The Stop Doing List – Part One: The Essential Mindsets You Need To Unlock Your Entrepreneurial Freedom And Ultimately ‘Stop Doing’
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In the first episode of our three-part special, our very own Matt Malouf, author, business coach and co-host of the Virtual Success Show, talks us through his recently published book, The Stop Doing List, and the importance of adopting several specific mindsets in order to gain more time, more profit and more freedom in your business.
During this episode, Matt explains to listeners the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone and letting go of negative mindsets in order to adopt the essential positive mindsets to ultimately ‘stop doing’.
Some of the areas covered are:
- The importance of mindset, before strategy, before tactics
- Realising when you have stepped too far out of your comfort zone and how to reign it in
- Being aware of common negative mindsets and how these are holding you back from business success
- The five essential mindsets specific to ‘stop doing’ which will ultimately unlock your entrepreneurial freedom
In this episode:
01:51 – The Stop Doing List book
03:25 – Mindset, before strategy, before tactics
05:00 – Three key areas of mindset
07:00 – Signs you’ve stepped too far out of your comfort zone
09:30 – Four most common negative mindsets
10:47 – Essential mindset #1 – Learn to say ‘no’
12:05 – Essential mindset #2 – Less is more
13:48 – Essential mindset #3 – Investment vs expense
17:18 – Essential mindset #4 – Adopting the 80/20 rule
19:30 – Essential mindset #5 – Don’t sweat the small stuff
21:50 – Wrapping things up
Let us know what your key takeout has been from this episode and join the continuing conversation over in the Virtual Success Facebook Group.
Resources mentioned in this show:
The Stop Doing List – www.stopdoing.com.au
Barbara: Hey, everyone, and welcome to yet another episode of The Virtual Success Show, where I’m joined by my co-host Matt Malouf. Hi, Matt, how are you?
Matt: I’m well, Barb, how are you?
Barbara: I’m good, thanks. I’m good. What’s been your week like, biggest learning this week for you?
Matt: Yeah, biggest learning. It’s a really interesting week, and I think the biggest learning is that as business owners and entrepreneurs, sometimes we need to have a recovery week to allow our energy to come back up. I had a big week, three weeks on the road and presenting and the like. I came into the week feeling a little bit low, and I’ve had a really great week. I’ve just allowed myself to recover. Energy’s now flying again.
Barbara: Yeah, that’s so true. Actually, for me, it’s interesting, the show we’re going to do today on your book, The Stop Doing List, I’ve had a week where … Or probably a month, really, where I’ve been pushing very far outside my comfort zone, because there’s some business decisions that I’ve had to make. I’ve been really grappling with the emotional turmoil that that can often bring. It’s just interesting that today’s show, we’re going to talk quite deeply about that, because we’re going to discuss your book.
Matt: Yes, absolutely. It can actually be detrimental to be too far out of our comfort zones for too long, because it’s very draining.
The Stop Doing List book
Barbara: Just for the listeners, Matt has written an amazing book, The Stop Doing List, which I would encourage anyone … I’ve been diving into it. I’ve read it about twice already, because there’s still so many nuggets of things to learn inside. What I wanted to do was actually interview Matt on the three very distinct sections that are in the book. What we’re going to do is we’re doing a three-part series on The Stop Doing List. Show one today, we’re going to talk about the mindset that you need to get into and the challengesyou’re going to face mindset-wise when you start this stop doing list exercise. Part two, then, we’re going to get into in the next show: how to actually create your stop doing list and unpack all those tasks that you really need to stop doing. Then, part three, which is the gold, which is actually how do you stop doing. Often, we create lists of things, and then we don’t know how to actually delegate them effectively or let go of the control. So, Matt, stopdoing.com.au, that’s the website.
Matt: Correct, it is.
Barbara: So jump on there. There are lots of resources and things going up there. Just to start with today, Matt, this mindset thing, I’m just always so fascinated by this, and I really enjoyed the beginning of the book. Even though I’ve done a lot of work on mindset myself before, there were some key things in here for me that were things I hadn’t actually learnt before, particularly about comfort zone. Talk to me first about why did you break it into these three sections? How significant is mindset as the beginning for this stop doing exercise?
