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Are You Focused On The Right Things?

 For a smart, talented person, it’s easy to work relentlessly and get a lot done, but are you really focusing on the right things? Bestselling author Jim Collins published an incredible piece in USA Today at the end of 2003 about his annual ritual of creating a “Stop Doing List.” Collins describes a transformative assignment given to him by a former professor:
She then gave me what I came to call the 20-10 assignment. It goes like this: Suppose you woke up tomorrow and received two phone calls. The first phone call tells you that you have inherited $20 million, no strings attached. The second tells you that you have an incurable and terminal disease, and you have no more than 10 years to live. What would you do differently, and, in particular, what would you stop doing?

That assignment became a turning point in my life, and the "stop doing" list became an enduring cornerstone of my annual New Year resolutions — a mechanism for disciplined thought about how to allocate the most precious of all resources: time.

Rochelle's challenge forced me to see that I'd been plenty energetic, but on the wrong things. Indeed, I was on entirely the wrong path. After graduate school, I'd taken a job at Hewlett-Packard. I loved the company, but hated the job. Rochelle's assignment helped me to see I was cut out to be a professor, a researcher, a teacher — not a businessman — and I needed to make a right-angle turn. I had to stop doing my career, so that I could find my real work. I quit HP, migrated to the Stanford Business School faculty and eventually became — with some remarkable good luck along the way — a self-employed professor, happily toiling away on my research and writing.
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As leaders, we're always talking about creating TO DO lists and getting things done, but have you included in your periodic planning an inventory of the things that you need to STOP DOING?


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