According to the Pareto principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 principle, 80% of what we do in a work context is irrelevant and a waste of time. Using the same principle, 80% of the revenue-generating results we achieve come from 20% of what we do. Imagine if we knew which 20%, and we focused all of our energy there – in other words, how productive and efficient could your team be if they knew exactly where to focus their time for the highest results?
To be truly efficient and effective, we need to invest our time in the right 20% of activities that get an 80% return.
Maximising each minute
“Your biggest asset is your earning ability,” says Clive Butkow, former COO of Accenture and current CEO of venture capitalist firm GroVest. “No matter what industry you’re in, people pay you for specific results. We need to learn more, to earn more, to add as much value as we can – in the least amount of time.”
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Butkow’s point is simple: Time is our most precious resource. It’s also a finite resource. “We are all gifted with 24 magical hours each day,” he says. What you choose to do with that time separates the truly successful from the mediocre though.
“In everything you do, be careful that you’re not wasting your time – and that your team members understand the value of their time as well. For example, in many organisations, 80% of a sales executive’s time is wasted on non-earning activities, whether it’s chasing poor leads or unqualified customers, or unnecessary admin. In today’s incredibly competitive business environments, we all need to deliver better results.”
Butkow believes that the best investment of anyone’s time, resulting in the highest return, is to pay the price of success in advance. Go the extra mile for a client; invest in your own self-development; put processes in place that improve the productivity of your team – in short, find ways to make the most of every minute of the day.
The power of self-discipline
“Success is a result of self-discipline,” says Kate Moodley, owner of Discovery Consulting Services Bedfordview. “I’ve always seen it as a result of the discipline required in knowing you are fully accountable for your business and actions on a daily basis.”
This belief extends beyond business ownership. “I did an exercise with my team to help them understand what their own time was worth,” she says. “Everyone had to take their income and divide it by first days and then hours spent working. We obviously subtracted weekends, leave days and made provision for a few sick days. You then have a figure: What one hour of your time is worth. It puts time wasted on things that don’t add value to your business or bottom line into perspective. What was the cost in revenue of that long afternoon lunch? How much is an hour spent surfing the Internet worth? I’ve found that helping my team to understand their own worth has made them more accountable and a lot more focused.”
Moodley has always been a firm believer in planned productivity, and this discipline has influenced her team as well. You can’t be disorganised and a time-waster and expect something different from your team,” she says.
“I plan my day meticulously. It doesn’t serve me, the business or the team to have time in my diary that is unaccounted for.”
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Batch your tasks and time
Productivity expert and author Kate Emmerson agrees, although her focus is on helping individuals to de-clutter their lives on an individual and corporate basis.
“A recent study found that out of 1 000 middle managers, 56% of them admitted that they miss vital information every day because they can’t find important documents in the clutter on their desks,” she says. “Executives waste an hour a day looking for things – that’s six weeks a year.”
Over and above the time wasted in disorganisation, Emmerson believes that clutter is an energy- zapper as well. “It’s a cliché but time is money, and we are all victims of our own clutter.”
This clutter extends to the mental space as well. “I have a firm rule: Each week I plan five outcomes for the week, with one priority per day. I find this is not just efficient, but it’s effective too. As a team leader, business owner or manager, you want to help your team be as effective in their roles as possible, and that starts with cutting the clutter and focusing your time and energy on the right activities.”
Emmerson is a big believer in batching and focus time. “We interrupt ourselves every three minutes. What makes this even more problematic is that fact that when we go off-task, it takes on average 20 minutes to get back into a state of ‘flow’, where we are most productive and concentrated on the task at hand.
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“Instead of multi-tasking and trying to tick things off a list, batch tasks together that are alike, and spend focused, uninterrupted time completing them. You’ll be amazed at how much you start getting done.”
Within our work environments, we interrupt ourselves every three minutes. Other people interrupt us on average seven times an hour. Each time we are interrupted, it takes us 20 minutes to get back on task. Since we will be interrupted again before that can happen, we are working in a constant state of broken concentration.