What’s on Your List?

What’s on Your List?

March 20, 2014

What’s on Your List by Lynette Meck

Several years ago at this time of the year I had just returned from a three day retreat in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains in western Massachusetts. 

I needed this retreat away from work and other commitments.  The “to do” lists and “shoulds” were overtaking me. 

Lists are good.  They keep us focused and organized. 

A little “should” is good. 

However, too much of either is overwhelming:  I should be able to work 10 hours a day at my job, have a relaxing meal with my spouse and children, keep evening appointments, do laundry, fold it and put it away.  I should read books relevant to my profession as well as books just for fun.  I should continue my education or pursue another degree.  I should get 8 hours of sleep every night. I should practice my violin.  I should walk 10,000 steps!

So I had gone to the Berkshires for quiet space. I read. I wrote.  I walked in the surrounding hills.  When I returned, I felt refreshed, energized and ready to re-engage. 

In our roles as leaders, managers or coaches, we need to find ways to refresh in the midst of a lot of activity. 

Susan Scott says in Fierce Conversations, “Just as rests and pauses in music lend beauty to the words and rhythm, so do pauses in our lives and in conversation lend credibility and authenticity to our work and other activity.”

When I returned from the Berkshires, I made a list of ways to stay fresh:

  1. Do not end a year with unused vacation time.
  2. Take a weekend, or a day, if longer vacations aren’t possible.
  3. Leave your desk in the midst of particularly stressful times. Go outside; it’s amazing how freeing it can be to look at the sky.
  4. Examine your “to do” list.   Is every item listed essential?  If so, can any be shared within the family or delegated within the organization?
  5. Make a “Stop Doing” list.

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, says “stop doing” lists are more important than “to do” lists.

The “stop doing” concept made me look in a new way at many of my personal choices.

More than that, it affected the work of an entire department I supervised.   The staff was feeling overworked and overwhelmed.  When asked to make a list of tasks or processes that could be added to a “stop doing” list, they eagerly engaged, developing a list of 8-10 items for consideration.   Old processes that had little value were discontinued.  Others were streamlined.  The “stop doing” process made a significant difference in their work and ability to manage it.  It also created a sense of more control over their work.

Collins says, “Most of us….have ever-expanding “to do” lists, trying to build momentum by doing, doing, doing—and doing more.  And it rarely works.  Those who built the good to great companies, however, made as much use of “stop doing” lists as “to do” lists.”

What’s on your list?


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