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3 Simple Strategies to Make the Time for Things That Matter

Manage Your Time for a More Fulfilling Life

Because time management is such a popular topic with my leadership coaching clients, I put my best advice all in one place to help you make the time to do things that matter. In the simplest terms, the 3 most effective ways to get more time in your day are to:

1. Do less stuff
2. Do the right stuff
3. Do stuff right

Let’s break that down.

Do Less Stuff

Minimize to maximize.

What can you do less of? How can you minimize your efforts for maximum effect? For perfectionists, this is a tough one.

If you get 90% of the value from your first 30% of effort, what would happen if you simply didn’t put in the last 70% of effort, and dedicated it to something else? 90% still gets an “A,” right?

This is not being lazy — it will make the time for you to spend on things that add value for you. It will transform your life. Trust me on this. What are the very most important things you can do? Do those things. In priority order.

As a perfectionist, it’s important to figure out where your detail orientation gives you the biggest bang for your buck. If it’s in the look and feel of a presentation, then spend your time there, not on editing the words on the slides for hours.

Don’t do both, even if it’s more perfectly perfect. I know it’s so hard to not make it as perfect as it can be, but if you want to make the time for other things, this is a great way to get it. Kick perfectionism to the curb!

Outsourcing.

This one tends to be hardest for control freaks. Outsourcing is the act of making others responsible for some of what you’re accountable for. Let other people help you.

It’s ideal when you have experts you’re outsourcing to (cleaning, public relations, accounting, graphic arts, for example), but also important to figure out how to do this with non-experts (like trainees in your department at work). Outsourcing allows others to be the experts, or to gain experience and confidence on their way to becoming experts, and at the same time, it takes work off your plate.

Sometimes, outsourcing comes with a bit of an investment in time (and usually of money) for training or bringing others up to speed, but in the long run, it’s worth it. And it’s especially satisfying to outsource things that drive you nuts, that you really don’t like to do, or that distract you from things that fulfill you or otherwise bring you value.

Do the Right Stuff

Highest & best value.

This technique tends to be toughest for folks who are competent in many areas, and it’s of most value to them. It’s adjacent to the Outsourcing technique, but is more about what you choose to focus on rather than what you’re choosing to let go. When you focus on the thing that is the highest and best value for you, you’re letting go of things that are not. Simple, but not easy.

If you started your career as a building contractor, and then became an architect, it’s not like your contracting abilities disappeared as soon as you got your architect’s license. But if you really, really want to be an architect and not a contractor, you need to make sure you don’t keep picking up contracting gigs or doing contracting work on your architect gigs, just because you can.

Your highest & best value — the one that fits with how fulfilled you can be — is as an architect. The only time you should be doing things that are outside your highest & best value space is when they serve you (like by getting in the door with a client you really want to do business). Just make sure you’re not making a name for yourself doing something that’s inconsistent with the goals you’re trying to achieve.

Play in your own sandbox (most of the time).

Both micro-managers and super-helpers, you can really benefit from this practice: it’s all about doing your own stuff, and keeping out of everyone else’s. And yes, there are times to reach out to help others, and no, this isn’t about being selfish. It’s really an addendum of the highest & best value work.

For most folks in most jobs at a mid-career level or higher, about 95% of your work will be things that your boss probably won’t have visibility to — s/he knows generally what sorts of things you do, but not necessarily how they get done or what specifically you’re doing. About 4% will be things that you consult with your manager about, you work together on, or that your manager can observe you doing. The last 1% is made up of things that your boss may want to have the ultimate decision rights to, or may get decided at a higher level in the organization, for any of a number of reasons.

As an employee, being mindful of the different buckets of work gives you the freedom to focus on the work you need to do, know when you’ll be collaborating, and to not spend time worrying about the 1% that will be out of your control.

If you have the flexibility to get after 95% of your work on your own, you can go faster and more efficiently. Of course, this requires negotiating expectations with your boss up front, but it can save lots of time.

As a leader, the less involved you are in the 95% of your team’s work they should/could be doing independently, the more time you’ll have for other pursuits. Set expectations with each of your team members that they have both the freedom and the responsibility to do their work, and you’re available for advice and counsel, only as needed.

This anti-micro-managing mindset saves a ton of time, although it requires a lot of discipline on your part.

Do Stuff Right

Intent.

Are you easily distracted? If so, this concept is for you! Intent is a clear focus on your goal, big or small. It’s the opposite of going with the flow. You’re determining the flow. Being directly focused and goal-oriented allows you to move the ball down the field, and to act sequentially, and with purpose. Buckle down, and get stuff done.

Intent makes the difference between half-assing something and going at it, full-bore. If you approach a task or a goal with intent, you’ll get to it and through it faster (and better). It pays to be intentional.

You don’t have to be fully engaged every second of every day — that would be ridiculous. But what would it be like to be able to be “on” and focused when you mean to be, and checked out when you want to be?

Most folks spend hours and hours every day dawdling around wasting time — without intending to. Again, if you’re dawdling around when you intend to dawdle, good on you! But if you’re constantly letting things get in the way of your full attention, you’re probably taking a ton more time to get a task completed or to reach your goal than you need to.

Also remember that the extreme of intent can be rigidity, which you also don’t want. Save your laser focus for the things that matter.

That’s it! To make the time to do what matters, do less stuff, do the right stuff, and do stuff right.

Which Make the Time tactic (do less stuff, do the right stuff, or do stuff right) are you most excited to try? Tell us in the comments below!

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Originally published at katedixon.org

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