As a dyslexic and a dyspraxic, there are a whole bunch of things I find tricky. Some routine tasks can consume a disproportionate amount of my time and energy. So I have taken to asking myself a trio of questions:
1) What would this look like if it were easy?
2) How would I do this if I only had half the time?
3) Do I have to be the one to do this (does it have to be done at all?)?
In Make Your Knowledge Workers More Productive Jordan Cohen and Julian Birkinshaw found that by identifying low-value tasks to either drop completely, delegate to someone else or outsource, the average worker gained back roughly one day a week they could use for more important tasks. So I am not alone in investing my time and energy in tasks that don’t provide an adequate return.
We instinctively cling to tasks that make us feel busy and thus important, while our bosses, constantly striving to do more with less, pile on as many responsibilities as we’re willing to accept. Busy is worn as a badge of honour. It should be seen as a failure to prioritise and execute efficiently.
What would this look like if it were easy?
This is a question from Tim Ferriss’s 4 Hour Work Week. When approaching a mid-life crisis and journaling about how to establish himself a world-class support network this simple question lead to his latest book. Tribe of Mentors was the answer to what would this look like if it were easy.
The flip side of this question is am I making this harder than it needs to be? When I started this blog I had visions of creating the graphics for every blog post. It would be a great opportunity to get my camera out, to develop my Sketchnote skills, or to learn digital drawing. However, this massively disrupted my blog workflow. With stock images costing less than £1 each, there was an easier way. I still have a 1/2 finished visual summary for Made to Stick (in a similar format to Dyslexic Advantage).
I have contemplated staying late capturing notes from a workshop before thinking creatively for an easy way. A few snaps on a smartphone and a little tidy up with Lens and the key content is shared.
Do I have to be the one to do this?
This question should really be asked after considering if the task needs to be done at all. I’ve blogged before that tasks that are not urgent and not important should not be done at all.
I’m great at creative problem-solving. It’s what made me a good software developer. It’s what makes me a good project management. Both jobs require creative problem-solving. I can do detailed financial management but it does not come naturally. As a project manager, I’m accountable for sizable budgets which need to be managed. But nobody says I have to do the number crunching. So I delegate this task.
In the dyslexia network I run it’s not so easy to delegate. We are all volunteers. For the dyslexia awareness week, I was able to tap into the member’s different abilities and talents. An arty member led on getting the group a new logo. Someone else covered logistics. I even brought in external speakers to take the lead on selling the benefit of neurodiversity to the rest of the business.
How would I do this if I only had half the time?
Imagine being able to get twice as much done at work but still start and finish at the same time. Simple – just do two things at once! Only kidding – you should know my thoughts on multitasking.
When completing a task we often think of the desirable quality. We rarely consider the lowest acceptable quality. Its common to want to do a good job. Consider though the value of getting two things done both to acceptable standard rather than just being able to do one to a high standard.
A great time to practice this is just before going on holiday. Many people get a prodigious amount cleared from their desk before going on leave. The forced deadline drives a subtly different mental calculus. Harnessing that same calculus can see you getting more tasks done day in day out.
Which leads nicely to job design
Job design is often thought of as a Human Resources role. Someone sits down and considers the task a role must undertake and the responsibilities they will have. This, in turn, leads to a salary expectation for that role. Job design is not just for HR though.
A team can consider how it wants to share out tasks and responsibilities to optimise the performance of a team as a whole. You can trade tasks and responsibilities with a colleague to play to each of your relatives strengths and passions. Job design is a topic I’ll return to.