READ TIME: 5 minutes
Everyone can use more time. A deadline approaches, and the end is nowhere in sight. Just yesterday, it feels like college or university was ending. Children are young adults before anyone knows it. Time slips away quickly.
How can we get some of this precious resource to hang around a bit?
Richard Koch, the author of The 80/20 Principle, gives his steps to create a time revolution.
- Make the difficult mental leap of dissociating effort and reward.
Work smarter, not harder. A phrase we have all heard, yet few take to heart. I continue to see project managers running around the office talking on their cell phones. When they make it back to their desks, they immediately forget what they were doing in the first place.
In this scenario, that was a lot of effort for no reward. I used to think my mother was just lazy when she would tell me, “make the most amount of money for the least amount of work.” I would scoff at the idea. I associated effort with reward. If you do not work hard, how will you ever reap the benefits?
Koch reminds us to disassociate effort and reward. Sometimes, a simple email can be worth hours of phone calls. You can work all day trying to figure out a solution, then approach your boss with the problem, and in one minute he or she can solve it.
- Give up guilt.
In construction, guilt plagued me constantly. I would feel bad having to change around a setup because the workers put in hours of labor and now that was gone. That guilt must vanish. You cannot stay there and help because there are bigger fish to fry.
Spend your time better. Feeling guilty puts you in predicaments where you waste time solving other people’s problems. It is nice to help others, that is obvious. However, if helping others is hurting you, are you helping?
- Free yourself from the obligation imposed by others.
This step may be difficult if you have a boss and work in a typical office environment. You are always answering to your superiors or have a meeting to catch with your team. The idea behind this is to limit those interactions imposed by others. If you freely accept them, they are no longer imposing.
An example is a meeting in the hallway. You are trying to get somewhere when someone stops you in the hallway. He or she strikes up a conversation that you really cannot partake in at the moment. You have to be able to decline nicely and use that time more effectively. A five- to ten-minute conversation adds up if four to five people stop you throughout the day.
- Be unconventional and eccentric in your use of time.
What works for others does not necessarily have to work for you. A five-minute meditation might be best for you when fires continue to grow. While others make every phone call imaginable and send out bulk emails, you take a minute to relax and refocus. On the outside, you appear eccentric for remaining calm in the firefight. However, this refocusing of energy allows you to perform at your best.
Being unconventional also increases the attention span of your team. Have you ever been a part of a meeting that dragged on or was similar to the last months’ worth of meetings? If you continue to produce blandly, your team will react blandly. Show a video. Tell a story. Play a game. Do something other than the same old same old.
- Identify the 20% that gives you 80%.
Like Koch, I am a huge proponent of the 80/20 principle. Finding the 20% of inputs that gives you the 80% of outputs changes the game entirely. You now have the tasks, organizations, projects, and so on to focus your resources. The ratio may be different for your situation, but I guarantee there are tasks you perform that can be eliminated immediately saving you hours weekly.
To do this, quantify your tasks. If you are tracking your projects properly, this may already be done for you. Take a look at which tasks give you the most output. In general, there will be two or three tasks out of ten that produce the majority of your results. You may even find some tasks that are detrimental to your cause. Objectivity is a must in quantification. Without it, your outcomes will not be actual.
- Multiply the 20% of your time that gives you 80%.
Now that you have identified those tasks, multiply the tasks that give you the most results. Again, you are looking to gain the most from the least. This approach is not magic. It is simple math. You are looking to get time back into your schedule.
You may find meetings are worthless. Those hour-long sessions every Monday morning can be eliminated and that hour can be added to a task that gives you the majority of your results. Driving to project sites all day, every day might not be necessary. You save the driving time. You save gas, wear, and tear on the vehicle. A phone call with the foreman may be just as effective.
Also, you find what is working. If an organization is providing most of your revenues, seek out what qualities that organization possesses. Then, find more companies like it. Quality over quantity.
- Eliminate or reduce the low-value activities.
This step is talking about the 80% of inputs that produce 20% of the outputs. That ratio is horrible and unacceptable. Identify those activities and start hacking away. If the 80/20 rule holds true, 2 hours of your 10-hour day is the most effective. The other eight hours can be used differently. Look at those eight hours. Where can changes be made?
Throughout this process, be objective. You may like the one-hour meeting with your boss because the two of you catch up on golf tips and the upcoming football games. If so, complaining about having no time does not make much sense. You have an entire hour you just wasted speculating on future outcomes of sporting events.
No one said this would be easy. Giving your time away is simple. Say ‘yes’ to everything, and poof, there goes your time. You must consciously look at your day or week and decide who gets your time and when. Be in control of this precious resource as much as possible.
Every person on the planet has 24 hours. Assume eight of those hours are for sleeping. How are you spending the other 16 hours of your day? Your commute to work may take two hours. Is remote work an option to get that time back? You may have three meetings that day that take up five hours. Were all of those necessary?
Getting your time back is grade school mathematics. It’s addition and subtraction. Supplement this approach with the 80/20 principle to call out any activities or organizations that need to go or need to get multiplied. Start cutting the fat and operate lean.