A police officer followed me into my gym parking lot the other morning. No lights, no chase, he just drove in behind me. I thought he was turning around, but when I got out of my car he pulled up behind me and got out as well. He looked at me, gym bag in hand, and said, “Is this your car?” I refrained from responding with several witty comments that came to mind. Anyway, his concern was that my rear license plate wasn’t legible. Apparently if you don’t keep the dirt and snow off of your license plate you can be fined, which fortunately I wasn’t.
Of course by pursuing me to point out this fact the officer was only doing his job, but I can’t help but think, are there not more important things he should be focusing on? I see this same phenomenon in business everyday; everyone is busy, hurrying to answer emails, attend meetings, make calls, but in the end does all of this really matter? I mean, are these tasks providing value to the business, the individual or more importantly the customer? Most often we find that what individuals believe are priorities aren’t. We are driven by tactical issues that detract from the bigger picture.
As I am writing this, my email is turned off, my phone is on forward, and my cell phone is tucked away with the ringer and all other chimes, bells, and whistles turned off. I have learned that to be productive and provide the greatest value to my clients I must be focused on the task at hand and continually confirm that what I am doing provides value to my clients, my business, my family, or myself.
So the question to ask yourself, your staff, your peers is, “Does this add value?” Sound too simple? It is, which is likely why we fail to ask ourselves this question frequently enough. We seem to be looking for a more complex answer, to which of course there isn’t.
Now, If the answer to this question is a resounding “no”, then you have three very simple choices to make:
1. Discard it: Throw it away, ignore it, or delete it. How you dispose of it doesn’t matter, but just be sure you don’t spend any further time on it.
2. Delegate it: Give it to someone else to do; an employee, subcontractor or a peer. If it has no value but needs to be done, the question becomes, “Is this something I need to do?” Think about how much your time is worth?
3. Schedule it. If you truly focus on value-added work (and this is the goal!), then with the exception of a fire or some other emergency, nothing should distract you from what you are focused on. Keep a schedule of your priorities for the day, do them first thing in the day, and then let yourself meander once the priorities are complete. Things that get scheduled get done and if you are like most people, you are at your best early in the day.
Some parting thoughts: Being productive is a challenge for anyone in today’s technology driven, me-first, instant gratification environment. You have to challenge yourself continually to apply the concepts above. If you do however I can make you some guarantees. You and your team will be more productive than others, there will be a greater degree of satisfaction in the work done, and quality of the work will significantly improve.
Oh, and one final thought. Before you head out today just make sure your license plates are visible.
© Shawn Casemore 2013. All rights reserved.