A couple years ago, I enjoyed a speech by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last.

He asked this question, "How many of you have a To Do List?"

Thousands of hands were raised among the audience of ambitious leaders.

"Of course," he continued. "You are all so productive. You have a list of the things you must do. And you will do them."

"But let me ask you this question," he continued. "How many of you have a Stop Doing List? That’s a list of things that you are determined to stop doing — things that are no longer worth your time."

The room was silent. No hands were raised.

My Stop Doing List
On the drive home, I developed a Stop Doing List. At the top of the list:

  1. Quicken™

For years, I had been recording my personal and household expenditures into the popular personal finance software program . . .

Quicken is a very handy tool. Using it, I saved money because
— like someone counting calories — I didn’t want to record petty
spending. So my spending became less petty.

And I could easily track my net worth. Monthly. Daily. Hourly. Moment-by-moment. Who cares?

A Vision
I used Quicken for years, until — prompted by Jim Collins and his Stop Doing List — I had a vision:

I am 105 years old, on my deathbed.

The nurse is plugging in the last IV bag that is keeping me alive.

I faintly whisper to her.

"What is it, Mr. Isaac?" she asks.

"How much is that?" I ask her. "I need to put it in my Quicken."

Of course, that’s silly. But if recording the expenditure isn’t worth my time then, is it worth my time now?

So, I walked away from Quicken. And I don’t miss struggling every other month to correct some goofy data entry error I’ve made.

What Else?
I love reading The New York Times. I’ve read it for decades.

It’s a delicious habit.

But, let’s do some math:

20 minutes a day (and that’s fast: only three stories, plus all the headlines and all the captions)

x 365 days per year

= 121 and 2/3 hours

That’s three 40-hour work weeks!

If someone offered you three weeks of vacation, would you take it?

Would you give up reading The New York Times for three weeks of free time?

I’m still reading The Times, but only once a week.

What’s on your Stop Doing List?