Reader Tim Bailen writes in: “Thought you guys would like this idea — that a ‘stop doing’ list is more important than a ‘to-do’ list. It’s from Jim Collins’ study of companies that went from 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 built the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of ‘stop doing’ lists as ‘to do’ lists.
Collins also discusses how “stop doing” lists can relate to one’s personal and professional life in this essay.
1) What are you deeply passionate about?
2) What are you are genetically encoded for — what activities do you feel just “made to do”?
3) What makes economic sense — what can you make a living at?
Those fortunate enough to find or create a practical intersection of the three circles have the basis for a great work life.
Think of the three circles as a personal guidance mechanism. As you navigate the twists and turns of a chaotic world, it acts like a compass. Am I on target? Do I need to adjust left, up, down, right? If you make an inventory of your activities today, what percentage of your time falls outside the three circles?
If it is more than 50%, then the stop doing list might be your most important tool…
A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit — to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort — that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company or, most important of all, a life.
That’s a good way to put it: You need the discipline to discard what does not fit.