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How Valuable Is Your Time?

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, to make a brief story short he was quite cordial, but not happy that he couldn’t read my rear license plate. Apparently the combination of a shaded cover (which I have had for at least 10 years) and dirt from the roads didn’t allow him to read my plates.

Well, he was in the right to make his request, and he did so in a polite manner, but I have to think that he could have been doing more important things. I see this same phenomenon in business everyday; people are busy, hurrying to answer emails, make calls, answer employee questions, but the question you have to ask yourself is, does this matter? Is what I am doing right now adding value to my customer, improving my knowledge, helping my business, or is this just tactical stuff that could be dealt with in another manner?

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 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.  The premise of Lean and Continuous Improvement is that you challenge every step of a process to confirm if it adds value or is waste. Notice that this is black or white; there are no grey areas.

So the question to ask yourself, and your staff, if you have one, is, “Is what we are doing right now adding value?” If the answer is no, then you have three very simple choices to make:

1.     Discard it. Don’t do it. Throw it away, ignore it, or delete it. It doesn’t matter, so 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?” How much is your time worth?

3.     Schedule it. If you truly focus on value-added work (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.

Some parting thoughts: being productive is a challenge for anyone in today’s technology driven, egocentric, instant gratification environment. You have to challenge yourself to apply the concepts above, but you will stand out from the crowd relative to your productivity. You will be more satisfied with your work, and the quality in general will significantly improve.

Oh, and one final thought. Make sure your license plates are clean.

© Shawn Casemore 2013. All rights reserved.

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