Four Lists for Immediately Improved Results

It will take a couple of minutes to read this, and a few more to make the lists. Any one of the items you come up with could make a dramatic difference to your next 90 days, and beyond.

I’m going to suggest you make four lists, and think about them in a particular way:

Four Lists

1. A TO STOP list in order to release resources (time, energy, people, money etc) for more productive uses

Most organizations and individuals are doing things which, while important at one time, now no longer make sense. If you are doing things that you wouldn’t start as a new initiative today: put them on the list, and act accordingly. Read this blog post for more.

2. A SNAGS list

Always a popular list with my coaching clients: over time, we – both individuals and organizations – accumulate workarounds. These are temporary or less-than-ideal solutions which become habits. In time, our repertoire or standard ways of operating are dominated by them. For example:

  • Someone is promoted to baby-sit a dysfunctional team, and then starts to acquire an empire while the fundamentals are never sorted out.
  • A hand-updated, error prone spreadsheet is controlled by one bottleneck person, where instead there should be a widely-accessible database (for which you probably already have the licences).
  • Space is used for temporary storage but becomes de facto warehousing, while staff are crammed into an unsuitably small office area.

Make a SNAGS list, and pick off a few easy ones straightaway – it will liberate a lot of energy.

3. A very short BIG BOLD MOVES list

This one should be 1 to 3 items long: a few bold items that if you did them would make a huge difference. I can’t be too specific as to what this might be in such a short piece, but most people can come up with these when asked. One client of mine, an ambitious and excellent professional service firm, opened an office on the far side of the world in what looked like an extremely brave move. It was actually much lower risk and higher reward than the doubters could have imagined: it made them an international firm, which gave them a certain je ne sais quoi, added to their repute and staff prospects, and has really helped in the downturn where its sales have offset lower demand at home.

Your big bold moves will be particular to you, but they are probably already floating around somewhere in the back of your mind. Bring them front and centre – you may be surprised how do-able they are.

4. Drawing on what you’ve learned from the first three lists, a TO DO list properly prioritised for results (often meaning most uncomfortable first)

We all have TO DO lists, but do we honestly work through them in the best order? Try prioritising tasks from most productive to least productive, then do the most productive first. Stick to your prioritisation. So that might mean calling a customer before scheduling an internal progress meeting, or addressing a conflict in the team before a general catch-up on industry news. Doing lower priority tasks first is often is a kind of procrastination – you can see you’ve ticked a lot of items of at the end of the day, but if they aren’t the big (often more uncomfortable) ones, you could be busy doing nothing.

One-to-one consulting and coaching with Andrew

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Praise for Andrew’s book, The Performance Papers: Incisive Briefings For Busy Leaders

The Performance Papers: contains pragmatic ideas for managing strategically, leading teams, and influencing stakeholders in order to accelerate results. It is designed to be dipped-into or read straight through according to need.

“In this book, Andy provides expert guidance for aligning your people with your objectives and turning strategy into action. Particularly beneficial are the short summaries, conclusions, key points, tips and multi-step Processes.” – Jens R.Höhnel, Global Co-CEO & President Europe, International Automotive Components Group ( IAC)

“Deeply well developed thinking and approach. A must read.” – John Handley. Chairman, The Green Bus Company and Teamworks Karting plc

More about The Performance Papers – including testimonials, an extract and buying information (both from Amazon, and bulk orders for corporates) are available here:

This article was first published in Andrew Bass’s Pragmatics Newsletter June 2012: Practical techniques and thought-provoking ideas.