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Your success starts with a “stop doing” list

Businessman notebook

ben-jones-headshotJanuary is always an exciting time of year, filled with excitement and anticipation about all the possibilities the new year holds. During this time, many of us make lists of goals, resolutions, things we want to accomplish and challenges we want to tackle in the year ahead. One of my favorite lists to create is my annual “stop doing” list, an idea I shared in our end-of-year podcast last month.

As humans, we can easily become creatures of habit, even if those habits do not lead to positive outcomes. We say things like “this is the way it’s always been,” or—my personal pet peeve in business—continue to complete a process or task that no one knows why or for what purpose. It’s just always been done. Sound familiar?

Creating a “stop doing” list gives us the freedom to question everything. What are the things that use up a lot of my time? What brings angst to my daily work? What am I doing now that brings little or no value to my clients?

The “stop doing” list

Ben Stop Doing NotepadSo how does it work? Start big – write down an entire list of things that you want to stop doing in the year ahead. Your list might be short (only a handful or things) or long (even twenty or more items), but what’s important is to get all of your ideas down on paper. Then, look over the list and choose the top three items that, if removed from your routine, will most positively impact your success. Try to resist the urge to choose the easy or trivial items; it’s important to go big and choose something really impactful. Next, for each of the three items, ask yourself, “why?” Depending on the item, the context of “why” might be different. Why should I stop doing it? Why is it on the list? Why is it impactful? After you write down the response to your first “why,” ask “why” again. In other words, “why the why.” Finally, write down how much time you would save over the course of the year if you stopped doing it. Repeat these steps for each of the top three items on your stop doing list. Here is an example:

  1. Stop doing:
    I am going to stop attending the chamber of commerce meetings.
  2. Why?
    I don’t get much out of the meetings.
  3. Why?
    When I am there, I feel distracted by thinking about other things I need to be doing. I don’t engage in the topics or with the attendees before or after the meetings.
  4. Time savings:
    Including travel time, 1.5 hours each month = 18 hours per year.

Now comes the important part: After reflecting on your list, determine which items should remain on the stop doing list and which you should keep doing but with a revised approach. Consider your goals for the year, and through that lens, determine how you will invest your newfound time. In the example above, if your goal is to better serve your existing clients in the year ahead, you might ask yourself, “How would I invest those 18 hours a year to better serve my existing clients?” If your goal is to expand your business with more corporate clients, you might need to keep your chamber commitments but be more fully invested. Your conclusion might then be, “I need to be fully invested and active in the chamber when I attend, so I am going to reallocate time from something else so I can over invest in my chamber activities.”

Creating a stop doing list has a sneaky way of helping you get to the root of the important things: your time, energy and success. Revisit your stop doing list on a quarterly basis to hold yourself accountable and ensure that your strategy is working as you had hoped.

Hope you have a wonderful and productive week.

Ben Jones

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