Are You a To-Do Hoarder?
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When everything matters, nothing matters.
We all have a thousand things to do. Those things stress us out, keep us up at night and get in the way of what matters in life and business.
I’m often asked to provide clarity on what to do to help grow a business. Instead of focusing on what you need to do (adding to your already long “to do” list), start with what can be stopped to make space.
The concept of simplification in our physical spaces is obvious. We can see when our space is getting cluttered. When there is a mess, we remove, clean and organize.
Like our house or office, our priorities and relationships deserve the same maintenance.
If you feel overwhelmed, go to bed with a thousand things running around your mind or wake up in the middle of the night, mind racing – you are to-do hoarding.
You have limited time. Physical hoarders ignore the constraints of their space and accumulate to the point of chaos. To-do hoarders disregard the limits of their time and energy. Having an overflowing list of to-dos or people to serve doesn’t make you more impactful; it makes you less so. More can quickly become unhealthy and unproductive if it’s not managed with intention.
The best way to start to make progress on anything is to is to choose to focus on it and nothing else.
The word “priorities” didn’t exist until the 19th century. Before the 1900s you had a “priority.” It was revolutionary to consider a life and business where it’s the norm to have multiple priorities.
What if I said you could have no more than three priorities? What if I then said you had to rank them and identify your most important one? What would it be? How are you doing on that thing?
When it comes to your business, there’s a framework that I use with clients to help them quickly identify and deal with their overflowing to-dos and get clear on what they actually need to-do. In the same way you have piles when you are cleaning out your garage or closet, organize your to-dos into one of three categories: keep, kill or evolve.
“Keep” means it stays as it is on your list and in your business. “Kill” is an acknowledgement that it’s not productive or necessary, so you stop (at least for now). Something you kill can always revived. “Evolve” means some aspect of the to-do is important to the business but it needs to be improved or transformed. You evolve something by delegating, automating or outsourcing. When you delegate, automate or outsource, the goal isn’t to simply absolve yourself of responsibility; it’s to communicate the essential nature and outcome of the to-do and empower the new owner to improve the process or output.
How do you know whether to keep, kill or evolve?
What’s essential to the business and what’s not? As a business owner or employee, this can be a hard question to answer. Often we’re so close to the business, clients and projects that most things seem important. Why would we be doing it if it wasn’t important?
Sunk-cost bias is a psychological phenomenon that causes us to try to reduce our losses. If you’ve put time and energy into a client, project or process, it may be very difficult to put it in the kill list simply because it feels like you’re too far into it or too committed to stop now. An aversion to loss or defeat can make us irrationally cling to unproductive ideas and behaviors. Letting go may be the best step forward, no matter the perceived cost. Just because you let go of something, doesn’t mean you can’t bring it back at a later time. Almost nothing in life is permanent.
There are two ways to step outside of the business to gain a more accurate perspective on what matters and what doesn’t.
Start with your purpose and values. Guiding principles can be an incredibly helpful tool to serve as a tiebreaker or rule to inform your decision. If you don’t have clarity on your business’ purpose this exercise may help or you can look to your values, which inherently drive purpose.
If you don’t have a documented purpose statement or list of values start there.
The second way is to ask for help. Ask a trusted team member or your team to complete the exercise and compare your results. Or seek an unbiased third-party such as a consultant or coach.
Categorizing your work can be done as part of your strategic business planning or as you work throughout your day. Keep a list on your desk; over the course of a week or two review the things you (and your team) do and think about doing daily, categorize as keep, kill or evolve.
Identify the small number of things matter the most (they will change over time).
Once you’ve identified the shortlist of “keeps,” your time and energy should be a lot more focused. If not, go back to the list and continue to edit the “keeps” until you feel energized by what’s there.
Don’t forget about your relationships
The same concept of focus applies to your relationships. Relationships like to-dos take energy. Not all relationships – prospects, clients or professional – matter to your business (or you) in the same way.
Prioritizing your relationships empowers where and how you spend your time and resources.
Segmentation is one way to prioritize relationships as they relate to the business. Some business use A, B and C ratings others use AAA, AA, A. It doesn’t matter the label; what matters is that you intentionally segment and are clear about what those segments mean.
Typically, you spend more time and resources on your top segments. Different people or service models may support different segments. There may be different expectations and deliverables communicated.
When few things matter, progress is easy
When it’s clear what your priority is, it is easy to know what to do next. If you’re struggling with what to do or to make progress on something that matters to your business (or in your life), then I challenge you to kill or evolve all of the things that are stopping you from focusing on that thing.
Focus precedes progress.
I partner with financial professionals looking to unlock their potential by getting intentional and comfortable with sales. Growth strategist and coach, accountability partner, change maker – those are some of the names I’ve been called over the past 15 years. What happens after you get a lead? If you looking to move more prospects to clients and clients to advocates, I’d love to help. Learn more resources at www.shaunamace.com or contact me at [email protected].