Suppose I could show you how I could clear eight hours from your workload every week? Impossible, you say? We’ve all heard that work absorbs a vacuum. If you have a project to do and have 8 hours available, then the project will likely take 8 hours to complete.
Researchers suggest you need focus on eliminating unimportant tasks and concentrate only on the important ones. It’s all based on research published in the Harvard Business Review in 2013. Researchers spent three years looking at the productivity of knowledge workers, and they concluded that 41% of their work time was spent on unimportant and often unnecessary tasks.
In their article, “Make Time for the Work That Matters,” Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen write that the average person spends a quarter of their time – or about ten hours a week – on low-value tasks.
Begin by identifying low-impact tasks. Keep a log. Classify them into three categories:
- things you can stop doing right away, and no one will care.
- Things you can delegate to others
- Restructure some of the tasks so they might have more value.
Start by looking for administrative red tape projects that are no longer needed or even meetings that you don’t need to attend. One time I was working on a quarterly report that I had been doing for years. It was a real pain, and I always wondered if anyone read it. So once, when I was swamped, I didn’t get to the report. Weeks and months went by, and no one asked me for the report. I never did it again.
The point is that if you eliminate these tasks and free up ten hours a week, you can identify and add back a few important tasks that you currently feel like you have no time for.
If you are serious about this effort, you also have to guard against what psychologists call the “shiny object syndrome.” If you get distracted, you can quickly get drawn back to the unimportant. Anna Dearmon Kornick, a time management coach and head of community at Clockwise, an online calendar platform, told CNBC, “Accomplishing lots of little things gives us hits of dopamine, which makes us feel great until we realize we’ve procrastinated our highest priority work by chasing the shiny things,” Kornick says.
Stay focused and stay productive