Make Time for the Work That Matters (Post 2 of 4)
Since we all have the same number of hours in a day, working as efficiently as possible is no brainer. But how? Business productivity experts Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen in the September issue of Harvard Business Review provide a self-assessment score card for identifying low-value tasks. I’ve replicated it below for discussion purposes. Check back for my next post to learn how it’s helping some organizations win the race against the clock.
Self-Assessment: Identifying Low-Value Tasks
Developed by Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen (HBR, 9/13)
Make a list of everything you did yesterday or the day before, divided into 30- or 60-minute chunks. For each task, ask yourself four questions:
How valuable is this activity to the firm?
Suppose you’re updating your boss or a senior executive on your performance. Would you mention this task? Would you be able to justify spending time on it?
|It contributes in a significant way towards the company’s overall objectives||4|
|It contributes in a small way||3|
|It has no impact, positive or negative||2|
|It has a negative impact||1|
To what extent could I let this go?
Imagine that because of a family emergency, you arrive at work two hours late and have to prioritize the day’s activities. Which category would this activity fall in?
|Essential: This takes top priority||4|
|Important: I need to get this done today||3|
|Discretionary: I’ll get to it if time allows||2|
|Unimportant/optional: I can cut this immediately||1|
How much personal value do I get from doing it?
Imagine that you’re financially independent and creating your dream job. Would you keep this task or jettison it?
|Definitely keep: it’s one of the best parts of my job||5|
|Probably keep: I enjoy this activity||4|
|Not sure: This task has good and bad points||3|
|Probably drop: I find this activity somewhat tiresome||2|
|Definitely jettison: I dislike doing it||1|
To what extent could someone else do it on my behalf?
Suppose you’ve been tapped to handle a critical, fast-track initiative and have to assign some of your work to colleagues for three months. Would you drop, delegate or keep this task?
|Only I (or someone senior to me) can handle this task||5|
|This task is best done by me because of my particular skill set and other, linked responsibilities||4|
|If structured properly, this task could be handled satisfactorily by someone junior me||3|
|This task could easily be handled by a junior employee or outsourced to a third party||2|
|This task could be dropped altogether||1|
Now tally your score. A low total score (10 or lower) reflects a task that is a likely candidate for delegation or elimination. If you subscribe to Harvard Business Review, go to “hbr.org/assessments/work-that-matters” for an interactive assessment tool to see how you stack up and to get advice for improved productivity.