Talk Story about Stopping: 5 Reasons to Kill Auto-Pilot

For Sunday Mālama on MWA Coaching today I wrote about how thankful I am for my ‘Imi ola Stop Doing List, for it has brought an amazing sense of balanced rightness to my life. Having a list of those things I will stop doing has ironically given me a sense of accomplishment with them because I recognize how much is now simply done, and over for me. Sure, there are those things that I chastise myself for, in that they never should have captured my time and effort in the first place, but I’ve learned to be kind to myself, not dwell on them too much, and chalk them up to my learning.

20070509todolistUp to now, my Stop Doing List has been a private self-talk (here are some of the items I originally wrote on it). However after sharing Sunday Mālama, my next thought was about talking story: Don’t you think what we should stop would be a great topic for discussion at work?

Reading back over my first paragraph, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea: The Stop Doing List is not just for a therapeutic logging of your past. When you list things, you are writing your commitment to stop them in the future so that you can focus your attentions on what is much more important. You banish any busyness that doesn’t really contribute to the business.

The fringe benefit? Whatever turns out to be your new picks of what is more important, and can replace the busyness, usually turns out to be much more exciting, inspiring and fun; fact is, new creates more energy than old.

We get into automatic pilot for so many different reasons, and our workplaces get crammed with such repetitive busyness that eats up significant blocks of time when you add it all up. Some of the most common reasons?

  • We are comfortable with the quiet routine of our busyness: Doing the same items day after day gives us a predictable rhythm where we may be "busy" but everything is relatively calm.
  • We interpret surprises as risky, unwelcome change: Because of their repetition, there are usually few surprises with the stuff of our busyness, and our outcomes are pretty low risk.
  • We think process versus project: Often, we do things that fulfill old expectations, because when a new expectation was voiced we interpreted it as the next part and not necessarily the replacement part.
  • We willingly do our busyness for others: We do stuff on job descriptions that should be updated, or because we think the boss still wants us to. We think we need permission to stop.
  • We’re part of a team process: Our busyness is done for others, even though we don’t quite understand why, or know for how long. Many reports fall into this category: You keep producing it for someone else, someone who no longer uses it, but doesn’t want to be the jerk who invalidates your work.

I don’t have to spell out the down side of these five bullets for you: You know what they are. They all hold you back, and keep you from generating new ideas.

The last two are perhaps the most draining and disengaging reasons of all, for they create apathy and boring work you feel you have no choice in. You should push that stop button and ho’ohana: Do work you do for you, and not for someone else.

For your next Talk Story, have a brainstorming session and ask everyone, What do you think we should stop doing? What processes do we continue to do which have lost their original usefulness to us? How much time could we save, and how could we use it better?

If you are a manager, take this one step further, and be absolutely sure that everyone understands why the work they do matters – and if it doesn’t? Stop it and replace it with work that does. (Read about the Role of the Manager here.) Replace busyness with a pilot project and experiment: Get buy-in from co-created work, and help your staff discover what their ho’ohana is: Ho‘ohana: Love Your Work.

"Red-y Set…" on Flickr by flattop341

Also in Let’s Talk Story 2008:

Talk Story about your Values with Pictures


  1. says

    Let’s Talk Story: When business is not great, how do you spend your time?

    Had a coaching call this morning that was about my client’s need to refocus his business strategies right now; it’s a theme becoming more and more common in the short term given the U.S. economy (and how it specifically affects