As you identify more and more things you need to do, you soon run out of time. At some point you need to stop doing some things so that you can do other things instead. What would you add to your ‘stop-doing’ list?

I regularly hear the remark “I seem to finish the day with more things on my list to do than I had at the start!”.  Read my blog entitled “The 3D Rule” for more help on this, but there’s another practice that helps create more time.

Once a month or once a quarter sit down and spend 30 minutes writing a Stop-Doing list. You can’t just keep adding more and more things to the list of what you need to do every month. Start by analysing what you do. If you struggle with that, focus on working out what you do by studying a few of your days with a time-tracking sheet. Contact me if you’d like a free template, but basically it’s just a sheet listing the hours of your day broken down into 15 or 30-minute intervals.

Print it and put it on your desk. Set a reminder on your computer or phone to beep hourly and record what you’ve worked on (or been interrupted by!). But be warned – you’re very likely to feel disappointed and annoyed with the result! But don’t worry, it’s all part of the learning process. As an aside, one thing often amuses me when I ask clients to do this exercise: They cheat! Yes, they omit things and change the duration of activities. A phone call that turned into an hour’s chat gets written down as 15 minutes. The hour and a quarter for lunch is written down as an hour. Then time on more virtuous things like planning or calling prospects is extended.

If you wonder how I can know this… it’s because I’ve found myself doing all of these when I was first asked to complete one! When I ask clients, they admit it. None of us really likes admitting that at times we can be rubbish with our time. It’s probably worthy of a blog on its own. Anyway, make an honest time log when you do this because otherwise there’s not much point. It can also help to keep a sheet handy for one week or one month – without time divisions – to record all the main activities that you do regularly.

Most people start out telling me this is pointless because they know what they do, but then they’re surprised by the length of the list.

You need to do this to create your Stop-Doing list. Once you have a list of what you’re doing on a regular basis, you should go through it and identify some of them that you’re going to stop doing. Be ruthless! You might be able to delegate some things, but on the whole, it’s better to completely stop doing a few things. Think about each task in terms of how much you’re earning by doing it, or how much you’re saving, and think too about how much you enjoy it? Dump the ones that score the lowest. Because you know what? You wouldn’t be getting everything done anyway, so it’s better to choose the least worthy tasks to drop.

Be proactive about your Stop-Doing list. Every time you identify something new to do, add another item to your Stop-Doing list to make room for it.