Mindset, before strategy, before tactics
Matt: I think we all may have heard that age-old “strategy before tactics”. When it comes to productivity and growth, “in my opinion, it’s mindset before strategy before tactics”. If you go in, you can have all the skills in the world, and if you go in with the wrong mindset and the wrong energy around it, 99 out of 100 times, you’re going to fail. You can be doing the same thing, believing you’re going to get a different result, but that’s insanity. What I came to realise was the business owners that were growing fast and achieving what it was that they wanted to achieve in their businesses and their lives had a very distinct mindset. As I was working with them, realised that without these key aspects of mindset that they adopted, everything else was a lot harder and even failed.
Barbara: You know what I love about this, actually, because there are so many coaches out there and people out there talking about mindset. It’s a bit like the word “virtual assistant”. It’s incredibly broad, and often, people don’t really delve into … This is what I loved about your book. You actually break this down into three specific steps. Honestly, the first one or two of those were things that I had not actually thought about myself before, and I would say that I’m somebody who has quite a strong mindset in terms of business growth, but I had realised I was doing some things wrong. Can you just talk us through those three key areas of mindset for this particular exercise?
Three key areas of mindset
Matt: I sure can. So, the first one was helping you understand that in order to grow, in order to move you and your company forward, you needed to get out of your comfort zone. Now, that’s very cliché, get out of our comfort zone and the like, but what I created was a very definitive understanding of what comfort zone was. Then, the layers outside of that. If you can imagine a target with the centre of the target being your comfort zone and then there are two layers outside of that, the first layer being the learning zone and then the outer layer being what we call the panic zone. What can often happen is as we step out of our comfort zones, we step so far out that we go into the panic zone. What this does is it effectively cripples us, so it’s a bit like the age-old ‘deer in the headlights’ metaphor. It’s so far out of our comfort zone that we procrastinate. We’re overstressed, overwhelmed, and we don’t actually achieve anything. The gap between your comfort zone and the panic zone is the learning zone, or what I like to call the earning zone. That’s where you earn-
Barbara: You know what’s funny about that? When I just think about that panic zone, I think what also happens, because I know I’ve suffered this myself, you step out of your comfort zone too far, like you say. You feel stressed out, panicked, you’re awake at night, you’ve got the sick feeling in your stomach, and then you start to beat yourself up about not being able to step outside of your comfort zone. Everyone tells you, you have to push the limits, so you start to get wrapped up in this whole down on yourself thing, as well, because you haven’t successfully stepped outside of your comfort zone or you’ve gone there and you don’t like it. I love this little thing. This learning zone thing just made so much sense to me, that I had maybe been stepping a little bit too far outside of comfort zones for myself in the past. So talk to us about how to know when you’re in the learning zone and when you’ve gone too far.
Signs you’ve stepped too far out of your comfort zone
Matt: When you’ve gone too far, what becomes really apparent is there’s no forward movement. You’re stressing, you’re procrastinating, you’re in a state of overwhelm. You don’t seem to be able to know where to go next. If anything, you’ll probably go backwards, because you’re not focusing on anything of real productivity. The only way to get back and move forward is you’ve got to actually bring yourself from the panic zone back into your comfort zone so you can actually exit again. What that does is it actually calms our brain a little bit. We all go into that panic zone. We all do, irrespective of who you are and what successes you’ve had. What I do is if I feel myself going into that overwhelm or stressed state, I go back into my comfort zone and do something that sits within that to calm myself and then move out again.
It’s breaking it down. It’s breaking down the big task into little tasks and focusing on one step at a time. That will take you into your learning zone. It’s doing things that you haven’t done before, but you feel a sense of certainty within yourself that you’re on the right path and you can move it forward. It’s not a guarantee, but you’re focused. You’re moving it forward. You have that bit of fear coming up, but it’s a fuel. It’s not actually stopping you from moving forward.
