Do you want to spend your time on the real grit that matters to your purpose instead of the ubiquitous maintenance tasks that keep sucking up your time and energy?
We thought so. First things first, make a to-do list for the day, bullet-pointing anything professional/personal that needs to be done, from basic maintenance tasks, to complex tasks fundamental to your role and forward motion. Also log how long recurring maintenance tasks take everyday, over the span of a few days.
That to-do list is going to tempt you with its low-hanging fruit; it’ll want you to spend your time procrastinating with the easy stuff that will give you small bursts of “accomplishment dopamine” as you check them off but which will offer little productivity to your overall mission. Even though they make you feel productive by keeping you busy, they won’t leave you with much time to meet meaningful goals. Work, especially tasks with low-return value, tends to expand to fit how much time is available for it.
Honestly, every single recurring support task can be eliminated, delegated, automated, or shrunk. So how do we know which tasks are low-value?
You should want to use most of your time for the most important tasks. Order that to-do list from most important or useful to least to the best of your abilities using logic and not emotion.
Think about the consequences of not doing each or what each will contribute to your larger goals. Your limbic system is likely to be intimidated by the more challenging tasks (usually the higher-return ones) and use the low-impact activities to serve as ‘work candy’ to soothe you into avoidance. These low-return tasks will lead you to accomplish less while making you procrastinate on more important activities. It’s worth segregating these tasks logically, freeing up valuable time and attention for the most critical/challenging tasks.
Towards the bottom, you may find things like:
- Managing calendars,
- Answering emails,
- Loading blogs/newsletters,
- Scheduling/Researching travel,
- Managing social media,
- Website maintenance,
- Meetings/Conference calls,
A lot of these are pesky upkeep tasks. If boundaries aren’t set around them, they’ll interrupt important duties all day. Using your timed log, assess how much time the important tasks need, then pinpoint the unimportant tasks that take up the most time; those are likely to expand into your day and should fall farther down the list of priorities.
Look at the entire list and decide what can be eliminated, delegated, automated, or shrunk (time managed): the tasks that fell easily to the bottom without hesitation are nominees for elimination. Skim a little off the bottom. If they’re not helping, they’re hindering.
When deciding what to delegate, ask yourself if this needs to be done by you. If not, ask yourself if it must be done by a human. If yes, find someone well-suited to take it on.
Automating tasks should be done if they don’t need to be done by you specifically, nor a human. Newsletters, blogs, content, etc. can all be scheduled and managed by automation platforms, so your energy is used for what matters:
Shrinking the Rest
Shrinking means setting boundaries around needy tasks that demand attention inefficiently. Instead of constant interruptions (email pings, calls, meetings), you can reserve a section to handle similar tasks all at once, turning off ringers in between to focus on them less frequently and focus on other important tasks. Minimize projects that make too little use of your talents, skills, and time.
It’s a good idea to choose 1-2 low-impact tasks from your day and restrict their power. Your limbic system may cause some initial guilt, but it’ll fade. Happy compartmentalizing! If you’d like to learn more about how you can make time for what’s important, take the quiz.