I had a stress meltdown recently. Not that this should have come as any surprise–after all, I run myself ragged; I spend way too many hours in front of the computer, the phone and other people, and not enough hours resting, exercising, trusting. Meltdowns for me feel like a mini-volcano: the anger, stress and frustration start to rise in my body, beginning somewhere in my stomach, like a lava flow about to erupt through my throat. I feel simultaneously pulled in all directions and yet too paralyzed to move in any one of them. I thought the issue was that I needed to systematize what I did (I do). Create some kind of operations manual (I should). But I couldn’t wrap my mind around it, as I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
Then my friend, colleague, and strategic cattle prod, Dawn Fotopulos of Small Business How 2, pointed me to an article written six years ago by Jim Collins–and I was whisked into the world of the “stop doing” list. WOW! What a life-saver.
This is the basic premise. You receive two phone calls:
- The first one says you’re about to receive $20 million dollars–no strings attached no taxes. In other words, enough money that most of us would never have to work again (if we chose not to). Whee!
- The second phone call tells you you have only 10 years to live–no bargaining, no miracle cures, no extra wishes from a magic genie. In other words, the impetus to make every moment count because you know they are limited.
Now here’s the $64,000 question: Assuming you choose to continue working, what would you stop doing?
Think about that for a minute. Most strategic plans are about what you would start doing–like a series of flimsy New Year’s resolutions for your company, most of which drop off after the first few weeks. This gets you to think about what you would stop doing. If you have only a finite number of moments, what would bring you the greatest joy, the greatest sense of fulfillment, the greatest positive impact on your communities? Are you doing any of that now? Does any of what you want to do generate money for you? You may find, as I did, that you’re buried under a mountain of administration, bookkeeping and management of your business, rather than spending more of your time with above-the-dashboard thinking and creativity.
Once you identify what you would like to stop doing, you can then create a viable plan for how you can stop doing it. This may not happen overnight, so be prepared for a time of transition. For example, I’ve been drowning in social media upkeep (among other things). No time to check out followers, maintain profiles or research groups I might want to belong to. I don’t need to do the research and upkeep myself: My time is better spent having actual social media conversations because that’s what nourishes me: learning from and being in dialogue with other like-minded entrepreneurs. Having identified what I want to stop doing, I can create a plan to delegate those tasks to my VA.
Looking at my different lines of business through the lens of my “stop doing” list, I now have a powerful foundation for setting my goals for the coming year. I see where each of the strategies I adopt, and the tactics I employ, fits within the goal of getting things off my plate. It creates a system for my business that, ultimately, won’t need me to run it. And when I have that, I’ll have a salable asset and the most wonderful gift of all: total and complete freedom of choice in how I spend my time.