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Try a 'stop-doing' list to increase productivity

Posting in Energy

Writing for Quartz, Vickie Elmer highlights a new book with a simple message: do less to achieve more.

The book, The Laws of Subtraction by Matthew May (a former consultant to Toyota), is due out later this month and emphasizes a subtraction management style for corporate leaders. Elmer explains:

Managers who want to add subtraction, the author suggests, could start with “a stop doing list.”  May picked up this idea from an essay by Good to Great author Jim Collins, noting: “We all try to cram far too much into our waking time.”

Some of it is stupid, wasteful, ugly or boring—and can be omitted.  If you don’t know what belongs on your stop-doing list, ”ask those who are closest to you to be the mirror. They’ll tell you,” said May.

...

Yet he believes it works to help people be more productive, and stand out from the crowd and all the noise. He cites Boston Consulting Group, which required its workers to take at least one night a week off, with no mobile phone, nothing. The consultants felt uncomfortable with this at first, but the results spoke loudly: “Clients liked their work better, their work product got better,” May says in a video on his sixth law: “Doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing.”

May's ideas make a lot of sense. Trying to do too much can lead to poorer quality work and less satisfaction about the work you do. On the corporate level a subtraction style could mean fewer brainstorming meetings and a greater emphasis focusing on perfecting work that's already being done. On a personal level it could anything from limiting Twitter to cutting back on the hours you work (cutting out Twitter might help!). For freelancers, it could mean turning down opportunities so that you can focus your energies on your most important projects.

What's on your "stop-doing" list?

You’ll get more done if you make a list of things to ‘stop doing’ [Quartz]

Photo: Flickr/guccio

— By on October 22, 2012, 7:40 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure