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Tool Kit: The To-Stop-Doing List

We imagine that being efficient will take us closer to our goals. We measure efficiency through number of things done. Efficacy, however, is a different animal
by Caitlin Schiller | Oct 2 2014

Being effective means giving your time and attention only to the things that contribute to your most meaningful goals.


In The Art of Nonconformity, Chris Guillebeau explains that the only way to make room for everything you’ve always wanted is to eliminate the unnecessary. Easier said than done, but Guillebeau offers up a new riff on the old standard: the “to-stop-doing” list for tasks that don’t advance your goals or confer fulfillment to you, and do not help others.

Your to-stop-doing list helps you see everything that’s getting in the way of what you want. Guillebau explains:

“Your to-stop-doing list is exactly what it sounds like: a list of things you simply don’t want to do anymore. There will always be tasks that drain your energy for outcomes you believe in—it takes a lot of energy to be a social worker, for example—but the to-stop-doing list is for tasks that bring you down without giving you joy or helping anyone else.”

Some obligations, of course, are easier to ax than others. Seth Godin, who writes one of the most popular business blogs in the world, responds to every email he gets. When asked how, he explains that he doesn’t watch TV or go to meetings, which gives him four or five more hours a day to devote to what really matters to him.

Make Your To-Stop-Doing List:

Think about the tasks that siphon off your energy without contributing anything worthwhile. For you, that could be answering work emails on weekends, working through your lunch break, or spending time on admin you could outsource to someone – anyone – who isn’t you. Grab a pen and get going – your to-stop-doing list will be as personal as your goals are.

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