If quarantine has showed us anything, it’s how many hours are wasted at the office.
The truth is that time does not always equate to productivity, and our misperceptions about what “working hard” entails are often holding us back. A person who is highly skilled at their position might be able to accomplish something in a quarter of the time that another person can.
Working less can often mean working better — especially if we take the time to evaluate where our energy, and attention, should go first.
These introspective questions will help you start.
“Am I spending time on maintenance work or progress work?”
There are two types of work that we engage in: maintenance, and progress.
Maintenance work refers to the tasks that essentially keep the business you have running. It’s attending to the needs of existing clients, keeping up with the backend or bookkeeping, or even sorting through your emails.
While important, these tasks are not progress work, which are the tasks that actually move your business and life forward. These could include streamlining or organizing one of your maintenance tasks, seeking out new clients or income streams, reinventing your brand or marketing outreach.
You have to first be able to tell the difference between what’s keeping your current situation running, and what would actually help you step forward. From there, be sure that you’re never doing more maintenance than progress.
“What could I realistically be outsourcing right now?”
Now that you’ve begun to differentiate your maintenance tasks, the next question is how or to whom you could outsource as many of them as possible.
With the emergence of virtual bookkeepers, assistants, researchers and other teams, it’s never been more possible to hire other people to do what they are experts at so that you can do the same.
“If I could only work for two hours today, what must I get done?”
If you knew that you could only be at your desk for exactly two hours today, what would you place on your “to do” list?
This is an important thing to think about because this will often show you what your actual priorities are. When you think you have 8+ hours to sit down and get a job done, you’re much more likely to buffer that time with unimportant, alternative tasks and breaks — ones that you wouldn’t even need to do if you focused your attention on accomplishing the most important tasks for the day and then stepping away.
Start by identifying the top 5 things you must accomplish today.
If something doesn’t make it to your top 5, it’s probably not an absolute essential, and can likely wait to be on tomorrow’s “top 5” list.
“If I could only work for two hours this week, what must I get done?”
This question is a bit harder, but will help you pinpoint exactly what is essential to keep your business running, and what actually makes you the most money.
If you knew that you could only work for two hours per week, what would you do to ensure that you were not only surviving, but thriving? The answer to this question is likely where the majority of your energy and attention needs to be regardless of how many, or how few, hours you have to work that day.
“Am I contributing anything to my legacy today?”
Lastly, it’s important to keep the big picture in mind.
Our long-term legacy work is not something we carve out a few years for, it’s not something we take a sabbatical for. It’s something that we are consciously and unconsciously building every single day.
A legacy is the entire body of work you leave behind you, the business you built, or the leadership skills you shared. It’s about what you’re ultimately going to be remembered by, what you contributed to humanity, what really mattered in the end.
By remembering what your legacy will be, you’ll stop trying to nit-pick and micro-manage, and instead show up, be present, and decide what action you could take today that will influence the rest of your days to come.