Reduce Your Workload to Become More Productive

Sometimes you need to hear the same advice over and over before it sticks. Other times, the message must be phrased differently in order to make an impact. Over the past year, I keep coming back to the same topic, and it is only now where it is becoming clear. 

I must pull back on how much I do to do more. 

Say what? Let's figure this out.Jim Collins' Good to Great is one of the premier books on business and management. If there was a Mount Rushmore of business researchers, he would be up there along with Michael Porter and others. In the book Collins explains: 

"If you have more than three priorities, then you don't have any." ~ Jim Collins

It was one of those epiphany moments when I read the quote. It all made sense, for businesses to be successful they must have a laser focus on a few goals. Too many projects is a sign there is no clear direction. On the other hand, limiting priorities means more time can be spent in pursuit of a few goals. 

"Aim small, miss small."

With my new-found knowledge, I used the quote frequently with my consulting clients. I would look at the executives and say, "we have too many strategic initiatives, we must reduce our projects and prioritize." Although I can come off as pompous, the underlying message was correct and my clients have seen great results by limiting what they do.

Yet, there was an issue. 

I frequently utilize the above strategy for clients, but not myself. It wasn't until recently I started to accept the concept as an individual. 

Enter the Salesman

Again, sometimes messages need to be re-phrased. In the past, I would have never read a Darren Hardy book. I try not portray my snobbery openly but I admit as a minimalist who has worked in 3rd-world countries, I have a bias against authors who are flashy and talk about sales too much.

However, someone recommended The Compound Effect by Hardy and I decided to give it a try. The book had a profound impact on my thoughts about habits and transformed my weekly routine. Before reading the book, I would fill out my calendar with anything that sounded exciting. After reading the book, I started to only add items to my calendar which aligned with my personal and professional goals. 

His style is still different than mine, but I had to admit his ideas were solid. I ended up reading another book by Hardy, The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster. This seemed ideal for a specific reason I will share at the end of this article.

While reading, he restated the 3 priority idea from Collins. For some reason, it clicked this time. Yes, I only add items to my calendar if they meet my personal and professional goals. However, I have way more than 3 goals! This means my calendar is continuing to become packed with unnecessary meetings. I recently counted my hours worked and stopped when I realized I did at least 75 . . . that's too much!

My priorities are messed up.

What to Do?

So what does someone do who enjoys achievement, but has too many priorities? The first thing I am doing is really evaluating my main goals, specifically from a professional perspective. I am working to reduce the overall amount of goals and set, no more than 3, priorities of how to attain them.

This means I must give up many of my responsibilities in order to do what I am good at and make a bigger overall impact. Here is an example, I am a webmaster for a client and spent 6-hours making minor edits to web pages recently. I could have easily paid someone to do the task and saved 6-hours which could have been used to grow my business. Instead, I spent half-a-day doing something a teenager could have done with ease.

I know it will take patience to find good contractors, delegate, and teach others how to do certain tasks. Yet, the time saved in the long-run will be worth it and allow me to run after my goals.

What About You?

I completely understand as an entrepreneur I have the ability to limit what I do quickly. It is more difficult to make strategic decisions when you are with a large company. Yet, that should not be an excuse.

Are you delegating when you should, or are you doing projects because you can accomplish them quickly and don't want to show someone else? Are you going to events where you won't add or receive value just to say you networked this week? Are you spending too much time in the office when you know work never ends and you should really be with family and friends?

If we are honest, we could look through our schedule and likely cut many activities. The interesting paradox is that once we do so we are actually more productive because we spend time doing "deep work" on only a few things (for more see: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winner in Economics). 

Where Do We Go?

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