How much of what you do each day at work is truly useful?

It’s one of those showstopper questions that people typically avoid asking themselves. Being busy doesn’t mean being productive. Technology often doesn’t help, because it creates distractions that make us lose focus on what’s important rather than what’s urgent.

Here’s a routine to help you be self-honest about it.

  1. What’s the primary purpose of you being in your role?
  2. What are the five (maximum) most important long-term or medium-term deliverables relating to delivering that purpose?
  3. What are the five (maximum) most important short-term deliverables relating to delivering that purpose?
  4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how significant was each activity you did or each meeting you attended in moving forward one of those key deliverables?
  5. To what extent do the proportions of time allocation you have align with those you instinctively know you should have?
  6. What do you want to do about misalignments?
  7. What can you do about misalignments?

Common themes that emerge from this analysis include:

  • The sense that other people are driving how you allocate your time
  • Far too much emphasis on short-term deliverables versus long-term
  • Severe disconnect between day-to-day activity and long-term purpose
  • Guilt over lack of progress increasing the amount of time spent on activities that don’t significantly advance the purpose. 

Faced with the data about how purposeful their daily activity is, people come up with different solutions, ranging from “Ignore the problem and find another job” to systematic planning that ranks the day’s tasks and allocates time in proportion to their relevance to purpose. There’s no single solution, but admitting the problem and gathering support — for example, from a coach, from your direct reports, or from your peers — is a good starting point.

© David Clutterbuck 2023




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