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Write only

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

I am guessing we all use Microsoft Excel in our working lives pretty much every week. And most of us will barely scratch the surface in using the wealth of tools and functionality the developers have introduced over the years. Excel is a prime example of the need for software providers and more recently, app developers to continuously add new features often losing the simplicity and narrow focus that first attracted us to them in the first place.

They are all guilty of write-only.

I recently listened to a podcast featuring David Allen of “Getting Things Done” fame which prompted me to compare this write-only mindset with to-do lists that we all have to help us organise our everyday lives.

Write-only is the same as adding items to the lists, always adding new things to do but what if for every new item added to your to-do list you add an item to your stop doing list? Stop attending that meeting, stop doing task xyz, stop project abc etc.

“Saying yes to something means saying no to something else”

One way to stop doing things is to delegate and empower others to do these tasks to free up time to think, reflect and plan. It doesn’t mean abandoning your responsibilities. A common mistake amongst successful professionals is to keep saying yes to more and more things without making the room (hence the stop doing list) through effective delegation. Marshall Goldsmith in "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" talks about letting your staff overwhelm you. He recommends asking two questions of your direct reports to help ensure you are getting the balance between delegating and support right:

First, direct each of your reports to look at their responsibilities. Ask them:

“Are there areas where you think I need to be more involved and less involved?”

Second, look at your job with them. Ask them:

“Do you ever see me doing things that a person at my level shouldn’t be doing, such as getting involved in details that are too minor to worry about?”

What other ways might you introduce a stop doing list to your daily life?

If you want to discover more about the importance of time, check out:


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