Why Leaders Need a Stop-Doing List: 4 Keys

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Sometimes, what leaders stop doing is just as important as what they are doing.

I like to make lists. I have a daily to-do list, a list of yearly projects and goals, and longer-term lists of things to accomplish and do. I love to think about what I’m going to start doing this next year.

But I spend little to no time on what I’m going to stop doing.

I’ve read for years that everybody needs a “stop-doing” list, and that it is at least important as the “start-doing” list. I’ve nodded in agreement, but I can’t say I’ve ever really made one.

This summer I spent a lot of time thinking through my stop-doing list. I’ve found it harder to create than a start-doing list. It takes more thought, prayer and reflection.

I’m still pondering my list, but here are a few thoughts I’m wrestling with as a leader for the stop-doing list.

1. Where are we heading?

Am I giving myself to the right things to ensure we keep moving where we believe God is leading? 

It is pretty disconcerting to realize the organization you lead has grown substantially in size and complexity, but you are still leading the same way, as if nothing happened.

I didn’t really see this in myself or our team until we had already outgrown our capacity as it was. This is typical.

By the time many realize things need to change, you are past the time they should have changed. Making a stop-doing list has made this even more glaring.

2. What am I being selfish about?

There are some things on my stop-doing list I really love doing.

The problem is there is only so much time and energy, and sometimes we have to reinvent our roles and stop doing some things we enjoy in order to get out of the way.

Just because I like doing something doesn’t mean it is right for where the organization is now and where it needs to grow.

Jud Wilhite Jud Wilhite is an author, speaker and senior pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. His passion is to help people far from God experience his radical grace in Jesus. As a teenager, Jud wrestled with addiction for several years before surrendering his life to God. The grace God extended through a local church community saved his life. Out of that experience Jud dedicated his life to help others who are hurting find healing, and to do it through the local church.

More from Jud Wilhite or visit Jud at http://judwilhite.com

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  • JLW

    This is too skimpy. Needs more meat on the bone.

    • http://twitter.com/dovesoars Shawn Dove

      Skimpy, maybe, but definitely powerful seeds to be cultivated. Starting my list today!

    • PAH

      Perhaps writing long winded articles was on the ‘no longer do’ list.
      I believe ministry is full of doing but most important is learning to ‘be'; and leaders often are too busy ‘doing’ to be fully present with people or effective because they are always dwelling on what is not getting done whilst they are being asked to listen, to empathise or to be still in the moment and in the role of bringing peace and comfort of Christ.

  • ServantHeart2012

    Depending on our position, many of us regularly evaluate and give feedback on the work performance of others. Traditionally this is sort of a “one way” street. You point out strengths and weaknesses based either on standard criteria or mutually agreed upon goals and objectives and the person being evaluated leaves pleased, displeased, or somewhere in between. During those meetings with my staff I have begun asking each one to give me one thing they would like me to START doing, one thing they would like me to STOP doing, and one thing they would like me to CONTINUE doing as their supervisor. I put their answers on a running list and refer to it often. These frank suggestions from the people I am closest to in the workplace are invaluable have helped me become a better person. Try it! (if you dare . . .)

    • SYoo

      Great idea! Like an AAR (After Action Review) in the military and a sensing session where your subordinates share with you what you do well (and should keep doing), what you could improve on (and how) and and what needs to change (why and how- if known). Letting them write these things down without a name attached suggests that you want the feedback more than you are concerned about who said what. Sometimes it is hard for some people to say what needs to be said- if the targeted leader isn’t receptive or doesn’t seem to take critiques well…


    I have been working on this list for a few years now. The value of God, and my relationship with Him, is number one in my life….I wish I could openly make that statement and not cringe, but I can’t.

    There are so many things that bind me in the relationship I long for.

    As I read more and more of the Bible, and the content and context of what God, Jesus, the Apostles and others said in it stand, the discernment I have prayed for shows me so many areas I have failed in what God, Jesus, the Apostles and others point out…or try to.

