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After Tax Season: Create Your “What-Not-To-Do’s” List

You can call it a “Stop Doing These” list.

If you have done the “ABC Analysis” of your clients, you know the best customers who yield highest net profit per unit of effort (generally your time) are your A clients and those who yield the least are your C clients.

All of us have 24 hours in a day. Time is undoubtedly the most precious of all resources you can ever have. And hence, just like ABC Analysis of your clients, it would make sense to do an ABC Analysis of things you do yourself and things that your staff does. If yours is a firm with resource challenges, most likely you are doing not just ABC things but D, E and maybe some more.

When you make a to-do list, you essentially want to focus more on the things that yield you more profit per unit of activity. But you still want to or will continue to do everything else that you have been doing. The greatest fallacy of this exercise is that you can NOT create more time; you can only shift some of your time from C, D and E activities to A and B activities, which means you will have much less time to do the C, D and E activities. If you cannot implement productivity and efficiency gains driving technologies and processes (at additional costs) to do those things faster, it makes perfect sense to identify what you must stop doing – so says Linda Coles, the author of “Start with Hello: How to Convert Today’s Stranger into Tomorrow’s Client.”

But everything we do has to be done. How can we afford not do those things?

Very valid question. But you need to rephrase that question as “Why should we do these activities ourselves? Or why should we do these activities at all?”

Is each one of your C, D and E activities substantiated with measured value? Does your “cost” justify doing each one of those activities? If not, can you stop doing them altogether without harming the overall value that your firm provides, or can someone else within your firm or outside your firm do those activities to turn them profitable? Once you identify those not-to-dos, you can separate them into “not-to-do-myself (/ourselves)” AND “not-to-do-at-all” activities. It is easier to find resources that will do the not-to-do-myself things cheaper, faster or even better for you. (You will actually create residual income for yourself on such activities!)

If you find it too complex to identify the low-value tasks, you and each of your staff can take Harvard Business Review’s free assessment here. At the end of this assessment, you will know how to make time for the work that matters and more importantly, what can you “stop doing.”

Even when you can identify things not to do, sheer habit will make it next to impossible to stop doing those things. But help is here. In his amazing book “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” celebrity author Charles Duhigg reveals the scientific secrets that can help change our habits. His “Guide to Changing Habits” is available for free here.

You still want to make a “to-do” list? Sure. Just add to it right at the beginning – “make a not-to-do’s list!”

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