It’s Time to Make a Stop-Doing List

stop-doing list

We’ve all heard of to-do lists. What about stop-doing lists?

For weeks now, I’ve been blogging about the book “Good to Great.” Last week I touched on the culture of discipline and how that can be a powerful thing for any organization. This week, I’ve decided to write a follow up blog focusing in one thing Jim Collins wrote about in that chapter: stop-doing lists.

While you can read my last blog to get a good idea about where I’m coming from, I also think this quote from the book sums up the idea of a stop-doing list nicely: “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 build the good-to-great companies, however, made as much use of ‘stop-doing’ lists as ‘to-do’ lists. They displayed a remarkable discipline to unplug all sorts of extraneous junk.”

I don’t know about you, but this chapter hit our editorial team hard. We sat down to discuss it and realized how much “extraneous junk” we’ve been doing. That keeps us from working on our strengths and meeting our audiences’ needs. It keeps us from having a zeroed-in focus that can propel us to success. So, we decided to do something about it.

We made our own stop-doing list, thinking of all the things that draw our focus away from our Hedgehog Concept/mission in our jobs. Some things jumped out pretty quickly, items we’ve been doing for years because, well, that’s what you do. But they haven’t been a positive in helping us reach our potential. It was time to cut them out.

In fact, Collins’ last words of the chapter are powerful and pushed us to action: “The real question is, once you know the right thing, do you have the discipline to do the right thing, and equally important, to stop doing the wrong things?”

So we’ve been slowly shifting. Tasks and duties are being either cut out or reorganized. We are determined to work 80 percent in our strengths, 20 percent in our weaknesses. There’s a lot of change that needs to happen, and it’s going to be hard, but it’s obvious it needs to be done.

In the end, a stop-doing list can free up space on your start-doing list. So, what’s holding you back from creating one today? Sit down and ask yourself, “What am I doing that draws my focus away from our Hedgehog Concept?”

Once you find your list, stop doing those things as soon as possible. And remember, though it can be tempting to become busy again, it’s OK to say no. In fact, you probably should say no more than you do. As Collins shared, “It takes discipline to say, ‘No, thank you’ to big opportunities.”

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at