The “Stop Doing List” has been one of the most painful but powerful tools I have had to learn to use over the last 13 years of running a successful small business. 

However, before we get to that, I have a confession to make. I am a Visionary with a fair bit of Processor in me (for more on these terms and to find out what your dominant style is, check out this free test HERE.) With Visionaries and Processors on virtually opposite ends of the spectrum, this makes me a bit of an oddball when it comes to gift mix. Let me explain.

As a Visionary, I love to start things.

I love the thrill of taking on a new challenge. I am particularly keen on solving a previously unsolvable problem. I start a new project full of energy, passion, and direction. However, not much time passes before that energy, enthusiasm, and direction fade. It’s not for me slowing down. It’s usually because I’ve found a new challenge, a new opportunity, or a new problem to be solved. And I start the cycle again.

As a Processor, I commit for the long haul.

If it works, improve it, but only one thing at a time. 

Here’s how this plays out for me. I start something new. I figure it out and get everybody on board. By the time it’s ready to go, I’m a little bored, but I know I have to stick with it a bit longer. Then at the first signs of an inkling of success, I’m ready for the next thing, so I start again. 

Unfortunately, in those all too rare moments when I pause to look back on my past activities, I can count a large number of great ideas that were sort of finished and now linger in an only semi-profitable state. Even the pause to look back only comes as a result of the feeling of being pulled in a thousand directions yet never really moving forward.

It’s at this point that the Processor in me screams to keep it going. Just give it a little extra support, and everything will be ok.

What I’ve found over the years, however, is that the real value, the lasting value, the value that moves everything forward really happens when we execute, and to do this we must be able to focus and stay focused.

What I've found over the years, however, is that the real value, the lasting value, the value that moves everything forward really happens when we execute, and to do this we must be able to focus and stay focused. Click To Tweet

It pains me to say; those unfinished endeavors were great but costly learning opportunities. Many of them burned up quickly. However, some lingered on draining bits of resource month after month with no real signs of growth.

When we start something new, only to fall short of the finish line, what we sacrifice most is our momentum. We may bury this in the language of falling forward, but in a moment of honesty, I must admit that it has more to do with my own desire for new than it does for real value for my clients and my company.

How do we, as Visionaries, solve this problem? We say yes to the right things and no to everything else. 

And it’s hard to do.

This is why I use a tool called a Stop Doing List. The Stop Doing List can be used organizationally, but in this article, I’d like to focus on what it looks like personally. Steve Jobs once said, 

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Try it for yourself

So get out a pen and paper and start your Stop Doing List. 

  1. At the top of the page, write one thing that you REALLY want to accomplish in the next week or maybe even the next 90 days. Starting here and writing it down is essential because it provides the context and the impetus to say no.
  2. With your YES in place, it is time to make some space in your schedule. You can start easy with a bad habit or two you have like checking social media or sports scores when you should be working. 
  3. Next, consider one or two things you are currently doing, but could delegate to another team member.
  4. If you’re feeling brave, pick one thing you’ve done for a long time, that is good but not great. Add it to the list and shut it down.

If you can start saying no, you will begin to free up yourself and your team to say yes to the right things. They will love you for it, and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.