I don’t have to tell you that you have too many tasks and not enough time to do them. That is the current state of affairs for almost all employees at any level of your company – all companies.
Productivity is the name of the game. How much can we get done in the hours we have allotted? How close can we get to our goals given the resources we have allocated to us?
And so we are all left hoping for more time in the day. Luckily, there is a way to get it.
And it comes from having an honest conversation with yourself (possibly your manager) about your to-do list.
I want you, every day for one week, to move through your to-do list item by item and ask yourself three questions for each task you encounter.
1) Can this be eliminated?
“I’ve always done it that way.” It’s one of the most common answers to the question “why”. And that’s when the WHY question is asked at all.
For each task on your to-do list, you better make sure there is a reason it needs to be done, and done in the way that you have been doing it all this time. Most people will find that they are taking time out of their day to perform a function that serves no purpose, other than checking a box.
Nobody is paying you to be a box checker. They are paying you to help the company succeed. And one way you can do that is to eliminate all unnecessary and superfluous responsibilities from your to-do list.
2) Can this be automated?
Technology is moving at a rapid pace, and computers can do more than most of us ever dreamed possible. The rise of machine learning and AI, along with the increased proficiency of data analysts and data scientists across industries, means that most of the tasks you are responsible for today will be done by computers in the near future. And many of them can be done by computers today.
That’s why the first question you should ask yourself for each task that cannot be eliminated is, can this be automated? Is there a way to get this task completed automatically, on a daily or weekly or monthly basis? How much work would be required to set that up, and how much time would that free up for me and my team once it’s done?
At this point, anything you are still doing by hand that can be done equally as well by computer is taking time away from more important tasks for no reason.
3) Can this be delegated?
If a task cannot be automated, perhaps it is still not something that you should be spending time on. As you move up the ladder at an organization, the expectation is that you are more valuable to the company, and therefor so is your time. The day to day tasks that used to fill your schedule are no longer your immediate priorities.
But someone still has to do them, right? So these are the tasks that you should be looking to hand off to someone else on the team. Whether you have direct reports you can assign tasks to, or you have to work with a manager to determine who should be taking on the work you used to do, now is the time to hand off those responsibilities.
Your time is too valuable to be spent working on tasks that could be handled by a more junior member of the team.