Mike Munro Turner summarises the STOP technique for time management

Over the years, I have tried many different ways to improve my use of time and become more productive at work. Whatever I try, I find that initially the new technique makes a real difference, but only for a short while.

I’ve finally realised that this is less to do with the technique itself and much more to do with the thoughfulness that applying a new technique requires. Applying any enw technique initially forces me to think about my priorities and focus on where my time is going. But then, as I become more skilled in using the technique, I stop thinking about it.

The new way of working becomes yet another habit that I follow without thinking. This wouldn’t matter it there were a perfect technique that would always cause me to use my time in the best possible way. But there isn’t – not that I’ve found, anyway.

So, I’ve come to a much simpler, but more challening approach, in which I keep asking myself, ‘What do I do now?’ Tim Gallwey, in his book The Inner Game of Work, has a neat little process (which he calls ‘the tool of all tools’) for this, called STOP.

  • Step back from action and emotion
  • Think about what’s most important here
  • Organise your thoughts to create coherence
  • Proceed when purpose and next steps are clear

At its center is awareness – the ability to be fully present to the moment and to create the space in which we can choose. If STOP is the tool of all tools, awareness is the capacity of all capacities. Awareness stops us getting lost in the web of habits that control so much of our thought and action. We notice what we’re doing, we notice the universe of possiblities of what we could be doing, then we choose how to spend this moment in time. It’s simple stuff really – simple, but not easy! TEX

Reference: Tim Gallwey, The Inner Game of Work: Overcoming Mental Obstacles for Maximum Performance, Mason, Ohio: Texere Publishing 2000

Mike Munro Turner  is a leadership coach and mentor. He works with leaders and senior executives to increase their leadership effectiveness. He works with the Centre for Creative Leadership in Brussels on their leadership development programmes and is on the faculty of the School of Coaching where he delivers coach training programmes.

This article was first published in Teaching Expertise magazine, Issue 12, Autumn 2006