Startup Diaries: The Importance Of A ‘Stop Doing’ List

Jackie Hutchings shares the lessons she’s learned from working long hours and why a ‘stop doing’ list is the key to working sustainably.

I hit a wall last week. Not a real wall, a metaphorical wall. The crazy thing is that I could see it coming but did nothing to avoid it. I've hit it before....  not often, but I have hit it before so the signs were very clear. I chose that road and I could have so easily avoided it. Let me tell you more.

The birth of a start up is heralded as any new life - with excitement and anticipation. And then the hard work starts, deadlines loom, plans get revised, money gets spent and the race is on to get to market. Oh, and there's the lingering fear of failure. 

And my reaction to this is to work harder, work longer, work more.

It's easy to translate 'working long hours' into 'being more effective'. Do you recognise that in yourself?

As much as I'd love to achieve it, I don't really buy the notion of Tim Ferriss's 4 Hour Week. My old habits kick in and overide any thoughts of slowing up. That is until my body says “no more” and my head feels like a washing machine on the spin cycle. 

So, what are the lessons learned from working long hours:

  • It’s unsustainable and should be reserved for occasions where there’s an important (and by that I mean a really important, business changing opportunity) deadline.
  • I’m less effective.
  • I lose my creative edge and the standard of my output drops.
  • I sleep badly.
  • I worry more.
  • I neglect my family and friends.
  • I don’t eat properly.
  • I stop exercising.

If you’ve ever read Jim Collins’ Good to Great, you’ll recognise the term ‘shoulder against the flywheel’. It’s a concept which describes how to drive your business forward. Keep pushing, as a team, in one direction and momentum will build. Because momentum, i.e mass  x velocity, is what will generate superior economic results over time. And it’s where Zlimm123 currently sits. The product is ready, the website is completed - well, as completed as any website ever is - and we’re implementing our marketing plan. 

In this world of random channels, it’s very easy to get distracted, to get sucked into the next promising opportunity.  But, that can be the kiss of death.

We now need to stick to the plan, review it often and only divert for good business reasons. 

So, my friends, in the wake of my meltdown, I am writing a ‘stop doing’ list. I’m fairly sure this list will always be ‘work in progress’ but let me share with you a few of the items:

I will stop:

  1. Checking my email every 10 minutes (note to self: turn off new mail alerts)
  2. Ditto with Facebook/Twitter/G+
  3. Sitting at my desk for more than 90 minutes at a time.
  4. Using work as an excuse not to exercise.
  5. Eating late at night at my desk (I really should know better than to do this – it’s one of the Zlimm habits we help people change!)
  6. Thinking that seeing friends is wasting time.

The list is printed out and is on the fridge. Today is a new day. It’s time to start managing my energy, not my time.

Jackie Hutchings is founder of two online businesses. Scubadviser (a TripAdvisor for scuba divers) and Zlimm123, a ground breaking weight loss programme. Jackie has extensive experience in starting businesses in a career spanning nearly 40 years. A qualified business coach and leadership trainer, she started her career in Rank Xerox, quickly realising that corporate life didn’t suit her. She launched her first business in the late 1970s, taking that company public on, what was then, the Unlisted Securities Market.   

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