Every CEO faces struggles, especially when it comes to finding an effective way to move out of the role of a player in the business and spend more of their valuable time in roles that are higher level. The secret of attaining this new balance is to incorporate a “Not-Do” list. Of course, everyone has their to-do list. This type of list is great for helping to keep us organized and focused. It is also a great place to list things that we know we should be taking care of, but need to keep it for another time without forgetting about it. There is something extremely satisfying about being able to check off an item on your to-do list. Unfortunately, there is also a little tyranny because it can be easy to focus on the simplest tasks or the things we find most enjoyable and take pride in accomplishing something on our list. However, these things that get done are often not the things that will make a big difference in the overall success of a business. You might even be accomplishing urgent tasks but, when it comes to the big picture and the growth of the business, they aren’t all that important.
So, now that you understand why you need a ‘Not Do’ list, we can begin to re-focus our To-Do list. Exceptional leaders make their list just like everyone else. These great leaders roughly prioritize their tasks from the things that have the most economic impact to those that impact their business the least. They then make a significant change. Approximately halfway down the list, they draw a line and the items below this line they mark “Not-Do,” which applies to all the items on the bottom half of their list. While this might seem rather drastic, especially since there was likely a good reason they are on your list in the first place, the point is that you need to apply a little strategy when you think about those items.
First, you need to apply the strategy of just not doing these items. Make a conscious decision that these are items you aren’t going to invest time completing. Hopefully, whatever it is will just go away. But, regardless, at this time, you won’t be taking action on these items.
Secondly, employ a strategy to postpone or delay. That means that you won’t take action on the items for an extended period of time. Often times, this delay tactic will end up causing you to reevaluate the importance of the items in question for example, perhaps they will seem less critical after some time. Occasionally, another member of your organization might recognize that the task needs to get done and they will take action to ensure it is completed. Other times, circumstances change and the necessity for action is no longer even on the table. Of course, this can be difficult for a leader that is action oriented. Most people consider taking action both a weakness and a strength, especially for entrepreneurs. However, it is possible that waiting to take action can really work.
A final strategy for dealing with a Not-Do list is simply to delegate. If there is an item that is too important to put off, but still didn’t make it to the top of your list, it might be an excellent item to delegate to someone else. Find a person either inside or outside of your organization who can best complete this task then, give the assignment to them. If you, as the CEO, ask an individual to help, they will likely be flattered. As the leader, a task that seems relatively normal to you can seem like a major accomplishment to an employee. This provides two benefits for you not only does the task get completed, but you have given an employee an opportunity to develop their skills.
Your Not-Do list can be revised periodically, perhaps on a monthly basis. This will help you to shorten your To-Do list by becoming a bit more aggressive with managing these tasks. With regular attention, those non-crucial items that seem to crop up can be either eliminated or delegated off your To-Do list. This will free you up to spend your time working on more important business matters.
Try it! You might discover you not only become a better leader, but you have more time for the important things.
What’s on your Not-Do List? Share in the comments below