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Want to Improve Efficiency? Stop Doing Low-Value Work

More hours in the day. Everyone wants that and yet it’s impossible to attain.


More hours in the day. Everyone wants that and yet it’s impossible to attain.

But what if you could free up significant time — maybe as much as 20% of your workday — to focus on tasks that really matter?

There will always be more to do than there is time to do it. To improve your results and get more done, you should make the clear distinction between low-value work and high-value work.

It is easy to get excited with tasks and try to take on too much every day but if you do, you’ll be spending your energy all over the place without accomplishing real work.

Low value activities keep you busy and stop you from getting real work done. Make time for work that matters.

The basic principle of success is to focus. It is what makes the difference between those who are successful and those who are not, regardless of how much talent, resource, and energy that they have.

Your ability to separate urgent but low and important tasks has a lot to do with your success. Each time you have something extra to do or an additional goal to pursue, you further split your power.

High-value tasks contribute to your long-term mission, values, and goals. These are things like that book you want to write, the presentation you’d like to make for a promotion, and the company you plan on starting.

In his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

To make the most of your work week, each task of the day should be attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

And most importantly every task should advance your goals for the day, week or month. Stephen Covey once said: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically — to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.”

Low-value work is necessary but not important.

Responding to notifications won’t contribute to your goal of the day. Put down your phone and kill those notifications. Your phone distracts you way more than you realize, and it’s hurting your productivity.

Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after a trivial interruption.

Notifications prompt task-irrelevant thoughts and can disrupt attention performance even if you don’t interact with the device.

Resist the tyranny of the urgent. Urgency wrecks productivity. Your ability to distinguish urgent and important tasks has a lot to do with your success.

Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately. They don’t necessarily add value to your work.

Make appointments to check your email. The average person checks email 77 times a day, sends and receives more than 122 email messages a day, and spends 28 percent or more of their work week managing a constant influx of email.

Email can force you to be reactive instead of proactive, structuring your day according to the needs of others. Take control of your time and focus on high-value work to achieve more.

Jocelyn K. Glei, author of “Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done” says that while checking emails throughout the day may make you feel productive, the opposite is true.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Jocelyn said, “…keep work emails short, simple and if something can’t be resolved quickly on email, suggest a meeting or simply walk to your colleague’s desk to confirm a plan. You’ll be rescuing yourself and others from those annoying email threads that drag on for a whole afternoon, interrupting everyone involved.”

Start automating…fast. Low-value tasks are easy to automate. If you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again every day, find a way to automate it and use the free time for something else.

Example, you can keep a steady flow of shareable goodies flowing to your social followers without having to deal with it every day. Automate.

Whether it’s scheduling, acknowledging, or making standard arrangements, there are probably apps you could use. Zapier makes it easy to automate tasks between web apps. There are a lot more out there you can use.

Schedule less time for low-value tasks. This seems counterintuitive, but it isn’t in practice. When you limit how much time you give yourself to work on urgent but not important tasks, you force yourself to expend more energy over less time so you can get the tasks done faster to make time for high-value work.

Learn to delegate. You need to actively throw away or delete tasks that are very low value. This ensures you aren’t ever wasting your effort on these tasks and there’s no chance of putting them above others.

Beware of “time bullies”. When you are on the clock or supposed to be working, your time is for your work. Protect it. Say no more often. Don’t get suckered into tasks you don’t have time for.

Starting today, take a look at everything on your plate. Examine your micro activities, or tasks/deliverables.

Do they align with the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve in life or business?

Pick what you think is most essential, clear some space, and just work on your most important measurable and attainable goals. Make less time for urgent but unimportant tasks.

Prioritizing and optimizing your time during the day will give you more time to focus on what matters, getting more accomplished in a lesser amount of time.

And whatever you do, avoid the busy work that add no real value to your work, vision or long-term goal.

Before you go…

If you enjoyed this post, you will love Postanly Weekly (my free digest of the best productivity and self-improvement posts). Subscribe and get a free copy of my new eBook, “The Power of One Percent Better: Small Gains, Maximum Results”. Join over 26,000 people who are on a mission to build a better life.


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Originally published at medium.com

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