Workaholics Anonymous—A 12-Step Program of Recovery and Personal Transformation (Step 1)

[Index: INTRO, Step 11b233b4566b7899b1010b1112]

In my last blog post (read here) I took a major step in making this my best year ever: I admitted that I’m a workaholic in need of intervention. I know many of you out there are like me—in constant motion but never quite able to move beyond relative success.

So, as promised, I’m going to share what I have learned from the super-achievers I’ve interviewed in SUCCESS over the past year. I’ve outlined 12 Steps for changing those behaviors that block our creative juices and stifle our potential. This week, we’re going to focus on putting a stop to the little things that keep us from achieving our big goals in life.

STEP 1: Make a STOP-Doing List

We all have our to-do lists, those sometimes endless tasks that we believe, when finished, will shoot us into the stratosphere of success. However, have you noticed that while you check some tasks off, the list keeps growing? Your work days get longer, your time with family dwindles, and you find that even though you are in constant motion, you’re really standing still.

Your personal transformation has to begin by recognizing the difference between the things that matter and lead you down the path to success and those that might be distracting you and limiting your potential achievement.

Pareto Principle, 80/20 Rule: 20 percent of your activity produces 80 percent of your income. Simply put, it means that you should spend 80 percent of your time on the 20 percent of your activities really responsible for driving your income.

I know the Pareto Principle principle well. In fact, people pay me to teach it to them. Yet I still am sucked into the 80 percent of the unproductive activities. Why? Because I’m an addict. I’m like a moth to a flame. I say to myself, “Oh, there is something small I can accomplish and get off my plate. Let me get involved in that!” But, that must stop!

As I went through my 2009 goal-planning exercise, I ADDED several major projects and heavyweight to-dos to my list. My dilemma became crystal clear. The only way I will have time for my big-idea projects is to stop doing the little stuff that completely consumes me all day, every day.

Separate the Majors from the Minors
If you log your activities hourly or look back over your calendar for the previous week, I’ll bet you spent major chunks of time on minor activities that resulted in minor achievements. We all do it. It’s called the “results by volume” approach. I know this because I am guilty of it.

The Pareto Principle is different from the being busy versus being productive debate—that’s Efficiency Training 101. This is a more urbane understanding of achievement. I’m always focused on being productive; I am relentless about it. I never waste time, and I’m always looking for ways to multitask and do more in the same amount of time. I even joke by saying I work in a 26/7 environment, where every day I have to figure out how to get two extra hours of work completed with time that doesn’t exist! Can you see my sickness?

There are many projects and initiatives we engage in that, if successful, still produce minor achievements. This is how we end up with less than the big triumphs we see others attain.

Here is the Key to STEP 1:
Distinguish between the major and minor projects, activities, commitments, responsibilities and initiatives. Then, STOP doing the minors. You will now have the time to focus your energy and creative thought process (remember my theme for the year: Do Less, Think More) on bigger and better things—the things that will produce the breakthrough results and victories you seek.

Now, looking back, every big-time CEO or super-achiever I have met has lived this principle. None of them would allow themselves to become mired in minor tasks; they give their time and attention only to major issues. They focus their organizations on major goals and initiatives and constantly say no to distracting, minor projects.

There’s an old axiom that now makes sense to me, “It is not what you do that determines the level of your success, but rather what you don’t do.” Keep that in mind as you review your to-do lists.

Accomplish More by Doing Less
So, to start on your road to recovery, make the following two lists now:

  • List 10 projects, activities or commitments you are going to STOP doing.
  • List the three most important projects or activities necessary to achieve your BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals). FOCUS on them.

Each day, don’t make a long list of minor to-dos; just write down the three major activities you want to achieve that day.

Ah, feeling better already? I know I am.

Support Group
Here’s a way we can all support each other on this journey.
In the comment section below, write three things you are going to STOP DOING in 2009. Later, I will organize and publish the Top 10—something that will be interesting and useful to us all.

Here are three of mine:
1. Stop checking e-mail all day. I will check e-mail only twice a day, ideally at 10:30 A.M. and 4 P.M.
2. Stop working on Saturday. Saturday will be my day to focus on my family and refuel.
3. Stop being the center of control. I will empower others to deliver and lead more.

Next Week – STEP 2. Stay the course with me. STEP 2 is a big one… and one that will help you further stay committed to STEP 1.

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  1. Greg says:

    Stop surfing-using social,music,gmail sites all day
    Stop ignoring the need to be a team player with the other executives
    Stop enabling negative/political vibes to fester and grow in my department

  2. Marianne says:

    WOW!..I’m blown away!..STEP 1 for the rest of my life. Thank-you Darren for sincerely giving us all the opportunity to ALLOW OURSELVES THE COURAGE TO MAKE THAT FIRST STEP. I’m so grateful to have discovered SUCCESS MAGAZINE Through ROBIN SHARMA…I feel so empowered! it is now a point of no return!!!