Barbara: I actually read this while I was on holiday, so I was lying on a beautiful beach and I was thinking about this. What I thought was the most pivotal thing for me is that I know when I read that, I went, “I have been doing that to myself probably way too much over the years.” Now that I recognise it and I know the strategy from the book, how to deal with it. If I feel that, I say to myself, “Okay, this is just I’ve pushed a bit far. I’ve gone to look over the edge, and I feel a bit uncomfortable. Next week, I’ll just come back a bit.” I know the strategy, then, to come back and then just to push not a step too far but maybe two steps before that and realise that out there may be six months away and not what I thought, which is next month. It’s more a planning thing. It has really helped me personally, I have to say, to realise the comfort zone thing, how important it is. So, what about next? What are the other two pieces of mindset that you think are key?
Four most common negative mindsets
Matt: As I was going through, it was really apparent, working with all of the clients and businesses that I worked with, that there were four negative mindsets that kept coming up that were very apparent in holding people back. Those four were where your self-talk says, “They can’t do it as good as I can or as well as I can, I don’t want to give up control of the task or that area, I can’t afford it, or I don’t have time to implement.” Again, this is through research and working with clients and presenting to huge groups on this. You’d watch the nods of the head. I’d say, “Who’s ever said that they can’t afford to have somebody else do a task or they can’t do it as well as I can?” These are common phrases. Unless we become aware of what we’re doing “wrong”, we can’t get clear on where we need to move to. Through the book, I gave specific examples around these four negative mindsets and how they’re holding you back, which then leads into the last part of the mindset part, which is around the five essential mindsets.
Essential mindset #1 – Learn to say ‘no’
I mean, this is giving a guide and a direction forward, but the five essential mindsets really are around learning to say no. That’s a really critical one. Again, so many business owners … I think we’re brought up in a culture, as entrepreneurs, to just say yes and work it out. As we grow and as our companies grow, learning to say no and actually guard our time a little bit will make you more money and give you more freedom than anything else.
Barbara: You know what? I can safely say that I only started doing that a few years ago, and the minute I started doing it, I made a lot more money and I was a lot less stressed and a lot happier. I look back and think, oh my god, in saying yes to all those opportunities, not only was I not making any money, because I wasn’t doing anything properly, but I actually was also very stressed out myself and not that happy. Saying no and being laser focused on what we are doing in the business and getting the core part of the business right and delivering it means, then, later you can come to say yes to a selection of things that you think will complement. So I definitely second that, that that’s a huge thing that I’ve implemented.
Essential mindset #2 – Less is more
Matt: Time and time again, people have that realisation. Yet, it’s a bit of counter-intuitive thinking, isn’t it? Which a lot of these essential mindsets are, the second one being less is more. Do fewer things and do them really well as opposed to trying to do everything. Again, I’m not sure where we learned this as entrepreneurs, but a lot of people will attach success to doing more. I’ve got to do more. I’ve got to push more. I’ve got to get through more tasks on my list, et cetera. If you focus on leveraging, focus on getting the things off your list onto somebody else’s and you do the things that are of most value, again, you’ll make more money but you’ll have more freedom. That’s really the essence of the book, also. The book is designed to help you make more profit but also give you more freedom.
Barbara: Yeah, it’s that whole entrepreneurial freedom thing. We all want it. Nobody goes into their own business to work 24/7, never take a holiday, and be completely stressed out all the time. Sadly, that’s what an awful lot of people end up doing in business.
Matt: What they don’t realise is, it’s a choice.
Barbara: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. Also, it’s that slowing down. I’m sure that’s one of the mindsets, as well, is this thing of sometimes you have to slow down so that you can get to that Holy Grail, and it is somewhere that you can get to, but you have to implement … I can see now why you made mindset this first part. These are quite different tips to the normal mindset training that’s out there, because these are very specific in how to actually stop doing, which is the thing to unlock your entrepreneurial freedom.
