Today is your birthday!
OK, maybe it’s not actually today, but happy birthday anyway. This is the one day a year when a few people, your mum and maybe an aunt, send you an actual birthday card. Remember those? Real physical cards. Heck, nowadays people can’t even be bothered with an e-card. but I digress.
This week you’ll learn how you can retake control of your time and get back at least 20% of your work life to enjoy doing other things that matter.
Let’s get back to your birthday. At around 8:30 on your birthday morning, your postal delivery person comes to your home and delivers the first card that your Mum sent in the first-class post.
Where are you at 8:30 in the morning?
Either at work or on your way to work right? Oh, well. On your doormat at home (yes, the Royal mail delivers to your door… and everyone else’s door too) lies that birthday card from your dear mum.
At about 3 in the afternoon, the postal delivery comes again to your home and delivers a second birthday card. This one from your aunt who chose the second-class post because she’s a little more frugal than your mum. A second birthday card pops through your letterbox.
Where are you at 3 in the afternoon? Oh, yes, you’re still at work aren’t you. So let’s say that you leave early today because your partner is treating you to a special birthday dinner and you want to be ready. You arrive home at about 5:30 pm and there on your doormat lie two birthday cards.
The thrill that someone remembered and even cared enough to buy, write and send a real card through the post envelopes you with a warmth of love and celebration.
Now, imagine that you have just taken over the reins at a huge distribution company that is losing more than one and a half million dollars a day.
The company has been losing money for years and years, decades even, and no-one seems to know how to stop the haemorrhaging.
The company can trace its roots back to the early 16th century during the reign of Henry VIII. I am, of course, referring to the Royal Mail.
The same organisation who delivered your birthday cards.
For more than a hundred years, the Royal Mail has struggled to make a profit and the continued losses could mark the final demise of this nearly 500-year-old organisation.
I’ll give you a minute to fix the problem.
What was that, in less than 10 seconds and you know that you should deliver once a day? Well, that seems pretty obvious. So you argue and debate and cajole and use every shred of your influence and the twice a day delivery becomes once a day.
So tell me, did you care that your birthday cards arrived in the morning and in the afternoon? Of course not, you weren’t there anyway.
Had they been delivered together, it would have made no difference to you. The twice a day delivery service added no value to you.
Indeed, when it went to once a day, nobody noticed, and nobody really cared.
Sure, in the days of Jane Austin when the ladies would be sat primly at home with their embroidery and awaiting the morning letter from their lover, and then later, more eagerly asking Papa if the afternoon post was here with yet another letter from her dearly beloved.
But by 2004, we even had this newfangled and strange tool known as email.
The Royal Mail had lost millions and millions providing a service that added no value its customers cared about.
So, what are you doing each and every day that’s adding no value to your customers?
- How many meetings do you attend that are a complete waste of your time?
- How many emails do you reply to that add little or no value?
- How many texts do you send that achieve little more than a beep at the other end?
- What other activities are you doing every day that, anyone with fresh eyes, would question “why do you do that?”
Your answer, of course, is along the lines, “Because that’s the way we do it.“
Do you remember when you started this job? That first couple of weeks in a new team in a strange role, trying to find your feet and wondering why they seem to do it that way? If you were feeling brave, maybe you even asked someone why they did it that way? And they answered, “Because that’s the way we do it around here.“
After two weeks, you went native. Someone else joined the team and maybe they bravely asked you why you did that in that way? And you answered, “Because that’s the way we do it.“
Let’s stop a moment and think about all those things that we do because, well, that’s the way we do it. The meetings you attend because your boss invites you to attend. The email you reply to because someone sent one to you. The text you respond to urgently just in case it was something that might actually matter.
How much time could you save if you just attended the meetings that had a purpose for you to attend, were important that you personally attend, and there was something to do as a result of attending that meeting? How many could you eliminate that have no purpose, aren’t important or have a product?
What if you only sent emails that had a purpose, were important for the recipient or required a specific action (a product)?
Are you attending that meeting because, well, that’s what we do around here?
Are you sending that email because that’s also the way we do things around here?
Do yourself a favour, even if you don’t feel brave enough yet to tell your boss that you won’t be attending her tedious and time-wasting event, the next time that you change roles, make a note of all those things that you see with fresh eyes that don't seem to add value. Put on your courage and ask someone why, and when they respond “Because that’s the way we do things.” Be extra brave and challenge them what is the purpose? Why is it important (for me, for the customer)? Or, what are the actions that result from this?
Lastly, when you discover that something is important and has a purpose, think about the very best method to achieve that purpose. If a meeting face to face for the whole team is the very best way, then have a meeting.
Oh, and I should warn you. My clients who have done this save more than 20% of their total working time – that’s an average of 12 hours a week! Just imagine what you could do with an extra 12 hours every week