Create a “Stop Doing” List

Habits to Stop Doing to Make the Most of Your Time

I am sure we’re all familiar with the To-Do list. Maybe you’re one that creates lists a couple times a year when you’re feeling motivated and overwhelmed. Or, possibly you’re the type of person who can’t function without your daily To-Do list. Either way, I’d like to suggest another type of list that will help you make the most of your time. A Stop Doing List!

I LOVE this idea. Doesn’t the title make you want to jump for joy? Kiss somebody?

A “Stop Doing” list is often more effective than a “to-do” list if you want to make the most of your time. The reason is simple—what you don’t do determines what you can do. It’s the things you choose to eliminate that can make daily life easier, more productive, and enjoyable. And, who doesn’t want more of that?

Here are a few ideas to help you “Stop Doing” and make the most of your time.

The approach is the same as your “To-Do” list—experiment with only one of these suggestions at a time.

  1. Identify What Distracts You

Often, we don’t accomplish the items at the top of our To-Do list because we are easily distracted by the mundane, less meaningful things.

What might be on your list that distracts you from doing the more important things?

Here’s a simple question you can ask yourself:

What are the things that I do on a daily basis that waste my time?

Here are some of mine:

  • Walking aimlessly through my day versus having a priority list to keep me focused.
  • Spending unnecessary time on e-mail, Facebook and social media.
  • Avoiding making decisions.
  • Lacking boundaries around my time.
  • Not having a limit on the time I stay on phone calls.
  • Saying yes when I want to say no.
  • Getting caught up in perfectionism.
  • Doing too much for my kids.
  • Not asking for help.
  • People pleasing (trying to keep everybody happy, or at least not have them be mad at me).
  • Not having a specific agenda in meetings or an end time.

What might be two things that you can stop doing that are distracting you?

  1. Have Strategies to Stop Distractions (or at least minimize them).

When we intentionally create a space where we are less distracted, we can’t help but be more focused and engaged in the here and now.

One of these important strategies is to gain control of your phone, e-mail and social media.

Piers Steel, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading researchers on the science of motivation and procrastination, estimates that by simply banishing your email notifications, you will increase your productivity by 10%. That means gaining back a whole month of productivity within a year’s time!

We all do this dozens, if not more times per day—looking at our phones whenever they ding, feeling the need to immediately respond back to every text, e-mail, and social media notification. This can consume a TON of time.


Tim Ferris, author of The 4-hour Work Week, recommends that you establish two or three set times each day to check and answer e-mails. He suggests you also wait to check your e-mails until 10am, after you’ve completed at least one of your critical to-do items. For some of you, depending on the type of work you do, this suggestion may not be possible. However, there may be room to adapt this strategy to work for you (i.e. checking e-mail every hour or two). Also, limit and schedule tasks for specific times.

  1. Stop Multi-Tasking.

I take pride in being a huge multi-tasker. But you know what, it certainly has its downside? For years, I have watched my mom successfully accomplish things one task at a time. It has bugged the heck out of me watching her spend so much time getting one thing done, only to accomplish so much more than me—and more efficiently! I’m still baffled.

We have been told multi-tasking is a good thing but the time experts say multi-tasking doesn’t work. Reflecting on this, I realized that I often have numerous projects started at once but never get anything done efficiently.

Here’s the expert’s reasoning. Every single time you pull yourself away from your most important task at hand, no matter how small it may appear to be, you loose momentum and attention, and have to pull yourself back again.

Let me add one more thing— this doesn’t mean that you can’t take breaks. Setting a timer is a great way to stay focused on one task at a time. I find it helpful to set a timer for about an hour to focus on one thing then take a 30 minute break and come right back to it.

Experiment with what works for you.

  1. Identify Your Number One Priority for the Day.

What is the top priority you need to get done today? Do it first thing!

Ferris, gives us some excellent advice, “Do not work more to fix overwhelmingness—prioritize. If you don’t prioritize, everything seems urgent and important.” He goes on to state that the answer to overwhelmingness is not spinning more plates, or doing more. It’s defining the few things that can really fundamentally change your daily tasks, work, and life.

What is on the top of your priority list for today?

    5.  Stop Doing What Drains Your Energy

The most efficient and successful people are the ones that establish clarity for what they need to do in order to maximize their energy resources.

What are a few things that drain your energy?

For me, procrastination drains my energy. Numbing out mindlessly in front of the TV, computer or on my phone drains my energy. Trying to please everyone drains my energy.

There is a saying that goes something like this, “Try to please everybody and you please no one. Try to please yourself and you will please someone.” I don’t know, who said it, but I like it.

Trying to please everyone will drain our energy every time. It’s impossible and we end up upsetting other people more by pretending we can. We wind up stretching ourselves too thin, driving ourselves crazy, and resenting everyone. Note to self: ADD THIS TO THE STOP DOING LIST AND STOP DOING IT. By doing so, we are free to spend the time doing what maximizes our energy resources and gives us life.

In summary, our growth edge is to be mindful of the things that we can stop doing that distract us from the very things that we NEED to do. The goal is not to work harder but to live our life and enjoy it! Focusing on the things you CAN stop doing, will enable you to make the most of your time and do the things you love.

Questions: What one thing would be helpful for you to stop doing? What might energize you to accomplish more?

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