In a business or even our personal lives, innovation or improvement often fails for the wrong reason.

“It is not that the idea is bad. It is just that the idea never had a chance,” said David Burton, a county engagement and community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

According to Burton, our crazy busy lives are killing our innovation and causing us to be unreceptive to new ideas in our personal lives and our businesses.

“How many times have you seen a great idea at work bubble up, and even be met with excitement, only to have it die because no one had time for it after the brainstorming session,” said Burton. “When we have packed schedules already, new projects simply die when we try to add them to existing workloads.”

That is why Burton advocates for the creation of “stop doing” lists. It is not an idea unique to him. Burton said he first learned about this idea in the book “Crazy Busy,” by Kevin Deyoung,  but has since seen others reference it as well.

“Most of our work schedules do not have free time – especially if we have been at that place of work very long,” said Burton. “Adding new activities without eliminating other tasks is a good way to sabotage the innovation. It is also intellectually dishonest.”

Repeatedly, new ideas lose out to the demands of the day or the urgency of now.

“That is why we need to begin our innovation process by talking about a ‘stop doing’ list before we add things to a ‘start doing’ list,” said Burton. “We have to create the capacity or time for innovation first.”

What are the barriers to productivity in your place of business? Each of those barriers is an opportunity to be more productive, to ask if the task is still important.

“The ‘stop doing’ list should include its best friend and neighbor, the ‘do differently’ list. Together they offer a path toward creating capacity. It takes more than just trimming a few minutes here and there during your day,” said Burton.

Talking with family members or co-workers about tasks that take a lot of time but have very few impacts or are no longer productive or valuable, only traditional, might be a good place to start.

“The whole idea is to have these stop-doing conservations so leaders can say no to some activities and say yes to others that could be more productive or impactful,” said Burton.

There is a method to leading a “stop doing” process that can be applied to work groups, organizations of all types, and even with our own families. The key is to identify some changes that free up capacity while realizing there may be some temporary disruption in work.

To begin the process, Burton says there are some key questions to ask.

What are the activities that take up the most time in your day and are they essential to the core mission? For the least essential, find alternatives.

What tasks are the most repetitive and least creative or demanding? If not essential, is there something that would be a better use of your time?

Are there aspects of the workflow that could be automated?

What is the highest-value, most productive use of your time in your role? What gets in the way of doing that activity more?

“We all have the same 24-hours. There isn’t more time in a day. But we can change how we spend the time we have,” said Burton. “Starting with a ‘stop doing’ list faces the reality that there is no more time and it also sets you up for success when you pursue innovative ideas.”

For more information, contact any of these MU Extension community development specialists working in southwest Missouri:  Amy Patillo in Greene County, (417) 881-8909; Michele Kroll in Camden County, (5730 346-2644; Pam Duitsman in Christian County, (417) 581-3558 or David Burton in Greene County, (417) 881-8909.

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