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“The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say ‘No’ to almost everything.” (Warren Buffet)

The new-year 2015 is approaching and as usual we all would start to write down our resolutions for the new year.  If you observe very closely, our resolutions are always on the lines of things that we would do, things that we would finish etc.  As per a research, 75% of the people break their new-year resolutions by the 13th-14th of January, i.e., within a period of 2 weeks.  That’s purely because we resolve to be better by doing more.

However, have you ever felt that in our daily schedule we do so many things that take much of our time, without adding any substantial value in our life.  We spend time watching useless movies, we start our day by first checking our emails and then starting the work, we gossip a lot with our friends and colleagues.  All this leads to a criminal waste of time and hence, our productivity.  What if we make a list of things that ‘we shall stop doing’ so that we can focus only on those activities that make us more productive and provide a real meaning to our life. Steve Jobs in one of his presentations said “Its only by saying NO you can concentrate on the most important things”.

Even I personally believe that by having a ‘Stop Doing’ list, one can really start to be more productive and useful.  If we imagine our day, we can easily identify instances or acts, which if avoided, could have led us performing much better, much more result oriented.  Consequently, if we list down those activities and take a vow that in the coming new year we shall not spend time on them since those activities are not worth spending time, I am sure you are going to be much more productive.

I wanted to share with you an incident that has been narrated by acclaimed business management author Jim Collins who has authored top selling books like ‘Built to last’ and ‘Good to Great’.  He mentions that in his early age of 20s he discovered the power of preparing a ‘stop doing’ list only because his professor once told him the 20-10 story which became a cornerstone of his intent to prepare the ‘stop doing’ list.  The story was as follows:

The professor asked Jim to assume he has got $20million to spend wherever and on whatever he wants.  However, the rider is that he is ill with some disease and has got only 10 years left in his life to spend that money. He then asked him what would you do, or more particularly, what would you stop doing.     

Jim mentions that incident became a turning point of his life and since then he started preparing his new year resolutions around the things he would stop doing, rather than the list of items he would do.

Although, each one of you would have something different to write down, here are few examples I wanted to share with you as things which you might want to stop so that you are super productive and are able to do more meaningful jobs in your life:

If you are a student

1. Not to spend time surfing the net without any objective;

2. Not to day dream;

3. Not to chat with friends on whatsapp or Facebook when studying;

4. Not to chat with family members during the time you are studying;

5. Not to allow the feeling that you aren’t ready for exercise today;

6. Not to snooze the alarm and buy some more time to sleep;

7. Not spending too much time biking around;

8. Not to criticize your luck or your circumstances, because after all no one is perfect in this world other than God;

9. Not spending too much time watching TV and more particularly watching; useless and utterly time wasting programmes such as Big Boss J

10. Not to spend time in office after office hours just for gossip;

11. Not wasting weekends on activities that are unrelated to studies.

I am sure you would have many more things to add.  These were just few things which I stopped doing when I was studying.  In addition to your professional/ academic career related things, you might also want to have a ‘stop doing’ list for your personal life.  It could be anything related to your love life, your family, your friends etc.  Just think of the activities which you feel might not be relevant but you still spend time on them and then put them on your list.  You would be amazed with your new level of productivity.

If you are a professional

1. Stop wasting time checking emails first thing in the morning;

2. Stop snoozing alarm to buy more time to sleep;

3. Stop looking at your phone every time there is a message from Whatsapp;

4. Stop that feeling of not allowing you to exercise any day;

5. Stop spending too much time on water-cooler talks in the office (they just don’t help too muchJ);

6. Stop spending too much time watching TV or surfing net when bored;

7. Stop criticizing, because after all no one is perfect in this world other than God.

The whole idea is to guard your focus so tight that any activity that deviates you from it is completely removed and killed.   Remember – “Wherever your focus goes, your success grows”. You must understand that for anyone to succeed in life he/she should have a burning desire to achieve that success and unless you have a monomaniacal focus, you cannot achieve that success.   Monomaniacal focus can only be achieved when you do not allow any noise to enter your mind and be highly disciplined and only do those activities that are important and critical.

I want to share some quick tips to decide whether you should ‘No’ or not in any circumstance so that you proceed and conquer your share of success.

Have a list prepared for items to be finished and then keep reviewing that list on a continuous basis

I have shared in my previous articles (‘Kabhi to hoga matlab kabhi nahin’) the importance of scheduling your tasks and then reviewing them regularly.  A lot of times you would realize that some action items are not important and should therefore not form part of your to-do list.

Don’t take impulsive decisions

Many a times we have the habit of taking decisions in impulse, i.e., immediately without realizing the future consequences. Thereafter, we realize that it was a mistake that shouldn’t have been done.  Actions taken in impulse should be avoided and one should develop the habit of auctioning only after a due thought is given to the situation.

All ideas don’t work

It is important to understand that all ideas that come to our mind are not always the most brilliant one and should be pursued at all cost. That’s not true. It is good to think and have new ideas in life and in career, but any action on it should only be after weighing the pros and the cons. Don’t worry, the idea will not run away if you don’t action it fast.

Don’t get influenced by your friends and relatives too muc

Here, I am not trying to suggest that you shouldn’t listen to your friends and relatives.  Not at all.  You must respect all relationships and friendships. What am trying to say is that don’t always get swayed by whatever your friend or relative would have done. They would have done or would have taken a decision basis some circumstances that might be absolutely different to what you may undergo.  If your friend has decided to take a dummy articleship because he/she believes that studies are important and practical exposure is not, then that doesn’t mean you also follow the same advice.  Not at all advisable. 

You have your own life, own beliefs and own decision making capability.  Just believe in yourself, believe in your goals and have a plan to achieve them at any cost.  With some things when stopped doing would make you feel a different type of energy that brings with itself enormous joy and success.

I want to end the article with a beautiful quote from Jim Collins:

“Most of us lead busy but undisciplined lives. We 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”

Wishing you all green lights in life

Authored by Nimish Goel (www.nimishgoel.com), a qualified chartered accountant who’s passion is to coach young chartered accountants and aspiring students achieve the best in their life.  Nimish used to work with EY and PwC in India and has also worked with KPMG in Europe.  He now runs his own consulting company and runs a blog www.nimishgoel.com.  He can be reached for any queries and issues on his blog. 


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Nimish Goel
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