If you promise to spend this extra hour with your family (or at least out of the office), I will tell you what needs to be done. And it is free, no purchase necessary. Your only investment is a pen and paper.
I have done this exercise several times with various clients, and the results were always positive. On average, you become 10% more time-efficient after the first attempt, and that is about one hour per day for a real-life professional.
The exercise will take you 7 minutes and 7 days: 7 minutes to finish reading this post and then 7 days to implement what you have read.
Yes, it is about monitoring your activities for one week, 24 hours a day. This approach covers 80% of cases. If your job is not office-based and does not have an apparent weekly cycle, you may get better results if you monitor your activities for up to one month; your choice.
Using conventional writing accessories beats any gadget because you’ll keep the pad on your desk, and it will remind you to log your activities.
Just split the pages into columns like these:
The “Category” field needs explanation. As the purpose of this exercise is two-fold – to be more efficient at work and to spend more time away from work – five categories will suffice. For simplicity, I’d just have them numbered from 1 to 5: categories 1 through 4 being the four quadrants from Eisenhauer’s Matrix, and just one category 5 – for non-business activities.
You can also download this daily form and make copies for the week. I hope you don’t need 7 copies!
Now comes the most important part: you have to be diligent and honest with yourself for the duration of your “test period.” As you must have noticed by now, there are only 24 hours in every day, so your daily and weekly reported activities must add up to 144 hours.
Allow yourself about 15 minutes every day – to tally up your hours per category. Trust me, the result will be interesting and mind enriching!
I will not be surprised if you label most of the Day 1 activities as “Cat.1.” In a day or two, if you are honest with yourself, you will probably downgrade many of them. By the end of the week, the average “busy manager” gets the following picture:
- Spent at work (including working from home): 60 hrs
- Time spent per category (1+2+3+4) is almost equal, about 15+15+15+15 hours.
- Time spent outside of work: 108 hrs.
Your first revelation will be a criminally high percentage of Cat.4: It must be 0 by definition!
Cat.1 is the activities that generate the most value, in line with the 20/80 rule. You may say that they already take about 20% of your actual work week and generate 80% of value. Right. Now your task is to reverse the split, so that you can spend 80% of your time on Cat.1, and 20% – on Cat.2 and Cat.3.
Cat.3 will take some time – but it should be limited: delegating means delegating, not doing or teaching how to do the job. Let’s say your target is 10%.
That leaves 10% to Cat.2. Let’s call it “target allocation.” It may be more or less, depending on the week, but having the luxury to spend up to 80% of your time on Cat.1 activities, you will easily reallocate your time because now you will spend much less time in the office.
In fact, with 80% of your time dedicated to Cat.1 activities, you do not need to work 60 hours. Actually, you do not need 40 either. If you ever heard about “The 4-Hour Workweek” (by Tim Ferriss), you may realize, that what he suggests there is not to almost stop working – but to be 10 times more effective!
I do not promise 10 times, but you are guaranteed to get 1 extra hour per week within 7 days from now if you start TODAY.
Start small. Do this exercise. Work smart.
Share this exercise with your colleagues and let us hear your comments.
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