Got too much on your plate? Rather than try cram more into your already busy day, here’s how to create a stop doing list so you can do less to get more.
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All my life, I’ve been in love with lists.
I have kept lists for many years. I don’t think I could function without one – that my husband lives his life list-free actually causes me anxiety.
My earliest memory of my lists is from when I was around 8.
As children, we would frequently go stay with my grandmother for a week or so when my mother needed some time out.
I would make a list of all the items I took with me on the visit – clothes, hairbrushes, books – so that I could make sure I didn’t forget anything when it was time to go home.
I made other kinds of lists too.
Lists of books or toys I wanted. Lists of things to teach my dolls at my school (obviously in training for my future career at a young age!).
The list that shaped my 10 year old self’s days.
It was more a schedule than a list: tasks for the morning from waking up, showering, making my lunch and so on, all in rigid five to ten minute slots.
When I started to become more self aware as an adult and to examine some of my tendencies to see both how they came to exist and whether or not they still served me, I realized that my lists were how I created order and stability in my world, and as such served a very important purpose.
You see, life was pretty chaotic when I was a child as my mom suffered from mental illness.
Things in my life were unpredictable and uncontrollable and sometimes downright scary.
Lists gave me both structure and a tool to survive.
And now as a teacher who also runs her own business, lists are more important to me than ever.
If things are going wrong, or if I’m feeling overwhelmed, making a detailed list of brain dump is one of the first things I do.
And I have to do lists, task lists, all kind of lists to keep my life both in and out of school flowing smoothly.
But there’s been one recent addition to the list collection – and that’s the stop-doing list.
It’s been such a valuable addition to my thinking, I wanted to share it so that you can do one too.
Here’s what I’ll cover:
- What is a stop doing list
- Why you need a stop doing list
- How to create a stop doing list
- What benefits you’ll see
- Stop doing list examples
At the end, you’ll have your own stop doing list, so you too can do less to get more!
You might like: How to create a self care plan.
What is a stop doing list?
A stop doing list is simply a list of either tasks, activities, habits, and / or behaviors that you are no longer going to do.
A stop doing list focused on tasks or activities might contain things you are currently doing that you thought would help you achieve a goal but are not having any effect.
A stop doing list focused on habits might contain things like having to buy lunches because you run out of time to prepare them at home.
A stop doing list focused on behaviors might contain things like, “yes, I’ll do that,” when someone asks you to do an extra task at school that’s outside your job description.
Of course, your stop doing list could contain any or all of these.
Why you need a stop doing list
There are many reasons why you need a stop doing list.
As I mentioned above, at it’s most practical, a stop doing list is things you physically do that you are not going to do any more.
See the thing is, we only have 24 hours in a day.
And it’s funny how well-rounded is seen as something desirable, because the reality is, if you do all the things you’re not going to do anything 100%.
Using some totally fictitious numbers, but if you spend three hours with your family, three hours with your friends, three hours going for a run, three hours on your personal goals, that’s 12 hours of the day right there.
Cut out the friends and add those hours to your goals and you will achieve what you want in half the time.
Cut out the run as well and you’ll do it in a third of the time.
And I can hear you arguing now – but I need my friends! And they need me! And I need to exercise.
And it’s true that an active social network and physical exercise are two important aspects for wellness.
I’m not advocating cutting them out.
I am illustrating a point for you to hold on to when we come to creating your own list.
And I want you to think about something else.
I have a theory that most of us – especially those of us managing our families as well as teaching – are operating at our maximum capacity most of the time.
Everything is stuffed full.
That is why we lose the plot when that one thing happens – that one extra thing that we don’t have the space for- and so it tips us over the edge and into overwhelm.
What I see in staff is that it’s often report writing and parent interview time – when you ladle a couple of intense extras on top of an already full plate.
The trick is to create some white space in your life – a buffer, so that when you have those extras, you have the ability to take them on without imploding.
