HM Insights

Making a list, checking it on a regular basis

Stephen Vallance is a member of the HM Connect team at Harper Macleod, supporting high street and rural law firms throughout Scotland. Having set up and sold his own law firm, Stephen has gone on to be an entrepreneur, author, educator and all round guru in the business of law. Throughout lockdown, Stephen took the time to share some insights which could be of value in our businesses and lives…


The passing weeks are beginning to feel like the ever quickening tick tock of a clock counting down the time until things return to normal. You might have thought that there would be plenty of time to get through all of the tasks that you had intended to over lockdown and yet, that list for some seems as long as ever.

I've found that having a good list of things does help at these times. It reminds me in my quieter moments of the things that I really should be focussing on rather than the distractions that so often derail my best laid plans. It also assists by giving me a real sense of achievement as I tick each item off and I can see that progress is being made. So here's a list of my own with some suggestions that might just make a little difference in the weeks ahead:

  1. Draw up a list. Look for the top 20 things that you want to do both in and on your business. Most importantly, decide on the top five and delete (or at least put aside) the rest. Big lists are overwhelming and distracting and are usually unrealistic. Focus on the few really important things and get them done. Once you have these dealt with you will feel empowered and there will always be another five to do

  2. Remember to make your to-do list SMART:

Specific: More income, for example, is too generic. Income from a specific work type or source is better and the more specific you can make any goal the more achievable it will be.

Measurable: How will you know when you've done it? Taking income again as an example, is there a figure or a percentage you can set as a target?

Achievable: That's not to say easy, but there is no point in having a goal that is impossible to achieve, it will only lead to disappointment and disillusionment. A difficult goal achieved will do quite the reverse.

Relevant: This list is for your business. While it's great to have personal goals (and the two might be linked) keep this list to ones that will drive forward your business.

Time bound: This to me is the key. Without a time limit, goals are just another thing that we will get around to, eventually. Have a time limit and stick to it. What is the worst that can happen?

  1. Make yourself accountable. In my experience we are all pretty good at fooling ourselves and we end up with the diet that stopped due to too many client lunches or the exercise regime that gets disrupted due to work pressures. Find someone to hold you accountable to the goals that you set and check in with them regularly on progress.

  2. Seek help. Guess what, others have probably dealt with similar issues in the past and colleagues may be better at some things than you. Who or what out there might make achieving a goal easier, either with their assistance or the lessons they can teach you?

  3. Have a little fun. All too often for us, work can feel like a burden. We spend the longest part of our lives in our business so how do you build a little joy into the working day. Making more money, I hear some of you say? I suspect not. I've always found that rewards tend to come from doing something that you love well.