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The Stop Start More Less Matrix For Time Management

Today I want to introduce you to one of the most important business improvement ideas I know about – the Stop, Start, More Less matrix, grid or process.

I will be writing about how this process can be used to improve your marketing…

>>> The Stop Start More Less Process For Lead Generation

and for strategic differentiation and creating cost effective customer value..

>>> The Stop Start More Less Process For Strategic Differentiation And Customer Value

but today I want to focus on its use in helping you with time management.

Why Don’t Business Owners Make The Improvements They Want?

As a business coach, I help business owners make changes to their business that will increase sales revenue, profit and cash flow. Before that, I worked with bigger companies as a consultant or an interim project manager to implement change.

It didn’t take long for me to realise that all the change management books were right… change is difficult.

Yes attitudes and culture can be be issues and create major resistance from the employees affected by the change.

But a bigger problem seems to be that change didn’t happen as quickly as management wanted – and as quickly as the project plan suggested – because people didn’t have the time to make the changes.

The big revelation was…

Time Is Limited

OK perhaps that isn’t such a big revelation to you.

There are only sixty minutes in an hour. Twenty four hours in a day.

And employees need to sleep, eat and relax.

So do business owners.

There is a physical limit to how much work you can do day in, day out. Week in, week out.

To do more of something or even worse, to start something new, you have to buy that time from yourself.

You have to stop doing something or at least do less of it.

I think that is a big revelation.

People Have Too Much To Do

It’s easy to add jobs to the to-do list.

It increases the pressure and stress of work.

One way around it is to spend longer at the workplace. To give up family time and all the sacrifices and domestic problems that involves.

But you can only do it so much, for so long before you hit the wall and become exhausted. Before then, your productivity – the results you achieve for each extra hour you work – will be in sharp decline.

When you hit the wall, you go backwards. You make mistakes that take a lot of time to fix. You’re making things worse rather than better.

The answer is to use the Stop Start More Less process to acknowledge what you will stop doing.

The Stop Start More Less Matrix Or Grid

To avoid the temptation to keep adding to your to-do list without taking anything away, I find it useful to think in terms of a 2 x 2 matrix that shows the activities what will change.

Stop Start More Less Matrix

There are plenty of activities that you will continue to do but I don’t find it particularly useful to focus on those once I’ve accepted that they need to be done and I’m the person who should be doing them.

The principle is that you are buying time from yourself.

If a new activity is worth doing, it needs to give your more value than something that you are currently doing which can be reduced or stopped.

How To Buy Time

First start recording what you do.

It’s where a time log can come in useful, even though you will probably hate doing it because it makes you accountable for your use of time. It immediately puts pressure on you to stop doing things that you want to do but aren’t of any value. It only takes a few seconds to make a note each time you change activities.

Summarise your time with the activity and the time taken. Even with the pressure of recording your time, it can be quite an eye-opener.

Add onto the list the things that you think you want to start doing and how long they will take. Highlight the activities that you are planning to spend more time doing.

Then begin looking at your activities and ask yourself whether you really get value for your time.

You’ll find yourself seeing some things that done give much or anything back in return for your time and effort. You know what to do with these.

Then you’ll have to start thinking about relative value. This activity is good but this one is better.

You can reduce activities by stopping them all together or delegating them to a member of your team or if new resources are needed, by outsourcing.

Watch out for activities that you don’t want to stop although you doubt the value but you struggle to justify paying a virtual assistant £20 to £30 an hour to do. The temptation is to keep it in your schedule.

Mark off each activity your assessment –  stop, start, more, less and the final category, same.

Some are easy, some get harder.

If you’re planning to do more or less, estimate the time you will save or spend.

Add up the time that you want to add into your work schedule and compare it with the time that you are losing.

If they are not equal, are you ready to invest more time in your business or do you need to go back through your list, challenging your assessments to find the extra time you need.

Get yourself a bit of paper, draw the grid and fill in your stop, start, more and less matrix.

It is a great discipline to recognise that you can only do more or start something new if you do less or stop doing something else. You will start to realise why you didn’t get what you wanted done before you were so systematic and organised about buying your time from yourself.

Struggling With The Work Life Balance

I have written before about the importance of your primary aim and strategic objective.

If you haven’t done the exercise, it really is well worth doing so that you can live and build your business intentionally.

>>> Your Primary Aim Answers The Big Questions In Your Life

>>> Your Strategic Objective – Design Your Business To Be Right For You

If the phrases sound familiar, they are two of the best ideas from Michael Gerber’s E Myth Revisited book.

If you are clear on how your business fits into your life, you can revisit the Stop Start More Less Matrix and combine both your work and private life activities.

If you want to spend more time at work, what does that mean?

Are you going to spend less time sleeping? Slumped in front of the TV? Romantic time with your husband or wife? With the kids? Are you going to miss the game each week?

The process really focuses your attention on what you will sacrifice.

It works the other way around as well of course.

If you want to spend more time in your private world, you have to do less in your business.

The Other Two Alternatives

I recommend the Stop Start More Less process to you but there are two alternatives:

  1. You don’t do anything and you let your use of your time (your life) react to who or what shouts loudest at any one time.
  2. You focus on improving your efficiency. The stop start process is mainly about helping you to be more effective, to do the right things. You can also make improvements by doing things faster. An activity you spend four hours per week on may need to same quantity of output but what if you can do it in two hours? You may have thought about this as part of your Less process.

Old Habits Are Hard To Break – Putting The Stop Start More Less Process To Work

If you’re making changes, you need to fight against your old habits, both at the start and partway through, before your new habits are established.

I’ve read that it takes 21 to 28 days to create new habits. I’m not sure about that. It’s always struck me that good habits (that give pleasure) are much easier to establish than bad ones.

Your start activities and more activities are important. You wouldn’t have decided to make the changes if they weren’t.

I recommend that you do these in the mornings rather than leaving them to your afternoon or early evening work sessions. That way you don’t let the old crowd out the new.

Even better, start to list what you will do each day and prioritise so that you do the most important first (old or new). Then you can go home knowing that, even if you haven’t done everything you wanted, you have cleared your top priorities that will drive your business forward.

Other Articles

I have seen a number of articles appear in the last few years that explain the concept of the Stop Start More Less Grid but I think I was the first.

If you want to read what I originally wrote…


I touched on its use in time management, marketing and strategic differentiation but I’m planning more detailed articles on this blog.

I could be wrong because the idea seems so obvious.

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