This is what a stop doing list can help you achieve.
A disconnect with core values
You might also need a stop doing list because some of the things you’re doing, or the way you’re behaving, might go against your core values.
For example, a core value might be the importance of family, but you’ve been attending a lot of social events for work that compromise both your time and your energy.
Now that you know what a stop doing list is and why you need one, the next step is to go about creating it.
How to create a stop doing list
To create your stop doing list, you can work through any or all of the following questions.
The first few are about making a considered evaluation about your whole life and how you’re managing it.
Or you can simply skip to the bottom of the post to see my stop doing list examples and use them to inspire you!
What are your values?
In order to work out whether what you are doing is in line with your core values, you need to know what your core values are.
You can find a list of core values here as well as some suggestions for how to ascertain what yours are.
Write them down.
What are your life categories?
You know how I said I had lists everywhere right?
I usually have a list for each of my life categories.
I define a life category as an area of my life with its own specific requirements, goals, and activities.
I use Hal Elrod’s Level 10 Life categories (in his book The Miracle Morning he provides a link to the Fast Starter kit which goes into what a Level 10 life is all about).
These categories are
- Family and friends
- Personal development
- Physical environment
- Health and fitness
- Giving and contribution
- Fun and recreation
Make a list of your own categories.
What are your goals?
What are you working towards right now? What are you trying to achieve?
Get out your goal list or create your goals in line with your values and your life categories.
Make a list of what you do in a week
Now make a list of everything you do in a week.
This is where the categories can also help you as you can think though each one and how each one impacts on your time.
Decide what to cut
I suggest, in the spirit of things to stop doing, that you remember my point above about being well-rounded.
A Level 10 life does not have to be even all the time.
Everything has a season, right?
Right now, fun and recreation are way, way down on my list of priorities.
And although I used to volunteer in the past as a hospice biographer, I make a choice to not do that now to free up time to work on my business when I’m not at school.
So assess the activities against your values and your goals.
Make decisions about what the things you will stop doing and add them to your stop doing list.
Don’t over think this, because the next questions we are asking will help you refine this even further.
Now on to the next step.
How might this practice be holding me back?
Is there anything that you are doing right now that might seem necessary and important, but could in fact be holding you back?
Maybe things you’ve done because they’ve always been done – but now that you think about it, aren’t as crucial as you think?
This is when it can be a good idea to work out your return on investment – that is what you’re getting back in return for the effort you’re putting in.
Assess what you’re doing to see if it’s helping or if in fact it’s working against you because it’s stopping you doing something more meaningful.
What good can go to make way for great?
There are things that are good ways to spend your time. Things that will help you move and progress towards your goals – or simply help create a better, happier and healthier environment.
But could some of those good things be put off or discarded altogether in order to make way for something great?
For example, you might have a goal to become a great baker, preserver, gardener, more prolific reader, and crocheter.
These are all goals I set for myself this year that fit under my “fun and recreation” category.
Right now, I am working on baking one new thing a month (I can’t do this any more frequently because they’re just my husband and me at home now and we eat all the things. Plus it always takes me so long to cook something new).
That list of goals is actually more of a stop doing for now list, with the exception of baking.
Because if anything is on there that does not relate to baking – then I am choosing NOT to do it.
It’s still there for when its time comes. But that time is not now.
How does the Pareto principle work here?
The Pareto principle says that 20% of the work is responsible for 80% of the results (and vice versa)
So let’s use housework for this example.
Vacuuming = huge impact in our house. Especially as we have two dogs, and they love to bring in bits of bark from the garden and chew it all over the carpet.
Dusting = not so much of an impact.
Let’s say we want to reduce how much time we spend doing housework in a week.
We might make the call to vacuum every week but only dust every second week.
(We might also pay for a cleaner. See more on this below).
Have a look at the things still on your list of all the things that you made at the beginning of this article.
Can you see some that you could stop doing because their impact is so minimal?
