- It’s something you’re passionate about. First and foremost, a genius task needs to be something you enjoy, something you love doing. Without that passion, you’re not going to put in the time, energy and effort required to push your business to new heights.
- It’s something that is essential to the business. It must be done, even if nothing else is done all day. Your business hinges on this task being completed, and being done right.
- It needs to contribute directly to the profit of the business.
As you begin to value your time, it’ll become increasingly important to you to spend your time on profitable tasks.
The four zones
I first learnt this method of categorising tasks from my studies of Dan Sullivan, founder of the Strategic Coach program and an international author, speaker and coach. I slightly altered his definitions as I began implementing the Stop Doing List system for myself and others. Please note that these are definitions to be applied to tasks or activities only and are by no means a definition of your intelligence or abilities.
Tasks fall into one of the following four zones:
For most, the Genius Zone is where they should spend most of their time, as it’s where most of the profit will be made. Yet most business owners I meet are often spending very little if any time in this zone.
The ultimate goal is to spend the majority of your time on ‘genius’ tasks, with a bit of time on ‘excellence’ tasks, and the rest of the tasks now become your Stop Doing List. When you stop doing these tasks, you’ll find you are now focusing on areas that will ultimately provide more profit.
If you aren’t good at a task, you delegate it to someone who can be excellent at it. Meanwhile you’re freed up to spend more time on what you love doing, and you’ll gain more passion for your business. You’ll find more freedom in your business and find more time for family, health and personal passions.
I’ve been discussing genius a bit, and for good reason. When you begin to focus your time on your genius, not only do you start growing your business faster and generating more profit, but you also start enjoying business more. The tasks you choose to do every day contribute to your overall enjoyment when working, and the time being reclaimed will bring balance back into your life.
Tasks that are placed into the Incompetence Zone are tasks that you know have to be done, but don’t know how to do them yourself. To give you an example, when we implemented a piece of software in our business called Time Trade, I received the link from someone else, did some quick research and saw it would be a great fit for our business. It could save us both time and money, but I had no idea how to implement it properly. It’s simply not my genius.
I suggested the new system to my virtual assistant, and got her to research it, try it out and make a recommendation as to whether or not it was the right fit. It then became her responsibility to integrate it within the business, tying it in with our existing systems. I didn’t need to know how to use it myself, other than telling clients how to book an appointment with me. (Which is pretty simple — click the link and book a time!) We then made sure the system was documented. This was all put in place by my virtual assistant, who is the one using it most of the time. Thanks to the documentation it can be picked up by anyone in our business in the event my virtual assistant is sick or leaves the company.
When we are learning anything new it often takes a long time and requires a lot of focused energy to implement. These tasks are often low value and create negative energy when you implement them (stress, angst, frustration).
The goal is for you to spend 0 per cent of your time performing incompetence tasks.
Tasks placed into the Competence Zone are tasks you know how to do but are not very good at or loathe doing. These tasks really drain you of energy. For most business owners this is admin, filing, bookkeeping, or many of the current technology needs a business has, such as social media, search engine optimisation or Google AdWords. These are tasks you can do, but you really shouldn’t. Not only will it take longer for you to do it than someone operating in their genius, but it will also often add to your overall lack of satisfaction in your business.
In my work with clients I see a lot of tasks deemed ‘urgent’ falling within the competence category. There is inevitably a long list of these tasks and business owners tend to procrastinate or avoid doing them, which causes them to build up and create even more stress. Many of these tasks can be performed by someone else for a fraction of your hourly rate.
Again, the goal is for you to spend 0 per cent of your time doing competence tasks.
Tasks that are placed into the Excellence Zone are tasks you’re really good at, that are valuable to the business, but you don’t necessarily love doing. An example of this for myself is spreadsheets and financial models. As a trained accountant, I am capable of doing them to a high level of excellence — but I don’t love doing them. Excellence tasks can be stopped; however, in my experience you will generally need to invest a little more money into a person or system to achieve this.
The goal is to spend 30 to 40 per cent of your time doing excellence tasks. This leaves 60 to 70 per cent of your time for the Genius Zone.
The simplest way to describe your Genius Zone is tasks or activities you love to do and are really good at, and if your day was filled with these tasks or activities you would feel energised and happy. Genius Zone tasks are generally easy for you to do and you tend to do them naturally. Your genius zone tasks also tend to be highly profitable.
You will often hear yourself saying ‘If only had more time to XYZ, then we would make significantly more money.’ Owners of fast growing companies understand this philosophy and understand that the more time spent in the Genius Zone the faster the company will grow.
One of my genius tasks is one-on-one coaching. I absolutely love coaching, I can (and do, at times) coach all day and my energy at the end of the day is the same if not higher than when I started. When you have a day doing the things you love, your energy never seems to waver — in fact, the more you do it the more energy you seem to create. Remember, you should end up with no more than three to five genius tasks. You want to focus your time on these and delegate the rest.
Edited extract from The Stop Doing List (Wiley $27.95) by business strategist Matt Malouf, now available where all good books are sold. For more information on Matt Malouf visit www.mattmalouf.com.au
The ultimate goal of the Stop Doing List system is to help you spend more time in your Genius Zone. Your Genius Zone is the three to five major tasks you own in the business and that you invest the majority of your time into in order to generate maximum return. A genius task meets the following three criteria: