Entrepreneurs

Forget the To-Do List, Here’s The List You Should Create Instead

Are you living your life based on a to-do list? Do you struggle with getting it all done? Do you keep adding more and more to your list, but never make any real progress? You are not alone. Most business owners have a to-do list that never seems to get any smaller. And we wonder why we aren’t able to scale our businesses like we want to. We are being pulled in too many directions at once. 

The problem lies in the to-do list itself. It’s super easy to add another thing to your list, but it’s more difficult to make the hard choices about what to NOT put on the list. I suggest that instead of a to-do list you create a “Stop Doing List” instead, which contains items that you need to let go of, delay, delegate or delete altogether.

Identify The Problem Areas

You know how to create a to-do list. You can do those in your sleep. But creating a “Stop Doing List” takes a little bit of deliberate practice. Begin by looking at your to-do lists from the past 60 days paying special attention to items that didn’t get crossed off. Look at each one and think about what consequences, if any, happened when you didn’t complete those items in a timely manner. Also review items that you did complete, but put off doing until the last minute. Was there a consequence? Why did you put off doing that item? How could you have handled it differently? And lastly look at the items you did complete. Did those items create value for your business? Or were they just easy and quick and gave you a rush of dopamine to cross them off your list?

Stop Doing It

If it’s been on your list for 60+ days and nothing has really been affected, chances are you can just remove those items from the to-do list all together. Or they can be moved to a tickler list for the future.  Use your best judgement here of course, because there will be some items that you haven’t completed but they really do need to be handled by someone which is where the next phase comes into play. 

Delegate It 

Just because it’s on a list, doesn’t mean that you have to do it. Delegating it to another person on your team is a great way to move more things across the finish line. Online to-do programs like Trello or Asana are great for delegation. You can just as easily task another team member with a to-do item and get feedback and updates on the progress as someone else does the heavy lifting. 

Keep Going

Each week, pick a few more activities you deliberately choose to add to your “stop doing” list. You’ll find that the items you put on it tend to be tasks you find draining–maybe ones you put on your to-do list out of obligation or inertia.

After a while, you may even find that your stop doing list is even longer than your to-do list.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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