I recently spent a whole day working on a video for our website. I considered this to be an excellent use of my time because it helps to position our business and helps potential clients to understand our approach to productivity. It did take much longer than I anticipated though, and I began to question the true value of me doing the whole task.
You see, the part of the task that was a really good use of my time was scripting and shooting the video itself. That is a creative piece that fits my skill set and is appropriate to my role.
But out of the eight hours that I spent on the activity, only 2 hours was actually spent on the creation. The rest of the time was spent editing, uploading, creating intro screens, tweaking, reloading, fixing errors, tweaking again, reviewing, tweaking yet again (you get the picture). Instead of doing my bit, I did the whole thing, and convinced myself that the whole thing was an appropriate use of my time.
I wonder how often we find ourselves in similar situations? How often do we end up spending way more time on something than it is worth, and convince ourselves that it is necessary because the outcome is important?
I believe that if we want to save time and get more done, we need to examine everything we do, and work out what is our bit, and how can we get the other bits done without spending significant amounts of our time on them. Here are some ideas:
- Delegate some of the task to someone else. Either delegate the front end and then review and finalise, or delegate the back end and get someone to finish what you have created.
- Streamline or automate the lower-value parts of tasks you repeat often. Set up templates or systems that make this part of the task more efficient.
- Consider outsourcing if delegation is not an option. There are many online services in the cloud that can do basic process work quickly and cheaply.
- Worst case scenario - do it yourself, but set a limit to the time you will spend on it. Don't go for perfect when good enough will do.
Over the next few weeks, try to catch yourself in the act of doing work that is not the best use of your time and ask yourself how you could get it off your plate. Remember the opportunity cost - every time you are working on one thing, there is something else you are not doing!