Too many things to do? Use a “Stop Doing List” to help you prioritise and improve focus on your business

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in a meeting with a long standing client Bruce. One of his goals has been to cut down on his weekend working and to transition some responsibility for running the business onto his team. At the moment, running the business lies squarely with Bruce. He is also still heavily involved in client delivery, so some of his work invariably spills into the weekends. I suggested that he starts a “Stop Doing List”. It’s very easy to get going – you just need somewhere to record a list of tasks – use a journal, google sheet or doc, excel list, word list, whatever works for you.
You just need something that is readily accessible as you work through your day. Each time you perform a task ask yourself “Am I the only one in the business that can do this”?
If you are, then great, crack on! If you’re not, then there is an opportunity cost for you performing the task. If you do it, what isn’t getting done that could be of more value to your business?
In the hustle and bustle of running a business, it’s easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of tasks, as it seems you are the one best placed to complete them. Whilst many business owners are familiar with to-do lists as a method for tracking their daily responsibilities, fewer are aware of a powerful tool that can help change their day to day focus: the “Stop Doing List”. It might even help with the growth and development of your team, as it encourages delegation.

Understanding the “Stop Doing List”

At its core, a “Stop Doing List” is exactly what it sounds like: a list of tasks, habits, or commitments that you decide to stop doing. Unlike a to-do list, which focuses on tasks you need to complete, a “Stop Doing List” helps you identify and eliminate non-essential activities, or activities that can be completed by someone else. This helps stop the drain on your time, resources, and energy away from your core objectives. The idea, although simple, can have profound effects on the way you manage your business (and personal life). It may be that the task itself still needs to be carried out, but can be delegated to someone else in your team. OK, so perhaps it won’t be done to the standard you would do it yourself, but that doesn’t mean the world is going to end. Is 80% of your standard good enough, or is there a training need for the person taking it on?

Why It’s Important for Business Owners

Your time is an invaluable but limited resource. Every hour spent on low-value tasks is an hour not spent on strategic planning, growth initiatives, or simply having some time to recharge. The “Stop Doing List” encourages you to regularly audit your activities and eliminate those that do not contribute to your key goals. This discipline will give you more focused leadership, a leaner operation, and ultimately, a more competitive business.

Benefits of Having a “Stop Doing List”

  1. Focus on What’s Really Important
    By identifying tasks that do not directly contribute to your business goals, you can reallocate that time and energy into areas that do. This might mean spending more time on product / service development, market research, or customer engagement – areas that directly impact your bottom line. It may also highlight that you need to pass off tasks to your team, improving their growth and development.
  2. Increased Productivity and Efficiency
    Eliminating unnecessary tasks reduces clutter in your workday, allowing you to concentrate on work that genuinely matters. This can lead to quicker decision-making, faster execution, and ultimately a better business, particularly when you get out of the way in areas that you don’t need to be involved in.
  3. Better Work-Life Balance
    You may be one of the many business owners where the line between work and personal life is blurred. A “Stop Doing List” can help reclaim some of that personal time. It can help eliminate some of the “busy-ness” that is really just noise around what is really important.
  4. Cultivation of a Strategic Mind-set
    Regularly updating your “Stop Doing List” forces you to think critically about your contribution to the business and whether you are spending your time where it matters most. This practice fosters a strategic mind-set, encouraging you to always consider the bigger picture rather than worrying about tasks that others can take care of.
  5. Encouragement of Delegation and Empowerment
    Identifying tasks to stop doing can also highlight opportunities for delegation. Entrusting responsibilities to your team not only frees up your time but also empowers your team, promotes skill development, and helps develop a culture of trust and collaboration. It can also speed things up, if you’ve been used to being involved in all decisions no matter how big or small, as you’ll be removed as the blockage.

Implementing a “Stop Doing List” in Your Business

  1. Conduct a Task Audit
    Each time you undertake a task ask yourself the following:-
  • Why does this task need done?
  • Could someone else do this task (with the right training)?
  • Does this task contribute to growing my business or help meet the strategic objectives I have set?
  • Am I doing it as a way of avoiding harder work, which would be more beneficial?
  • Am I the only one who can do it?
  1. Evaluate and Prioritise
    At the end of the week review your list and ask yourself which activities can be stopped immediately, which can be delegated, and which require a phased approach to eliminate.
  2. Create Your “Stop Doing List”
    You probably can’t stop everything at once. You may need to train someone else. Perhaps you can automate some tasks or eliminate them completely, but you need to be sure there is no adverse impact. Pick an easy win to get you started and either eliminate the task or delegate it. Then prioritise the next task to get off your plate. Be clear about what you will stop doing and why. This clarity is crucial for both personal accountability and explaining your decisions to your team.
  3. Review and Revise Regularly
    Your “Stop Doing List” should be a living document. As your business grows and evolves, so too will the tasks that you need to move from your plate on to someone else. Regularly review and update your list to reflect your current priorities and challenges.

What now?

If you are a “busy-ness” junkie, the concept of a “Stop Doing List” offers a chance to quieten the noise and make space for what is important to your business. Adopting this tool can lead to greater efficiency, focus, and strategic growth. It encourages a disciplined approach to time management, allowing you to concentrate on the bigger issues, rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae. By embracing the “Stop Doing List”, you’re not just choosing to stop certain activities; you’re choosing to prioritise your business’s success and making yourself a better owner and leader.
So what are you waiting for – what are you going to stop doing?

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