  3. peggy says:

    1. Stop sleeping late, watching mindless tv or surfing the net till late at night or shall I be precise , early morning
    2. Stop avoiding difficult tasks that I hate doing like filing taxes, filing bills, receipts and log in expenses, etc.
    3. Stop thinking that I must have my hands full and schedule busy right from the word go in the morning till the end of the day to feel productive and not wasting my time; as more is less , with 80% of my time is squandered on doing tasks that does not produce results and money

  4. Gloria Christiansen says:

    This is great! Oh my Gosh, after reading all the stops from people above, I found out that I have to stop doing more than 40 things I had been doing – no wonder why I had been so busy but not successful in my business.
    Thank you! after all this 2009 will be great for me too.
    Gloria Christiansen

  5. Tom Lewandowski says:

    1. Stop watching the news or reading the newspaper so the media can’t influence me
    2. Stop sleeping less then 3 hours a night
    3. Stop checking my e-mails though out the day

    2009 is going to a GREAT year……enjoy the ride!!!!

    Live with passion and always, always THINK BIG!!!!!!!!!

  6. Pam says:

    This is great! Thanks for this Darren. So many great “stops” posted already – here are three big stop priorities for me as they continue to block my progress:

    1) Stop ignoring the need for a life plan…stop procrastinating and write it down. I am worthy of having a plan.
    2) Stop letting the world and the people I encounter make me feel small. My circumstances do not define who I am or who I will become.
    3) Stop letting my days go on forever. Get a good night’s rest and start the next day on time and refreshed.

  7. Omar Bass says:

    1. Focus.
    2.Talk, talk, talk to people around you with your same goals and share info.
    3. Read, write and imagine where you want to be.

  8. Shana says:

    1. Stop logging on my computer first thing on weekend mornings.
    2. Stop being passive – have an attitude of abundance.
    3. Stop avoiding planning and the necessary tasks that I don’t want to do.

  9. Missy says:

    This is just what I needed! My stop list:

    1. Stop worrying and start focusing on recruiting and training.
    2. Stop shortchanging my health by replacing exercise with work
    3. Stop doing other people’s work for them, train them to do it for themselves.

    Can’t wait for each segment, I need them all!

  10. Todd Rhoad says:

    Here’s a few:

    1. Stop trying to single-handedly figure out the best path to my career success and consider the Blitz Approach.
    2. Stop waiting for opportunity and use my Blitz Team to create it.
    3. Stop waiting for others to willingly help me and create a Blitz team that is dedicated to my success.

  11. Briscoe says:

    Here are my 3:

    1. Stop disregarding my calendar and action items for less important things.
    2. Stop doing important things last minute, this would improve the quality of my delivery.
    3. Stop empowering other peoples weaknesses that render me powerless, after all it’s my choice.

  12. jp says:

    Here are my three

    1. Stop reading all emails to the end (I do not need to read them all)
    2. Stop mixing personal issues with business issues
    3. Stop being distracted by work during family time

    Great job Darren

  13. scott says:

    1. Stop procrastinating and start selling!
    2. Stop procrastinating and start selling!
    3. Stop procrastinating and start selling!

    [FROM DARREN HARDY] Good list Scott. I encourage you to figure out what you do when you are not selling that enables your procrastination – i.e. stop surfing the internet, stop answering incoming calls when I am in “prime-time” prospecting time chunks, stop taking lunches lasting more than 45 minutes, etc. It’s important to figure out what things or devices you are using to enable your procrastination and STOP doing those things, otherwise you might not know how to interrupt the your patterns of procrastination.

  14. Brian says:

    This is awesome! I’m so glad I can read the others. IT’S SO HELPFUL…

    1) As a Sales Manager… stop taking on client problems myself and begin pushing other non-sales departments to explore and resolve. (This is very tough because I want to personally act thoroughly on our client concerns)

    2) Stop ‘pausing’ so often in the middle of major tasks.

    3) Stop reading all the emails that I’m copied on (especially attachments).

  15. Bryan Hefner says:

    A timely message, my friend. Here are 3:
    1. Rewrite my highest priority goals each morning upon arising to get me focused on where to put my energy. One of my mentors does this morning and night and has grown his income (7 figures) by more than 100% in the past few years.
    2. Do only those things that move me toward my ultimate vision during “work-time”. Schedule my family time and de-frag time to keep my self mentally alert and healthy.
    3. Keep on-task and on-schedule. Avoid distractions and get back on track ASAP when blown off course.
    2009 is going to be (and already is) an awesome year. Thank you for bringing back Success mag. Let’s grow!

  16. TroyA says:

    Great post!