Or that you could stop doing so frequently?
Can I double dip?
Again for those items that are still on your list – can you merge some of them together?
For example, can you bond with your husband by going for a run with him?
Can you listen to a personal development podcast while you clean the house?
This way you can keep the activity but stop doing them separately.
Is there a better way?
So many times we get stuck in a rut of how we think things should be.
We forget that there could be a better way.
For example, my husband and I used to spend a lot of time talking about and sometimes getting cross about not clearly communicating commitments we had outside the house AND about people using up grocery items and not putting them on the list.
Then I would go make the grocery list only to discover afterwards that there were things we had missed.
Then we started using the free app Cozi Family Organizer to a) to put all our appointments on and b) to add those grocery items to.
Time and frustration saved!
I’m also a firm believer that when both people are working then outsourcing should be embraced.
The housework shouldn’t be stopped – but YOU can stop doing it.
Pay for whatever help you can afford that will make your life easier.
How is this helping me achieve my goals?
Finally, this is a question to help you manage your distractions.
We all have guilty pleasures, and these can be one of the hardest things to stop doing but also the ones that will have the most impact.
Mine would have to be the internet – and probably it is for some of you too.
Social media in particular is a huge time suck.
And when you do most of your work on the computer, like us teachers do, the temptation to go check Facebook, or your email, is super high.
I’m speaking from experience. And I know that this is made worse when I’m waiting for something.
For example, if I’m waiting for something to load, I’ll whip over to Facebook instead of waiting the 10 seconds it would take.
Then it’s a few minutes at least before I can pull myself back – even longer if I spy an interesting looking article to read.
When I catch myself doing this, I have a question I ask myself: How is this helping me achieve my goals?
Of course the answer invariably is that it is not helping at all.
This is usually enough motivation to stop doing the activity and return to the task at hand.
What benefits should I see?
Now you know how to create your stop doing list, there’s just one more thing to do and that’s to note how much time you think you will save from stopping these activities.
Remember what I said at the beginning – imagine how you could repurpose that time to meet other goals even faster.
Or imagine having some of that white space in your life for when the pressure gets put on.
If you have done a habits or other behaviors, write down what stopping them is going to bring to your life.
Have this information with your stop doing list.
Stop doing list examples
So now we’re almost done, if you’re after some practical examples of things to stop doing, here’s my suggestions.
Things to stop doing on the internet
- scrolling your Facebook newsfeed
- taking pictures for Instagram
- having email open
- being in Facebook groups
- subscribing to mailing lists
- having your phone in your bedroom
- having your phone next to you at home
- reading online news
- playing game apps
- answering school emails in the evening / on the weekend
Things to stop doing at home
- asking more than once
- signing up children for activities
- helping children with their homework
- restacking dishwasher after husband has done it
- refolding washing after husband has done it
Things to stop doing at work
- gossiping about other teachers
- excessive meetings (if you have any say in this)
- unnecessary emails
- taking things parents, kids and colleagues do and say personally
- saying yes to everything
- inefficient practices
- working through your breaks
- reacting to demands without thinking / prioritizing
Unhealthy habits to stop doing
- drinking soda
- drinking alcohol in excess
- adding sugar to hot drinks
- eating junk food
- mindless eating
- sitting for prolonged periods
- taking lifts / escalators etc when you could walk
- staying up late
Behaviors to stop doing
- taking it personally
- saying yes
- saying I’m sorry
- caring about the opinions of people who don’t matter
- giving up
- being a pushover
- saying you’re too busy
- saying you can’t afford it
- saying you don’t have time
- being defensive
- comparing yourself to others
As you can see, there’s a wealth of things that you can stop doing today.
Following the process of evaluating your values, life categories and goals, looking to see what you’re doing and what you can cut, and then applying some of these ideas such as “is there a better way” will enable you to create a stop doing list.
Your stop doing list will enable you to do less to get more!