One of the biggest challenges of owning your own business is trying to fit everything in (Who needs sleep?). On a typical day you’ll probably spend a few hours dealing with current customers, a few hours trying to land new customers and a good chunk of your time managing your employees and worrying about money. Your day is full…and you still haven’t figured out how you’re going to get to the really important stuff on your to-do list.
Here’s the key – you need to STOP doing some things. You need a stop doing list!
Author Jim Collins popularized the concept of a Stop Doing List several years ago, here’s the gist of the idea. If you’re going to be effective at work you need to prioritize and focus on what’s really important – what you should be doing. That’s common sense…but what’s equally important and not nearly as common…you also need to routinely focus on what to STOP doing. There’s only so much time in the day and a big part of prioritizing and doing the right thing is to build some room by stopping things that don’t fit.
The Stop Doing list is not one size fits all – everyone is going to have their own list. In general you should focus on stopping those things that drain you of energy, that you really don’t enjoy or that aren’t aligned with where you really want to go.
Here are a few ideas to consider based on talking to business owners for the last few years:
Dealing with your most difficult customer – most business owners have 1 or 2 customers that just wear them out. Fire them and free up your time and energy to work with someone you enjoy.
Wasting your time on bad networking - if you dread going, if it’s consistently been a waste of time in the past or if you know there’s no one attending who can really help you, then do yourself a favor and drop it. (Note – don’t stop networking, just drop the bad events / groups)
Rolling out ineffective marketing – If you’re spending money on marketing or advertising, you need to see a tangible return on investment. If you don’t see a positive payout (after a reasonable amount of time) then you need to stop. Take some time, rethink your strategy and your message and try something different.
Doing the grunt work – As the business owner, your job is to lead, that doesn’t mean you won’t do day to day work, but to succeed in the long run, you’ve got to get the work that can be done by someone else off of your schedule.
Chasing prospective customers – You’re really good at what you do and assuming you have a viable business model, there are a lot of people out there who need what you do. If you’re spending any significant time chasing someone, you’re wasting your time. Move on and spend your time with people who want to work with you.
Being vague - If you want to be effective and make good things happen you must be exceptionally clear about what your priorities are. What are the 5 most important things you need to do to win this year? How about in the next 90 days? If you can’t quickly answer those questions, you’re not clear enough.
The Rollercoaster – Marketing really only works when it’s consistent, that means you have to build marketing tactics that happen over and over consistently. When you don’t do that, you get the rollercoaster effect and end up chasing opportunities when you finally slow down.
Overscheduling – Yes you have a million things to do but scheduling yourself back to back all day every day isn’t going to make you more effective. Build in some down time, carve out time to think big…to refine your stop doing list…or to just catch your breath. It won’t happen unless you make it happen.
Making quick, bad hires – As a business owner, one of the worst things you can do…ever…is to hire someone quickly who turns out to be a bad fit. Depending on how bad it is, you may end up leaving yourself in a bigger hole than you had before you made the hire. You could alienate other employees or customers and waste a lot of time and money cleaning up the mess. Remember – slow to hire, quick to fire…!
What are the top 2 or 3 things you need to stop doing? What would it take to actually stop? We’d love to hear your thoughts – what are you going to stop? Leave us a comment below.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach
photo by Afroswede