Archive for April, 2011

What’s in YOUR work week?

April 6, 2011

“Time – got the time tick-tick-tickin’ in my head” – Joe Jackson

I need more time!

Let’s take a look at the average work week.  A handful of one hour meetings, maybe one large meeting, many smaller meetings.  By mid-week the calendar is almost full.  People are coming to your desk constantly asking for small adjustments/favors/tasks.  That time-saving-must-do project you had in mind, once again, received no time.  It’s the end of the week, you’re drained, and looking back you’re not sure what really happened.

You can read time management books, take a Covey course and recite all of the key phrases.  These are all good, and highly recommended.  But I’m going to fast forward to a different ending that’s not in the popular reading materials.  First let’s post a supposition:

Jim’s Axiom – Creativity does not exist without constraints.

You may be thinking “I can’t be creative WITH constraints!”  I respectfully say you are wrong.  Let’s go back to when you were younger.  You had a clean, unwrinkled, pristine sheet of paper (or an entire pad) and a pencil.  You looked down and… nothing.  “Mom, what should I draw?”

Did you see what just happened there?  Maybe you remember that, maybe you just heard your own child ask that very question.  There are no constraints.  You (or they) can draw anything, and you draw… nothing.  Where do you start?  What should you do?  If only you had a starting point you could go anywhere.  You need a constraint.

When the pressure is on, and you need to reach the goal line you do what it takes, you look for the opportunity, and you press forward and find a way.  Once there are constraints your creativity can take root and navigate through and bring you to success.

Jim’s Corollary – Creativity is the ability to solve a problem when there are constraints.

I need to find a way to the store and the main road is closed.  Creativity.
I need to buy groceries and I’m low on funds.  Creativity.
I need to get more done and I’m running out of time.  Creativity.

The Pony Express was infamous for delivering mail.  We could have grown that system and bought more horses.  When they weren’t fast enough we could have bred faster horses.  But the limitations were real, and no matter how much you did more of the same thing you couldn’t solve the pressing issue.  It doesn’t scale properly, and was not cost effective.  There had to be a better way.

This new way did not involve a horse.  It was the telegraph.  A completely different way of dealing with the issue.  Taking a broken system and spending more time doing it doesn’t get you the advance you’re really looking for.  The same is true during your work day.  If you take your current process and just add more time you do get more done.  But at what cost?  And what value are you really adding?

If you find yourself working 60+ hour weeks I’m going to challenge you.  Are you really only smart enough to just do more of the same to beat out your competition?  Is that how you sell yourself?  What happens when the next guy comes along and works 70 hours?  80?  They win?

But what about studies that state efficiency decreases as hours per week increases?  A quick search on Google yielded this: “The average efficiency for 50 hr, 60 hr, and 70 hr weeks was 0.92, 0.84, and 0.78, respectively.”  That means that at 70 hours per week you’re as efficient as actually working 55 hours.  You’ve heard the adage… why have you denied it?  Work smarter, not harder.

• Look at the work you’re doing and note the time spent.  What’s really eating your day?  What new process can you put in place to replace the old, inefficient model?  Focus on the important/non-urgent, and manage the important/urgent.  Avoid the non-important items!  Recommended reading:  First Things First by Steven Covey (Full disclosure: I’ve taken the Seven Habits course and love his style on time management, but I haven’t read this book yet.  Ironic I know.)

• The next step is to examine your processes.  Why and when you do what you do.  Keep your meetings focused and only invite those that should be there.  Set an agenda with a desired outcome, and once reached, end the meeting, even if it’s early!  Recommend reading: Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.

• Are you trying to do it all on your own?  Who’s your model or mentor for that?  Look for strategic partnerships to accomplish more than you could do on your own.  Recommend reading:  Mentored By A Millionaire by Steven Scott.

As a young boy I heard a wealthy and successful man say something that has stuck with me.   I believe I’m finally starting to grasp the full intent, and I’ll leave it with you now:

“If you can’t do it in 40 hours a week, you’re doing it wrong.”