Work Smarter III: Focus on the Vital Few

“There’s just never enough time to do all the things that need to be done!” Dave, an insurance producer, told me during a recent workshop.  “Is it possible,” I asked Dave, “that you’re focusing on the trivial many instead of the vital few, and that’s why you don’t have enough time?”

I explained to the group how the Pareto Principle—the 80-20 rule—applies to most businesses and professional practices:

20% of the things you do to grow your business or improve your career—the vital few—produce roughly 80% of your results.  If you want to work “smarter” instead of “harder”, your goal should be to do more of that 20% work—the work on the vital few—and less of the usual 80% of your work that doesn’t get results—the trivial many.

To know what is vital and what is trivial, you first need to figure out what your mission is—what you want to accomplish.  This needs to be crystal clear to you.  Each of the vital few activities has to be designed to get you to your business goals.

Once you know where you’re going, you can figure out which activities are helping you get there directly, and which ones are only peripheral pit stops.  Then, every time you’re doing something in your business, you can ask yourself whether what you’re doing at this moment is directly aimed at the result you want—whether it’s vital to your success.  If it’s not, why not delegate it to someone else?

Do the work that only you can do, that you’re best at, and that you like the most.  Delegate the rest.

“The first thing you can eliminate is the work you hate the most,” I suggested to the seminar group.  “What do you hate the most?”

“The bookkeeping,” Dave spoke out, before anyone else could respond.  “But delegating that is expensive and I really can’t afford to do it,” he complained.

“Have you figured out how much you make per session when you’re working with clients?” I asked him.  With some humility, Dave confessed that if we figured his time with clients hourly, it came out to about $200 an hour.

“And how much would a bookkeeper cost?” I continued.

“About $40 an hour in my area,” Dave admitted.

“That means,” I pressed on, “that if you spent just one more hour this week with a client, you could hire a bookkeeper for five hours and not lose any profit, right?”

Dave’s eyes lit up.  I knew that he, and at least a handful of the other workshop attendees, would be freeing up some time for themselves soon.

If you weigh the cost of having someone else do the work you hate against the energy drain and erosion of effectiveness you experience in doing that work yourself, the cost of having help reveals itself as a very small price to pay.

This week, list all of the things that need to be done in your business or practice, but that you hate to do, and be honest with yourself about whether someone else could be doing those things for you.  Pick one item from your list and arrange to have someone else take care of it.  You’ll be amazed at how much time, and energy you’ll free up for the vital few.

If I can help you consolidate your professional schedule, contact me.  In the meantime, as part of your 20% work, keep REACHING…

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