Why you should create a ‘stop doing’ list

2 min readJul 27, 2018


Set the ‘to do’ list aside for a moment and create one of these.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple as CEO in 1997 the company was in dire straits.

They had too many products and too many projects and the company needed to radically focus if they were to survive.

Jobs wasted no time in culling product lines and rationalising Apple’s offer to just two types of computer user: the home and the professional user.

The bravery of this decision meant pulling out of potentially lucrative markets. But it was this ruthless focus and the ability to say “no” to things that created the room for wildly successful products like the iMac, iPod and iPhone to be made.

Indeed, so driven was Jobs by a desire to omit the non-essential that he would ask his designer Johnny Ive how many time he had said the word “no” that day.

Whilst you might not be in the same position of having to save a failing computer company it’s almost a guarantee that you feel like you have a million and one things on your plate.

A seemingly never ending ‘to do’ list.

And this is the problem with lists of this nature. It’s all too easy to keep adding to them and it can quickly become overwhelming.

Luckily, there is a different way to approach the same problem of having a lot of stuff to do.

It’s called a ‘stop doing’ list.

It’s about identifying those tasks which are non-essential and either stopping them completely or delegating them.

Have a go at writing your own version. Write down all those daily tasks that you find yourself doing that are big time wasters and offer little in the way of a reward for your input.

Pin it up close to your workspace as a reminder.

As the Austrian-American management guru Peter Drucker famously quipped, “Half the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.”




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