These Three Little Words Lead to Higher Productivity

What if there were just three words you could focus on to jump-start your personal and professional life— and boost your productivity in the process?

You’re in luck. The Start-Stop-Continue method has been helping business leaders, consultants, and executives achieve higher productivity for years.

If you’re spinning your wheels, it’s a great way to get “unstuck” and move forward— and it can be applied in any area of life, with great results.

How it Works: By focusing on what, when, and how you Start, Stop, and Continue the tasks at hand, you can learn to minimize distractions—and maximize productivity—at home and at work.

Sounds pretty great, right? Let’s dive in!


How many times have you started something, but never finished it?

You’re not alone. One study by DePaul University found that nearly 75% of us are chronic procrastinators.

While we obviously can’t get everything done in one day, defaulting to “Maybe tomorrow.” isn’t a great productivity strategy. So why do we keep doing it?

Most of us resist change—even when we know it could be great—because we’re afraid, uncomfortable, or apprehensive about the unknown.

Starting something new is risky, and carries uncertainty. So we need strategies in place to assess—and have an accurate perception of—the scary bits.

I love being a change advocate—in my own life, and for my clients—because I’ve seen the benefits of pushing through the risk to work toward the reward. I promise— it’s worth it.

If you feel stuck, here are some reframing techniques I use to focus on the positives and get started:

  • First: I Think Back:
    • I Remember another endeavor I started (college, volunteering, a new job, my favorite hobby) that brings me joy.
      • I list the ways starting __________ would do that.
    • What were the challenges with starting ___________?
      • Were any bigger or smaller than I thought?
      • Is there anything I can do to address similar challenges in the future?
      • Why were the challenges that came with starting ___________ worth it?
    • I think about/write down the positive changes in my personal/professional life that have happened since starting ____________________.
  • Then: I Think About Now (and Tomorrow):
    • How can I plan ahead for the challenges with starting this new venture?
      • If the difficult things are something I can’t control or predict– what support/self-care strategies do I have in place?
    • What will change for the better in my life once I get started?
    • How will this change help me grow personally and professionally?

You’ve already come a long way. And any new changes you’re undertaking—personal, professional, and vocational—have the potential to bump up your productivity (especially if you’re as focused on the positives as possible).


Steve Jobs–former CEO of Apple–famously attributed his massive success (and high productivity) to “saying no to a thousand things”.

Knowing when (and what) to Stop in your personal and professional life is vital to staying healthy, grounded, and balanced— which will undoubtedly make you more productive.

When you’re deciding whether to commit or omit, it’s good to ask yourself some questions:

  • Is _________ hurting my professional growth, my personal growth, or my relationships?
  • Is _________ truly vital to the success of my business?
  • Is __________ a part of my mission/vision, or have I drifted?
  • Will starting or continuing _____________ be a distraction from the essential goals of my personal/professional journey?

Knowing when to say no is a critical step toward achieving higher productivity because it frees you up to focus more time and energy on the things that matter most to you, your business, and your people closest to you.


Let’s end on a high note. The last component to help us be laser-focused on higher productivity is knowing what (or when) to Continue.

In other words, it’s good to know when to “keep doin’ what you’re doing” without making any major changes.

This step is crucial because it’s always tempting to clean house completely when we’re ready to change our goals and strategies.

But there are things you’re doing right, so by all means keep it up!

Your Continue tasks help maintain your stability—and your confidence—amidst the risky changes and omissions you may have to make along the way.

Let’s be real: it’s a great feeling to know what you’re good at— and to have systems and strategies in place to help you keep doing it, with more focus than ever.

Here’s how I help clients decide what to continue doing:

  • What allows them to realize their potential
  • What is central to the mission, vision, and goals of their business
  • What improves their quality of life
  • What they loved about their work in the first place
  • What wows their customers

So the next time you’re reevaluating a strategy or process you have in place at work (or at home), think about whether you should start something new to improve it, stop doing something that’s derailing it, or keep on truckin’.

Using these three “Magic Words” to guide your decision-making can help you trim the non-essentials—and the burdens dragging you down day after day—leaving only what matters most. I don’t know about you, but I love the sound of that!

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