My "Stop Doing" List


Everybody needs a "stop doing" list; it is as important as the "start doing" list.

I like to make lists. I have a daily “to do” list, a list of yearly projects and goals and longer term lists of things to accomplish and do. I love to think about what I’m going to start doing this next year.

But I spend little to no time on what I’m going to stop doing. I’ve read for years that everybody needs a "stop doing" list and that it is at least as important as the start doing list. I’ve nodded in agreement, but I can’t say I’ve ever really made one.

This summer I’ve spent a lot of time thinking through my stop doing list. I’ve found it harder to create than a start doing list. It takes more thought, prayer and reflection. I’m still pondering my list, but here are a few thoughts I’m wrestling with as a leader for the stop doing list:

1. Where are we heading? Am I giving myself to the right things to ensure that we keep moving where we believe God is leading? It is pretty disconcerting to realize that the organization you lead has grown substantially in size and complexity but that you are still leading the same way, as if nothing had happened. I didn’t really see this in myself or in our team until we had already outgrown our capacity as it was. This is typical. By the time many realize things need to change, you are past the time that they should have changed. Making a stop doing list has made this even more glaring.

2. What am I being selfish about? There are some things on my stop doing list that I really love doing. The problem is there is only so much time and energy that sometimes we have to reinvent our roles, and stop doing some things we enjoy in order to get out of the way. Just because I like doing something doesn’t mean it is right for where the organization is now and where it needs to grow.

3. Is there long term sustainability? This is a big question. In your twenties and thirties, the tendency is to blow past these questions and just keep taking on more. But eventually, we all have to pause and ask ourselves if the place our leadership has taken us is killing us and even hindering the organization we serve. We have to evaluate for long term sustainability and health for ourselves and for those we serve with.

4. Who am I afraid to disappoint? The reason I’m having trouble with some of my stop doing list is because everything you stop doing will inevitably disappoint someone. It is the fear of not wanting to disappoint others that has kept me doing things I should have let go of a long time ago. Naming these fears and being honest about them has helped a lot.

For me, it all goes back to answering the first question of where we believe God is leading the church that I serve. In the end, he’s the ultimate one I don’t want to disappoint.

These are some questions I’m asking as I’m working on my list, but I encourage you to make your own. Like me, you may find this incredibly challenging, but also liberating.

The stop doing list may be the most important list you make this year!


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