    1. Think and focus on today only..not tomorrow or yesterday.

    2. Steer clear of gossip and the like.

    3. Replace wasted time ( mindless T.V, gaming & nonessential social networking ) with quality motivational reading and DVD’s.

  17. shirley says:

    I think a to-do list is fine- as long as we limit it no more than 6 items at a time. Whenver, I do that, I find that my goals are more achievable plust they get done within 1-3 days max!

  18. Brian says:

    1.Stop wasting so much time and energy shoveling snow by moving to a state with less snow and putting that time and energy into achieving my business goals.
    2. Stop wandering around stores when (grocery) shopping.
    3. Stop paying high taxes by moving to a state with less taxes and invest the saved money.
    Thank you for your insights Darren!!

  19. Scott Bruyea says:

    Hey Darren,

    I love your energy! It even comes across via email & the Web. Always great ideas and insights.

    Here’s my 3 Stop Doing items

    Stop procrastinating regarding the most important (#1 task of the day)
    Stop doing tasks that do not pay me my appropriate hourly rate.
    Delegate projects & tasks that don’t fall into the above

  20. John V says:

    This is fantastic!!

    1. I’m going to stop delegating my daily time tables surrounding mundane tasks and start taking massive action on projects of priority.
    2. Stop the need process in my day to day. Transition the need to want! I “want” to get this project finalized. I want to go the gym at 6AM tomorrow…
    3. Stop fooling/convincing myself that I’m doing my best… maxing out…

    Your book “Design Your Best Year Ever” is such a phenomenal book!! Best investment of 2009! Kudos to you Darren!! One of my first goals out of my “Top 10 List” Was “M-Mental” to truly find measurable aspects of all of my goals, and write it down as a number. As long as I know what my number is, I will always know my progress. All that’s left is just to keep doing the things that help me move that number closer to my goal’s end result, and stop doing what doesn’t change the number.

  21. Debbie says:

    Awsome Darren,

    1. Stop procrastinating and trying to make everything perfect.

    2. Stop checking email all day long.

    3. Stop talking about what I want to happen, so that I can begin to work my action plan and and get the results that I want.

  22. Anirudh Bhalotia says:

    Awesome start Darren. Cant wait to move to Step – 2.

    1. Stop checking email frequently and stop replying them immediately. (ofcourse if it needs reply then its a diff thing.)

    2. Stop seeing the obstacles in my goals and rather follow my strengths and keep a focus on the goal.

    3. Stop procrastinating, stop worrying too much about how to do, rather start doing it and then figuring out solutions as i encounter road blocks.

  23. Nick says:

    1. Stop doing the “non money making activites” during the day.
    2. Stop not making time for exercise to refuel me and provide an escape for my mind to relax and think about what ever comes to me.
    3. Stop wasting time with any distraction such as; meetings, people, appointments, etc. that are not using my best time to produce the results and goals that I have.

  24. Venu Madhav says:

    Thanks Darren for the straight talk.Things i will stop are..

    1.)Stop to worry about reccession and focus on the job on hand.
    2.)Stop to hurry up things abd rather have some time every day to relax mentally for getting things done in a complete manner
    3.)Stop for worrying about things which are not going to happen and to make use of time in the best possible manner for the day.

  25. Patrick says:


    Awesome first step. Things I’ll stop doing:

    1: Taking calls from anyone that typically wants to complain/vent about the job. This usually is a long conversation and distracts from what is important.
    2: Do not check email after getting home from work. I am typically doing this up through 9 to 10pm.
    3: Managing things that my managers should be handling. Give them advise and follow up but stay hands off.

    [FROM DARREN HARDY - Those are some good ones Patrick... Keep 'em coming everybody!]

  26. Jason says:

    I currently do only check email three times per day; I chunk out my time for projects, calls, emails, etc. My dilemma is this: I work for a Fortune 500 company and 5 years ago when I started I had an administrative person that worked for me, but over the years the company slimmed down and reduced this position to a shared position and now no administrative person at all. Many of the small task items still need to be completed, but I have no staff remaining to delegate these duties to. There is a field sales team that I have a slim dotted line to and I use them when I can to delegate duties that would groom them to take the next step. The management team has been fully versed on the reasons why someone in my position needs the support staff. What are your recommendations to someone in my situation?
    Thank you!

    [FROM DARREN HARDY - Ah, I do have an answer for you on this one... I hate to do this to you, but the answer is in Step11. Bad news is the wait, the Good news is there is an answer!]

  27. Rajesh says:

    1. Stop checking mails all day. I will check at 9 am, 11, 1, 4, 6pm only. I will try to improve that slowly.
    2. Stop taking laptop home on weekdays and no official work on Saturday.
    3. Stop thinking about small stuff / business.

