Given the choice, I’d rather be busy than bored. But if you’re like me, you always find you need more time.
More time for rest. More time for fun. More time for the challenging, deep work that puts you in your superpower space and gets your spirit soaring.
Seems we’re juggling more than ever in our work and lives. Some of it we welcome, with great opportunities to learn and grow. But much of it can be overwhelming.
When we’re overwhelmed, we get stuck. When we’re stuck, it’s harder to focus our time on the work that matters most to our careers, companies, and community.
So, how do we create more time for the things that matter?
There’s only one way. We’ve got to start dropping a few things. Here are three to start.
#1: Drop the Ball
Imagine playing catch with your daughter, getting a nice rhythm going. Then your son pitches a ball your way, your spouse throws another, your neighbor one more. They keep coming faster, and faster, and–OUCH!
You can’t catch all those balls. You also can’t throw them back quick enough. And when you’re trying to catch them all, the valuable experience with your daughter disappears.
We wouldn’t think about catching all of those balls in the backyard. So why do we try to catch them all at work?
My challenge to you is to start dropping a ball–or several–right now.
If that thought makes you uncomfortable, well, you’re not alone.
It’s counter-cultural today to think about not doing something. We’ve been taught that the key to success is to do, do, do.
But that, my friends, is a lie, lie, lie.
People are not computers. We can’t add a new memory chip, or upgrade to higher bandwidth.
If you’re constantly expanding your capacity to catch and handle all the balls coming your way–especially balls that aren’t making the most of your talents–you’re on the road to breakdown.
It’s a myth to believe that your work speaks for itself and that more work equals more success. Taking more on to the degree it starts to wear you down isn’t a growth strategy–it’s a recipe for failure.
Can’t imagine letting a ball sit on the floor, untouched? Remember that your catch-all behavior is not only hurting you but your organization, too.
When you’re catching all the balls, your company can’t see that it’s time to hire or change outdated processes. You’ve masked the problem—at your expense.
Try dropping some balls–and holding tight to the ones that matter most.
(“Drop Some Balls” is the subject of Chapter 13 in my book “Red Cape Rescue: Save Your Career Without Leaving Your Job.” If you’d like to go deeper on this concept, get the book now.)
#2: Drop the Waste.
In most companies, the people part of the business is still called “human resources.” You (the human) are a vital, important resource to the organization–a resource to be invested and “spent” just like money, energy and time.
When you’re doing too much–especially work that’s not suited to your talents–you’re actually wasting the company’s human resources.
To drop the waste, inventory everything you’re doing. Then go through each task and ask yourself:
- Is this the most important thing I can contribute to our business right now? If not, does it need to be done at all?
- Given how I contribute best, is this a good use of my time and talents?
Do the Math
For salaried professionals, a powerful way to assess wasted time is to divide your pay into an hourly rate, and review each task based on its true cost.
Here’s an example. One of my coaching clients led a large IT group and knew he needed to spend more time helping his team grow. But he got bogged down in tasks his predecessor had done for years.
When we inventoried his tasks and divided his salary into an hourly rate, he was shocked to find 10 different time-sucking activities that could be outsourced or delegated to people with significantly less experience, at a lower cost.
He took the data to his boss, saying “When I handle these website updates myself, our company’s spending $200/hour based on my salary. But we can hire that skill in the market for $30/hour. I have nine more examples like that, totaling a savings of over $100,000. Want to hear more?”
Of course, his boss wanted to hear more, and days later approved a plan to hire more resources.
Eliminating hidden waste is one of the biggest business improvement opportunities for you and your company. By dropping the waste, both you and the company win.
#3: Drop the Guilt.
Ideas are good. But too many “good ideas” start to pile up fast, creating guilt when we can’t take advantage of all of them.
Consider this your permission to drop the guilt.
You’re capable of many things. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should, now or ever.
When you’re focusing on doing your best work—the work that matters most to you, your career, your company, and our community—then there’s no guilt needed.