How many times today have you done something and then thought to yourself, what was even the point of that? It’s easy to get sucked into a continuous wheel of doing things that add no value. Whether you are working for yourself, or in a big corporate organisation, often these pointless energy sappers can be a form of self sabotage or procrastination.
Oh, I know – I used to do this all the time. There would be that report that really needed to be written, but I would spend a bit more time checking time sheets. Or, I knew that I could add most value by going and having a conversation with one of my team. Instead I’d read all those emails that I have been copied into, for no good reason!
Yeah, I know that some of the stuff we have to do doesn’t seem to add any value on the face of it – and we have to do it anyway! It’s the other stuff that I am talking about. The things that we have convinced ourselves are vital, take up our time, and yet we are not really sure why!
You can break this cycle of spending time doing things that you don’t need to do.
Firstly, you need to recognise the difference between the stuff that has to be done verses the stuff we have added in to our processes.
Even having recognised something as a ‘must do’, ask yourself a few questions.
Is it a corporate or legal requirement? If it is, then can you streamline the process in any way? Does it have to be YOU who does it?
For example, those timesheets I referred to earlier. It didn’t need ME to check them all. Yes, they had to be checked. Yes, as the team leader you need to know if something is amiss. But, checking them could be done by anyone other than the person submitting them. Peculiarities can be highlighted to you to act on.
“Ahh, but!” I hear you say. “What if the person checking them can’t be trusted to do that.” If this is the case then the problem you need to resolve is one of trust and accountability. Spot check occasionally if that makes you feel more comfortable.
Many, many years ago, when I was a junior clerk, I recall asking a senior officer why they were stood at the photocopier, waiting for copies to come off. That was my job! They told me that they were so busy they didn’t have time to pass the work to someone else (me) to do, and anyway they disliked passing down the mundane tasks.
That didn’t make sense to me then and it doesn’t now. We convince ourselves that it is quicker to do something ourself. Or that we should ‘muck in’ and do some of the so called ‘menial’ tasks ourselves.
Of course that doesn’t make sense.
It’s better to put a system, or some training, in place to ensure that work is being carried out at the appropriate level.
It’s not a case of being too grand to do certain tasks but thinking about the cost of your time.
I learnt a lot from the ‘menial’ tasks when I was in a more junior position. Not least, that there was a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that my role was a vital one. I knew that I was playing my part in ensuring the organisation ran efficiently.
Even today, whenever I carry out tasks, I always ask myself, ‘does this need to be me?’.
If the answer is yes, my next question is ‘How can I streamline or simplify the process’.
Systems make our lives easier. If you have a simple system for carrying out a process you can save countless minutes – and all those minutes add up. Alerts, reminders, calendar entries, tasks list all readily available on your computer can play a huge part. But, so often they are not used effectively. In addition there are a raft of work planning and tracking systems out there if you have the budget.
Avoid double handling of work. Cut out duplicate entries of data. Do you have 2 spreadsheets which do the same thing, or could be made to meet multiple needs?
This might all seem obvious but so often in my conversations with team leaders, the simple fixes have not been explored.
If the task is not a corporate or legal requirement, ask yourself why you do it.
Does it add value in some way? If you have a client base does it add value to your customer?
Or, is it something you have always done because you were told that it should be done? When we step back and look at what we are doing in this way we can find that we have tasks on our to do list that we don’t need to do at all. We have always done them, without thinking.
Again this seems too simplistic.
Why would we do things that we don’t really need to? We do though, all the time. Often these things are our security blanket. We feel comfortable doing them. It gives us the excuse we need to put off doing something more challenging.
But, if you are always under pressure, too busy, to stop and talk to your team members. Or drowning under the endless to do list. Then have a very good look at what is on that list.
Do YOU need to do it?
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