I was fortunate to see live presentations by Seth Godin and Jim Collins at the Catalyst Conference today.
Collins provided an inspiring overview of his classic book, Good to Great. One of his primary points of emphasis was to create a stop-doing list. Good people and good companies have to-do lists, but the best also have lists of what they will stop-doing. Good activities distract us from what is best. We need to systematically eliminate these things from our lives.
He made the very important point that the time we have is finite but the number of choices we have is infinite. Therefore, it is vital to choose precisely how to make the most of the limited time that we have.
You can listen to a short audio clip of implementation ideas on his website (it is the first option under the latest clips). Here is a summary:
1. Identify your priorities. What are you passionate about? What are you the best at? Where can you make a distinctive contribution?
2. Start an actual, physical list of things to stop doing.
3. Every time you add a new activity to your to-do list, select an activity to stop doing.
4. Rank each of your activities from most important to least important. Drop the bottom 20%.
5. Blank page test: If this wasn't already on your list, would you add it now? If not, drop it.
6. Don't devote financial, psychological or emotional resources to activities that don't pass the preceding tests.
In a recent post, Seth Godin made a very similar point. He offered some very specific suggestions for what you should stop doing and what you should do with the time instead. Here is an excerpt:
1. Delete 120 minutes a day of 'spare time' from your life. This can include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.
2. Spend the 120 minutes doing this instead:
- Exercise for thirty minutes.
- Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business books, blogs, etc.)
- Send three thank you notes.
- Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
- Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
- Give a speech once a month about something you don't currently know a lot about.
3. Spend at least one weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being with people you love.
4. Only spend money, for one year, on things you absolutely need to get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.
"If you somehow pulled this off, then six months from now, you would be the fittest, best rested, most intelligent, best funded and motivated person in your office or your field. You would know how to do things other people don't, you'd have a wider network and you'd be more focused."
Two very successful and influential people. Two very similar messages. One very simple suggestion.
Do more by doing less. Do more important stuff by eliminating less important stuff. Make tough decisions. What we don't do is just as important as what we do.
I've tried this before and it works. Here are some things on my stop-doing list.
1. Stop watching TV.
2. Stop accepting fantasy football and NCAA tournament bracket invitations.
3. Stop checking my Amazon.com sales rankings so often. It's an addiction.
4. Stop serving on boards that I'm not passionate about.
5. Stop socializing with negative people who constantly complain.
What should be on your list? Will you start one? If you do, post a comment with excerpts from your list.
One last dilemma from Collins, should you add "create a stop-doing list" to your to-do list?