Essential mindset #3 – Investment vs expense
Matt: Absolutely. Absolutely. Essential mindset three is investment versus expense and understanding that if you have the right people and you’re paying them money, that’s an investment, because that will pay you back dividends and it will buy you freedom. It’ll buy you back your time. See, the challenge is that most entrepreneurs, initially anyway, will see their people as an expense, because they see that on their profit & loss as an expense line. They’re trying to cut costs. It’s like if I reduce this person, I’ll just take that on, and we’ll save money.
Barbara: Yeah, it’s funny when you were saying that, I was thinking to myself I’ve been interviewed on a few podcasts recently. Often when I meet other women and I say to them, “Oh, you know, I have this business, and it’s only three years old or probably really only two and a half, and it’s just exploded. Oh, by the way, I also had a baby.” People go, “Oh my god, how do you do it?” I think, well, actually, I only work a few hours a day, and I was able to take time off. It’s because I actually had that mindset of I invested heavily in people, and because of that, I actually created freedom for myself and I created a scalable business. Definitely that is a mindset that trips so many people up, because they don’t see them as an investment. It’s not an investment straight away. Initially, it is a cost, because you’ve got to train them, so it could be six months before it’s an investment, but in the long run, it pays the biggest dividends than anything else you can invest in. In my view, anyway.
Matt: Again, when you compare it to other line items that we spend money on in our business, all marketing, it’s not all gives us a positive return, yet we’ll continue to invest in marketing to get that return. Like what you’re saying, Barb, not all people are going to return straight away. It takes time. But with the right mindset, understanding that they are an investment, you go into it very differently. It’s like when you buy an investment property. If you buy an investment property, it’s how do I maximise the capital value together with the rental yield? If you think about I’m going to bring on this person that’s going to help me with my business and help me grow it and give me some freedom and more time and you understand that I’m investing both money and time into this person that will reap me dividends later on, how would you actually treat them? How would you on-board them? What would you invest into them? What training would you send them on, et cetera? It’s such a different …
Barbara: You know, I was just thinking, as you were talking there, you’re right. It’s so mindset, because if you see somebody as a cost and not an investment, every day that you come into work or you come and do some work in your business, you are looking at that person and the minute they make a mistake or if your revenue drops a bit or something happens, you immediately look at them, because they’re the cost. It’s like a sabotaging behaviour, actually, because that person will feel that. They’re probably start making more mistakes. It’s just a whole energetic thing, actually, that can self-feed and cause total failure.
Barbara: So what’s next? What other positive mindsets do we have to have?
Essential mindset #4 – Adopting the 80/20 rule
Matt: Two more. The fourth one is the understanding and adopting the 80/20 rule, the Pareto principle. Again, I think it’s one of those concepts that a lot of people know about but don’t apply. Once you understand that 20% of your focus and what you do will reap 80% of your results and you start applying that to everything that you do and start to understand what is the 20% here that I need to focus on, you’ll find that there’s so many things that still need to get done but don’t need to get done by you that you start to create more time. Also, it’s an interesting exercise, because when we work with businesses and we get them to start to understand where they’re spending their time and then where they should be spending their time, which is the 20%, they realise they’re spending very little time in the most important. They’re spending a lot of time in the most urgent.
Barbara: You know, actually, I want to add something to that. Again, what I see sometimes, I know you’d see the same, Matt, 80/20 also applies to delegation. What I mean by that, on a specific task, let’s say you’ve got a task list that you’ve delegated. We often see people delegating 100% of that task, so that’s abdication. They’re like, “That’s off my list. I don’t even want to look at it.” When, actually, really, 80% of the task will be done by your team, but there’s kind of a 10, 15, 20% thing that involves you in terms of oversight, reporting back, helping, asking are there any issues, maybe there’s a gap where somebody needs more training. That’s the oversight piece, and that is delegation as opposed to abdication of responsibility. Would you agree?
Barbara: It actually applies to a simple task, as well.
Matt: Exactly right. It’s that misconception that delegation is, “Here you go. You go and do this, and I never want to hear about it ever again.”
Barbara: Which is just you’re going to fail, probably.
Matt: Exactly. Well, not probably. You will.
Barbara: Yeah, you will. You will.