  28. Nick Gianis says:

    Hey Darren, great insight! I’m an addict and here are my top 3:
    1. Stop checking email constantly all day- reduce it to 3X/day: 7:30am, 11:30am, & 4pm. (move to twice/day once I make it through therapy!)
    2. Stop “to-do” lists and start “blocking or chunking” time for “major” activities/projects.
    3. Stop working on Sunday’s. Sunday will be reserved for faith, family & friends, and to refresh to be able to tackle the “majors” on Monday.

  29. Mikael Lornstam says:

    If you ask yourself: -What will make me proud at the end of my life…Then it`s easier to make the right decision,and dont waste any time.

    At the end of our life we will understand the full impact of the value of time.
    Don`t wait to fully understand time.Time is not business value…It`s your life.

  30. Millie says:

    You’ve hit it on the head again. How is it every time I open the Success e-mail the subject matter is aready floating around in my head?? I just spoke to my mentor about this very issue of trying to do too many things and doing nothing as a result. 1. Stop pursuing every opportunity I am presented and FOCUS on the ones that will really move me forward
    2. Stop checking mindless, social netstalking sites.
    3. Stop writing for free

    [FROM DARREN HARDY - Good ones Millie!]

  31. Rose says:

    Darren, this is totally awesome! Can’t wait for Step 2. My problems with time commitments are similar to yours. I would like to add: Stop listening to the news media’s presentation of a downed economy. I need to see that it isn’t the economy that’s bad; people are just being more selective to where they want to invest or secure products. We got to stop believing the hype.

  32. Sue says:

    Sounds like a good place to start. It’s amazing how when you look back at the end of the day or end of the week, you feel like you’ve done so much but haven’t really made a difference achieving anything.

  33. Jerry says:

    1. STOP spending time with anyone who doesn’t share my values and goals.
    2. Pays bills 1 day / month or hire someone to do it.
    3. STOP listening to newstalk radio and listen to only material from Success magazine.

  34. Robert Magbiray says:

    Thanks Darren, Step 1 alone is really of great eye-opener.

    My three are the following:
    1) Stop thinking how to perform perfectly, instead focus on doing the best that i can.
    2) Stop pointing to others, instead concentrate on the work that suppose to be done.
    3) Stop complaining to non-sense issues, instead thrive in my work and performance to attain self-worth.

  35. Brad says:

    Thanks for this Darren, Step 1 is already a big help.

    My three are

    1) Stop multitasking and practice more focus
    2) Stop approaching meetings with little or no preparation. Either the meeting is not important enough to attend or it is important enough to prepare for.
    3) Stop allowing “to-dos” to dress up like priorities and keep me from my real priorities.

    Looking forward to Step 2

  36. Graham says:

    Here are my three:

    1. Stop worrying about things that I have no control over. This will free me from unnecessary emotional and mental stress.
    2. Stop looking to others for recognition and acceptance of my dreams and successes. This will allow me to pursue my goals regardless of what other people may say or do.
    3. Stop any and all negative self-talk. This will provide me with a positive and supportive foundation upon which to pursue my goals, especially my BHAG!

    Darren, thank you so much for putting together “Design Your Best Year Ever”. I am right on track and I have accomplished more in the first two weeks of the year than I did in all of December! You’re wisdom and insight is tremendous, please continue to share.

    All the best in ’09 Darren. This will be our Best Year Ever.

  1. [...] [Index: INTRO, Step 1, 1b, 2, 3, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 9b, 10, 10b, 11, 12] [...]

  2. [...] [Index: INTRO, Step 1, 1b, 2, 3, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 9b, 10, 10b, 11, 12] [...]

  3. [...] [Index: INTRO, Step 1, 1b, 2, 3, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 9b, 10, 10b, 11, 12] [...]

  4. [...] Index: INTRO, Step 1, 1b, 2, 3, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 9b, 10, 10b, 11, 12 [...]

  5. [...] Index: INTRO, Step 1, 1b, 2, 3, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 9b, 10, 10b, 11, 12 [...]

  6. [...] INTRO, Step 1, 1b, 2, 3, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 9b, 10, 10b, 11, [...]

  7. [...] Since I started the 12-step program, I have checked my e-mail fewer than three times each day. (In Step1) [...]

  8. [...] should be doing in order to get better results in your life. We covered this process extensively in Step 1 and your Stop-Doing [...]

  9. [...] should be doing in order to get better results in your life. We covered this process extensively in Step 1 and your Stop-Doing [...]

  10. [...] should be doing in order to get better results in your life. We covered this process extensively in Step 1 and your Stop-Doing [...]

  11. [...] Since I started the 12-step program, I have checked my e-mail fewer than three times each day. (In Step1) [...]

  12. [...] Step 1 we figured out the things we needed to stop doing—our compulsive responses to work addictions, [...]