good To Great that helps me return to sanity when I’ve let my to-do list get too long.
“Your stop-doing list is more important that your to-do list.”
Collins advocates taking time on a consistent basis to evaluate what you are doing, and to remove things from your to-do list by creating a stop-doing list. Here are three ways that a stop-doing list can help you this week:
1)It allows you to spend more time doing the things that matter most.
It’s so easy to spend gobs of time doing small things, which then cause us to not have enough time to do the things that matter the most. Just because an activity is good doesn’t mean it’s good for you. We all have things that are important to us. Spending time on those things and with those people gives you greater fulfillment and helps differentiate you from everybody else.
2)It allows you to practice your “no”.
I am convinced that the word “no” is critical to healthy work and relationships. It’s not always easy to say “no”. There are so many good opportunities and so many people that we don’t want to let down. But if you never say “no” you will never find your unique fit at work or in your relationships. You'll spend all of your time doing things that matter to everyone else. Practicing our “no” helps us be ready to fend off the pressure and turn things down when we need to. Building your stop-doing list is a great way to find the freedom that “no” offers.
3)It reminds you that life isn’t all about productivity.
If you try to do everything, you rarely get to fully enjoy anything. An overly long to-do list is an indication that you have come to believe that productivity is life. Productivity is important, and we should all take seriously the things we hope to accomplish, but life is more than productivity. You were not placed on this planet just to get things done. You were made to love and be loved. You were made to enjoy moments of rest. Not only are you to help others, you are to allow others to help you. Finding something you can take off your schedule is a good way to break your productivity obsession.
Take some time this week and find something to stop doing. Step off of that committee. Don’t coach this year. Don’t squeeze in another client. It’s only when we are able to stop doing things that we are free to enjoy the things we choose to do, the causes we choose to fight for, and the people we choose to love.