An article caught my eye in a past issue of Harvard Business Review in the Managing Yourself section, “Make Time for the Work that Matters: How smart knowledge workers delegate tasks—or eliminate them altogether,” by Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen. It’s an eye-catching title, as don’t most people want to find that time to do meaningful work, but I wondered how hard it was going to be to put into practice.
It’s not as hard as you might think to reclaim time.
The authors’ research and case study shows that knowledge workers can become more productive if they can “eliminate or delegate unimportant tasks and replace them with value-added ones” (115). While you could criticize this info as overly simplistic, even the skeptical benefit according to their interviews and findings with study participants.
The authors point out, we tend to hold on to things we like to do because they make us look good, or we get personal value from doing them, even if the tasks are not the high value work that matters.
They offer five suggestions for shifting to higher value work:
1. Identify low-value tasks
2. Decide whether to drop, delegate, or redesign
3. Off-load tasks
4. Allocate freed-up time
5. Commit to your plan
According to their research, we don’t have to “ban email on Fridays [although it would be nice]” or “forbid internal PowerPoint presentations [how would we get work done?];” rather we just have to be willing to implement the above five strategies. Their test group of 15 executives were each able to “cut desk work by an average of six hours a week and meeting time by an average of two hours a week” (115). That’s almost a day in the work week freed up to do high value work that matters. Even half that time would be worthwhile finding and putting to better use, right?
We have to want it. Bad enough to get off of Facebook or any other time sucking task. I know it would be better for my productivity if I went for a walk when I need a little diversion or a break from heavy duty thinking and writing. It’s a matter of becoming disciplined.