    It is easy to compromise the Bible. To make it fit in to the values we hold, rather that the values we are supposed to be challenged by, to grow, to long for a more intimate relationship with God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit that wants our hearts to be transformed into the heart that God wants us to have.

    I find it interesting, of the documented times that a man or woman has had a heart transplant, those that died and gave their hearts to save others, in many ways have changed things in their lives, to reflect on the past owner.

    One man, of 80, received the heart of a young man. Before the transplant, the man was an avid lover of classical music…and after, a few years later, he began to change in the value of listening to rock music.

    A woman receiving a heart transplant, almost immediately received a mind numbing fear of spiders…in which the past owner had arachnophobia, fear of spiders.

    The documentation of this goes on and on…but it makes me crave for the heart that God wants us to be transformed to. Not of the values of this world, but to stand in the values that God gives us, compromised, most of the time, by our words and actions not adding up.

    Today, that is the norm, and it is touted as morality, which existing in the immoral guidance of man and satan.

    What we watch, listen to, read, who we surround ourselves with, those we value, those we look up to as mentors and ask for help, matter.

    One of the biggest struggles I am facing right now, is the fact of how immoral my mouth is.

    Proverbs 18 goes into defining 10 deadly sins of the mouth alone. Lying, sowing discord (infighting, division), gossip, slander, tale-bearing (revealing secrets), cursing, blasphemy (self serving lies, taken out of content or context to lie against God), filthy language, contentious speech (argumentative and quarrelsome) and unbelief (our hearts not really of God).
    This is just our tongue alone, when our flesh is something that fails even before that.
    As I grow, on my path to God, it is almost amazing, when something snaps into place, and something I didn’t see as sin or against Him, almost amazingly is made clear it is not of Him.
    Things I’ve watched, or listened to. People I ignorantly followed. Things I allowed my flesh to feel and mouth to say.
    While I do agree that leaders, those that put themselves in positions of leadership and power, have to abide in this, I also know that unless I check their words, and make sure their words and actions add up, I am following a deception, even a liar sometimes…much like in other area’s, like politicians, business leaders, teachers, instructors, mentors….words and actions add up to either the truth of a man/woman…or a lie/liar. God Bless.

  • Billy H. Weems

    Like this. Will share with staff.

  • Ryan

    If ever I get back in church again and think about serving in some area, I’ve already sworn I would not start something without an end date. Never-ending ministries like teacher, song leaders, piano players, computer & sound techs can be a trap to some people. This turns church into a ball and chain. God rested but those in these positions sometimes can’t. When your in these and look ahead and see no end, you loose heart and you feel trapped. This is when burn-out sets in and you begin to hate church and disenchantment with church begins. You see your self as one haveing been saved from the slavery of sin (the fire) to have been made a slave to the institution (the frying pan). Churches need to keep an eye on thier free labor to esure they are not burning them in the institutional frying pan. Make sure they get some rest from thier laboring or you’ll loose them permanently.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Elevatetheking Steve Kielpinski

      Bro, your post is so right on with me. The key is “if ever.” Been out of leadership for a year + and would really have to pray and know God has anointed me for a specific task before I would even consider stepping into leadership/ministry again. Thanks!

  • carol

    New attitudes can only be discovered when old ways of doing things are “let go”.
    It may be that in “letting go”, we discover Christ outside the Church walls-
    Yes, he may be in disguise (as a neighbour, a friend, a coworker, or even a
    family member)! Yes, you heard me! A family member!

  • Carol Comrie

    Thanks Jud, just reading this article is the motivation and the perspective I personally need. I think the stop doing list is something we all should make and follow through regardless of which area we serve our church in. I am putting this on my to do list… (My attempt at humour!)

  • John W. Carlton

    I had been at a church for 19 years as their Minister of Music. I had felt the Lord telling me that my time there was at an end several years previous to my resigning. The guidance of an experienced pastor showed me that it was time to move on. Yes, many were disappointed that I didn’t stay, but it was the right thing to do. God blessed me in a new avenue of ministry.