From time to time, we all get overwhelmed with activities, and most of us turn to a “To Do” list to manage the priorities. There are several systems that help keep people organized and assist them on making the most of their time.
In this article, I suggest that having a specific “Stop Doing” list can be just as helpful at managing time as having a “To Do” list.
Time is Precious
Time is the most precious commodity we have. What makes something precious is comprised of two factors.
The thing must be of intrinsic value to us and it must be scarce. Diamonds and coal are chemically identical and both have intrinsic value to us, but diamonds are very difficult to find, so their value is infinitely higher.
Time has value to us because it is all we have to live with, and nobody can get more than 24/7 each day. Therefore, time has extremely high value: it is both important and scarce.
Most professionals are in a perpetual state of overload. That is because in the pressure cooker of day to day activities, more items come onto the plate than can possibly be accomplished.
If you doubt that, just take a look at your e-mail inbox. In every meeting there are new action items to be accomplished and precious little time to do them. It is a habitual problem that leads to burnout and even death due to stress.
People watch the incoming texts and activities closely trying to manage the load. The common refrain is “I have no time to deal with that now.” They often forget to cull out the non-essential things that take up their time. Anything taken off the plate is a reason to celebrate.
Individuals who focus on stopping things show others that time utilization needs to be managed from both ends. Leaders are used to making tough decisions with budgets and other resources, but they sometimes fail to see how their most precious resource (their own time) is being squandered.
Those who manage time actively and vocally send a clear message to the entire organization that seconds really do count.
10 Tips to manage your “Stop Doing” List
1. Keep track of what you are doing.
If you have a mechanism to actually see how your time is being spent, you can manage it better. I like to think of colors.
When I am doing “green” things, it means I am using my time wisely. “Yellow” things have marginal value, and “red” items are really wasting my precious time. Just keep looking for the color. It can be a kind of game as you sit in a meeting and watch the air turn from green to red before your eyes.
2. Delegate more!
This has a dual benefit because often people are eager to help out if only given the chance. There is always some risk when delegating, but the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Learn the skill of good delegation and press yourself to apply it more than you currently do.
3. Finish things.
Don’t dabble in work. Be crisp with completing assignments so your inbox is clear for new items.
When something is completed, celebrate for a second because you now have that off the plate.
Spend some brainstorming time with your inner circle cleaning house of useless activities.
5. Create a “Sacred Cow Pasture.”
This is a visual board where you post paradigms that have been broken where you no longer have to do what used to take up your time. It is refreshing to fill up a “Sacred Cow Pasture.”
Everybody benefits! For example it takes courage to admit we no longer need the quality report because our systems have reached a higher standard.
How about doing away with the “cost” meeting and substitute an efficient dashboard? The possibilities are endless.
6. Challenge everything.
Try a zero based approach to your day where you come in as if you were a new employee. Ask “why am I doing this and what could be done to eliminate the need for it.”
7. Handle your time like a budget.
Think of your task list as a fixed number of things – like say 50 things. In order to make room for a new activity, you must take at least one old activity off your prior list.
8. Reward people who bring up ideas for your “Stop Doing” list.
If you reinforce this behavior, you not only help yourself, you help the entire organization because everyone will get the bug to eliminate marginal activities.
9. Go on a “Safari”
Hunt down and kill at least 3 unnecessary activities. It can be a fun activity once you get into it.
10. Go away!
If you are not there to do things, they will get done just fine most of the time. Go out and visit some customers or attend a seminar for your own development.
While you are away, have an administrative person keep track of the things that you would have done if you were there. These are all items you can challenge in the future.
Your “Stop Doing” list is as important as your “To Do” list. Don’t neglect it.