Stop Doing Low-Value Work


In the past, time management experts would recommend that you divide up your work into A tasks, B tasks, and C tasks. The concept was to do the A tasks first, then the B tasks, then the C tasks, when you can get to them. If priorities changed, you just changed the order of your As, Bs, and Cs. The formula worked when doing all aspects of a job was possible But, now Overwhelmed is the new normal.

Therefore, it’s actually a matter of professional life or death to get rid of your low-value work – tasks that mean little or nothing to customers or colleagues. Take an active approach. Design a new, do-able job for yourself.

Here’s when to do it:

  • When you start a new job, you have a fresh perspective on what has to be done. Take a look at everything on your plate. Propose three-month goals to your manager, getting rid of as many useless tasks as you can.
  • When more responsibility is added to what you already do, you have an opportunity to restructure your work. Offer choices to your manager: “Should I lead this task force considering it will take approximately 20% of my time? Or, should I…?”
  • When there is a reorganization, you have to be careful not to take on too much. People have a tendency to think they can’t say no or they will be the next person laid off. But actually, after a reorganization, the survivors are critical to the organization’s future success, so if you offer to restructure your own job, it will typically be perceived positively.
  • When you have done an amazing job of something and everyone is celebrating, it’s a great time to ask for help reducing your low-value work.

And here’s how to do it:

  • Vote it off the island. A smart controller had been producing monthly reports for years that nobody read. He sent around a list of them and asked for votes for the most important three or four. He stopped producing the ones nobody used. Another approach is to ask your clients if you can not do something, just the way retail store clerks now ask people if they really want their receipts. The idea is simply to stop doing something that isn’t important.
  • Automate it. If it’s low value, it’s easy to automate. Just find a friend in your IT function to help you do it.
  • Write your own rules. Limit what you are going to do and then make sure people know your rules.
  • Every week, block off the same time for yourself at work. Use the time to figure out how to get rid of your low-value

Redesign your own job. It’s your job, after all. Make it work for you. And stop doing that low-value work.