The following exercise is well worth trying if you constantly feel rushed, and unable to find enough time to do the things that will make the most difference over the long term. It has become one of my favourite tools when helping council staff with process improvement projects.

l learnt about this technique when I enrolled in The Helpful Academy to set up better systems for my business, but it translates extremely well to council situations.

Step 1 – Assign a financial value to your tasks

Take a look at what you do with your time at the moment – listing all the different tasks and then grouping them for relative value.

This is a summary of the types of tasks in my table.

$ – Low value tasks$$ –Medium value tasks$$$ – High value tasks$$$$ – Highest value tasks
Administration  Marketing actionsDelivery of client workTargeted professional development

However, your list of tasks will look slightly different if you work for a large organisation. Instead of marketing tasks you probably need to spend more time coordinating activities with team members and other people in (and outside) your organisation.

$ – Low value tasks$$ –Medium value tasks$$$ – High value tasks$$$$ – Highest value tasks
Administration  Coordination activities (via emails, meetings and phone calls)Delivery of work or advice that relies on your professional knowledge & skillsStrategic actions that improve systems or long-term outcomes

Now you can assign a financial value to the different activity groups (e.g. $25, $50, $75 and $100).

Step 2 – Record your time

Over a week note down how much time you spend on tasks in the different categories.

At the end of each day tally up the financial value of the tasks you completed that day. (There’s nothing like having to write down this value to help you shift your attention away from low value actions!)

Allocating the highest value to business development helped me to give myself ‘permission’ to spend time on projects that don’t deliver an immediate or guaranteed return, but have the most potential to ‘move the needle’ – to achieve better long-term outcomes.

Step 3 – Brainstorm alternatives

Review your list of low and medium-value tasks and brainstorm changes you can make to spend less of your time on these activities, so that you can free up your capacity to do higher-value work. You may also be able to identify ways to batch your higher-value tasks, to achieve more in less time.

During the brainstorming process, look for opportunities to:

  • Automate
  • Delegate
  • Batch.

Automation is a broad term that might include more use of online forms, or more efficient communication of some information. For example, there may be opportunities to share information via a website page rather than through numerous 1:1 emails.

Delegation could include passing on an activity to someone within (or outside of) your organisation who is able to do it better, faster and/or for a lower cost.

Batching of tasks makes better use of your time and energy. For example, allocating a block of time to develop a content plan for a year’s worth of publicity about a programme, for your communications team to run with.

Not doing something as much, or at all – as mentioned above, completing the audit for a week may help you to decide stop doing some things if they are no longer useful to you.

My biggest lessons

  • This process helped me to give myself permission to put a higher value on business development and coaching – even if it doesn’t pay off immediately.
  • Some of the most valuable advice I received when reviewing my table of tasks was to NOT do something – saving me so much time!

Process improvement service

Imagine if a process improvement could free up some of your time, helping you to feel less rushed and more organised, while still delivering on your commitments?

I have developed a new service to help you to take a fresh look at how you currently deliver a programme or a service. Here’s a link to find out more.