Monday, June 15, 2015

“To Do” or “To Stop?”

Well, I've been away from the blogosphere for about a month, but what a great way to
jump back in.  Today's guest blogger is John Manning, author of the brand new book, The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus onWhat Really Matters.  Whether your leadership is in need of focus or refocus, this book is the place to go.  John gives you the tools to prioritize and create the right balance of activities to achieve the most successful results.

“To Do” or “To Stop?”
If you’re struggling with time management and feeling overwhelmed by the trivial many, it’s time to create a “To Stop” list.

Include activities on your list that aren’t vital to your professional and personal life and that can either be terminated or delegated to others. Consider involving your staff members in helping you develop this list, asking for their input. You may have people on your team who are happy to step up and assume more responsibility to improve their own skills. Lose what lacks real value in your life, and you’ll free up more time to focus on the “vital few” factors that drive your success.

Here are four steps to help you develop your “To Stop” list:

Evaluate where you spend your time. Pick an average week or month and chart your activities — write down what you are doing and what percentage of time you are spending on various tasks and responsibilities, e.g., answering emails, conference calls, putting out proverbial fires, etc. Within that snapshot, analyze when you were most productive — what did that look like? When were you least productive — what did that look like? Of everything you’ve listed, what really matters? Anything that qualifies as “noise” or is extraneous to your company’s mission and core strategies isn’t vital. Those are the items that belong on your “To Stop” list.

Understand the impact. Once you’ve charted what you’re truly doing with your precious time, it will be impossible to ignore or overlook the correlation between the “trivial many” and lost productivity. Let that discovery and any associated revelations (good or bad!) get under your skin and motivate you. Embrace this very natural catalyst to jumpstart the changes you’ll personally need to make.

Challenge yourself to let go. Just as you would with an unhealthy relationship or a bad habit, call upon self-discipline to let go of the work habits undermining your progress, productivity and profit. Take your “To Stop” list and start acting on it. Challenge your team and ask them to step up and take on some added responsibility. Simply put, to stop what’s on your “To Stop” list! Either find someone else to do it or quit it altogether.

Stay focused on the “Vital Few.” Once you’ve eliminated the “trivial many” from your daily agenda, be proactive about doing more of what’s essential to your success. How? Dedicate your free minutes to the “Vital Few,” whatever is directly related to your core mission, critical goals, or only what you can or should do. Stay the course, centered in this way, and you’ll find it’s much easier to avoid the temptation to slip back into old habits or get derailed by those ever-new distracters.

What are some of the “trivial” things you do that you could assign to others?

Originally published February 9. 2015

John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP), and author of The Disciplined Leader - now available on Amazon. Learn more about his work at, or connect with him on Twitter @JohnMManning.

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