Essential mindset #5 – Don’t sweat the small stuff
Matt: Then, the last essential mindset is to not sweat the small stuff. Again, we’ve heard this before, and the reason I put that in there is because a lot of the tasks that are falling onto entrepreneurs’ to-do lists aren’t that important, or if they’re not done correctly the first time, have little if any financial significance to the business. What we forget is that when we were learning these tasks and to do these things, we made many mistakes. We kept pushing forward, and we kept learning, and we kept making more mistakes. In delegating and actually stop doing these things, we need to understand that we’re trying to minimise the mistakes that our team make so that they can learn from our mistakes, but also, a lot of what we’re going to start handing them, the impact on the business is minimal, if any. Rather than getting caught up in them not doing things right the first time or not doing it as fast as you can do it, allow them to learn. Allow them to grow. Again, it will help you to make more money and give you more freedom.
Barbara: I was just thinking, as well … It’s funny. When you’re talking, I often think of little stories that have impacted me and my business. I was fortunate enough to be at a lunch once with an older man. He was retired, but had been a serial entrepreneur. Had sold businesses for hundreds of millions. One of these he built billion-dollar businesses, and it was very interesting talking to him. I remember one of the things he said to me, he said, “Always do business from a place of quiet.” What he meant was, he said be quiet about business, so be quiet in yourself.” This is something I struggle with. I definitely took his advice on board. It’s that whole thing of not sweating the small stuff, so don’t get caught up in the noise of all this stuff going on and sort of just focus … I guess he was saying focus on the important things and be quiet about everything else internally, in yourself, because it just causes way too much stress for you, that’s really not needed. The same applies in what we’re talking about here.
Wrapping things up
Matt: Absolutely. Absolutely. Sorry. Just to wrap that up, the reason the book starts there is because without getting clarity that you’re going to have to step out of your comfort zone in order to stop doing, you’re going to have to let go of the negative mindsets and adopt these positive or essential mindsets, the rest of the book will be of insignificance to you. Because you can create the list, and you can understand theoretically what’s going on, but trying to implement with the wrong mindset will always lead to failure.
Barbara: The how to stop doing part, which is part three of the book, there’s absolutely no point in going there unless you really take a good look at yourself in this first part.
Barbara: It’s funny. When you talk about those negative mindsets, those are the top four things we ask people on the way in, in the sales calls. What’s your biggest fear about hiring a VA? I can definitely tell you that those are the four that we get all the time. It’s one of those. I really should put a tick box on those and maybe send an automated training or something based on whichever one they tick.
Barbara: Listen, Matt, that’s been fantastic. Like I said, we’ve done a show on mindset before, but this has been much more in-depth. I personally found this part of the book … I almost skimmed past it, thinking I read about mindset all the time, but the minute I got into that comfort zone stuff, I went, “Hold on a second. This is actually really to the point and deeper stuff that I hadn’t thought about before.” Just a fantastic start to the book and to our series here. Part two of this series we’re going to do in the next show, is getting into the nitty-gritty of how to actually create and unpack your stop doing list. Another question we get all the time is how do I know what to put on the list? It’s simple in one way, but in another way, it’s actually quite difficult to do, and we’re going to give you the actual map to start creating your stop doing list. So, Matt, thanks so much for your insights, for giving us the insight on the book, for writing the book. It’s definitely needed.
Matt: You’re welcome! Yeah. Looking forward to show two.
Barbara: Listen, guys, stopdoing.com.au is where you can grab that. Also, we’d love you subscribe to the show on iTunes and maybe give us a rating over there on iTunes. We’re also now on Stitcher. You can actually listen to us over there on Android. Of course, you can also jump on the site, so virtualsuccessshow.com, and we have a Facebook group that you can join there. Give us ideas about what you’d like us to talk about. We’re always looking for new concepts and new things to talk about on the show. Until the next show, thanks, Matt.
Matt: Thanks, Barb.
Barbara: We’ll see you next time.
Matt: See you then.
Barbara Turley is the Founder & CEO of The Virtual Hub, a company that specializes in recruiting, training and managing superstar ‘Virtual Assistants’ in the social media, digital marketing and systems automation space.
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