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What’s on your “Stop Doing” list?

New Year’s is great for making resolutions about what we’re going to do. But, what may be more important is making a list of things we’re not going to do! 

So wrote popular author and speaker Jim Collins (“Good to Great”) in USA Today a few years ago (www.jimcollins.com.) “The start of the New Year is a perfect time to start a ‘stop doing’ list and to make this the cornerstone of your New Year’s resolutions,” he advised.

Collins noted he had taken a course on innovation at the Stamford Graduate School of Business. One of his instructors, Rochelle Myers, later told him he lacked discipline. “Your genetic energy level enables your lack of discipline,” she said. “Instead of leading a disciplined life, you lead a busy life.” It caused him to take a hard look and make some major changes.

Seeing that article again got me seriously thinking about how I waste time these days. Moreover, while my list contains a half dozen items, I acknowledge numero uno is the computer. Hello, my name is Norm . . . and I’ve been addicted to wasting time on the computer!

It starts with e-mail. I’m an e-mail slave. I’m betting I’m not the only one. I constantly stop whatever I’m doing to check email. If I’m just walking by the computer at home I stop. If I’m working I tell myself it’s important to pause and check e-mail . . . you know, there may be something that I should know about. Like, someone might have tweeted they’re stopping for a burger at Mickey D’s! Or, all those friends or acquaintances that think well enough of me to forward the dozens of political, humorous or sexy items that land in my e-mail daily.

Explain this to me: How is it that before Facebook, I didn’t know when someone was getting their kinks worked out at the chiropractor, and nowadays I gotta know this? I don’t care. But I still use up time to read this stuff!

If that’s not enough, I pile onto my e-mail obsession the wasting of more time surfing the Internet every time a question or idea pops into my head. Sure the Internet has made it possible for us to research as never before, and I can’t imagine blogging without it. But most often, the questions I’m looking into aren’t related to anything I’m currently working on. Still, I waste the time pursuing this link and the next link and – well, you get the idea.

Realizing for the first time the real hours I was wasting this way nearly every day has slapped me in the face as hard as the time I tried to grope Dottie DeLuca behind the bike rack in junior high! So, my most important “stop doing” resolution is to be more disciplined by: (1) checking my e-mail only once each morning and once in the afternoon; and (2) to jot down on a post-it-note any question or idea I want to research and do it only at night or weekends.

How am I doing? I am definitely more productive, getting more things done today rather than tomorrow, and I feel good about it. And, if any of my time-squandering has a familiar ring to you, I suggest it will be very profitable to think about some new discipline, too.

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