As business owners, most of us spend our time rushing to complete an ever-expanding and seemingly endless list of tasks.
But how many of these tasks are actually adding value to your business? And do you really need to be focusing your time on them?
Luckily, I was able to get some expert advice from Chris Hughes, who has been in the business of leadership and performance for 20 years.
Together, we will find out what sorts of challenges the business leaders and entrepreneurs of today are facing, and how they can better manage their impossible list of tasks.
Let’s start by hearing what Chris had to say about the challenges leaders are facing:
£1000, £100 and £10 tasks – where is your focus?
Chris: “I like to break this down for people by using a simple analogy.
In business, there are typically three types of tasks:
- £1000 tasks
- £100 tasks
- £10 tasks
Leaders need to question if they are spending time on the £1000 tasks for their role. If they are, then great! They are adding as much value in that role as they can. Sometimes, however, leaders focus on £10 tasks, which might be something that they love doing, but it’s not adding much value to their role.
These £10 tasks, which might have got you success before, like working hard at something tactically or operationally, won’t necessarily guarantee success in the new role, which might need a much more strategic approach.
That shift, from tactical to strategic thinking, can be quite hard for us to make.”
Chris’s task analogy is a great piece of business advice because, sometimes, the simple things are the easiest to forget, and it’s easy to slip into habits over time. When I started looking at my own business, I was shocked at how many £10 tasks I was doing without even realising!
The thing is, most of the £100 and £10 tasks we as leaders do can just as well be delegated to someone in our team to perform.
Chris provided some valuable insight into the benefits of delegation:
Determine what success is for you
Chris: “It’s important to remember that although the task is the same, its value can change depending on who is responsible for it. A £10 task for you might be the £1000 task for a team member in a different role.
You need to determine what is success for you in your role and the tasks you should be spending time on to ensure you get success. Let’s face it, you’re best at doing the things that only you can do, and the rest you can delegate out to other, capable team members.”
Chris was spot on here. Different people have different interests, abilities and passions, and you need to make sure the right activities are being given to people in their appropriate roles.
So, how can we make sure this is done efficiently? I asked Chris for some practical tips for leaders so they know which tasks to focus on.
This is what he said:
Chris: “To ensure you are doing the £1000 tasks, there are two things people can do.
- Think about what great success looks like for your role this year. Once you’ve decided what that looks like, you can backtrack and pinpoint where you need to be spending time in order to achieve that success. If you don’t keep an eye on these things, it’s unlikely you’re going to achieve your goals.
- The second thing people can do is to get your diary out and, in different colours, highlight your tasks over the next couple of weeks according to these colours:
Green = £1000 tasks
Orange = £100 tasks which probably can be delegated
Red = £10 tasks and should always be delegated
Once you have done it over a couple of weeks, you can do a three to six month plan and start to reduce or eliminate the tasks that you feel can be done by someone else.
You don’t have to make these changes instantly, that’s not the point. The main thing is that you can start to see where you are spending too much time on potentially the wrong areas and, over the next few months, you can gradually manoeuvre, eliminate or reduce the time you spend on them.”
So far, we have spoken a lot about delegating. However, we all get a little overwhelmed as business leaders from time to time. What happens when it’s the business leader who is the one who needs help? When that happens, how can we get ourselves back into the right frame of mind to pinpoint where we need to spend our energy?
Chris answered this with another great analogy:
Mastering your context
Chris: “People normally have two versions of themselves I like to call Twin A and Twin B. Twin A would be the best version of ourselves possible and Twin B would be the not so great version.
However, Twin A has many different faces, and knowing which one to use is crucial, not just with the delegation, but with anything in life. Sometimes Twin A might need to be quite forceful on certain things, and other times it might need a softer approach.
There isn’t ever a right or wrong version, it just depends on the context. For example, if I’m in the army and there is a war, my job (unfortunately) is probably to kill people. However, let’s say I’m in the army and there’s an earthquake. In that case, my job might be to save people’s lives instead.
Mastering your Twin A is more about mastering your context and making sure the correct version of you turns up to the correct context or situation when needed.
If we can master our context, we will be in the right state to face our challenges proactively, instead of adopting the Twin B approach of over-reacting, procrastinating or avoiding them altogether.”
Chris makes a great point here. I think a lot of people can be prone to a Twin B future-casting mentality. But most leaders or level-headed people would probably say that, with hindsight, a lot of the problems they faced five or so years ago aren’t necessarily big problems any more.
If we can reflect on our Twin A, and realise that our problems now might not look so big in the future, that’s got to have a calming effect on the entrepreneur or business leader.
Having this aura of calm allows you to have what Chris calls “positive low-energy” which keeps you going and can help you avoid things like burnout.
Intrigued to find out more about this, I asked Chris how we can adopt this positive energy state and maintain it for the long haul.
Here was his response:
Find your own enjoyable, sustainable activities
Chris: “I always put that on the individual. I’d get you to come up with four or five pleasant things that work best for you. It’s important that these things are sustainable, so, especially if you live in the UK, make sure you can do them in the wet too!
If you like to go on walks, maybe get yourself a good jacket so you can do it regardless of unpredictable weather.
Music is another great one (Pete Tong and the Heritage Orchestra’s Ibiza classics for me!) or maybe pick a good book to read.
Whatever it is, it’s important that you choose it yourself and it’s something you really enjoy.
There is a Twin A for resting as well as being proactive and, when you can tap into that, you can maximise your potential not only in terms of doing but also in terms of enjoyment.”
So, make sure you take some time to reflect on your tasks. How many are £1000, and can you be doing more to delegate? Also, make sure you are in the right frame of mind to manage your business by reflecting on your Twin A and Twin B.
Which one is running the show?
I hope you enjoyed this blog. You can listen to the full conversation with Chris and myself by tuning into my weekly podcast Interviews With Experts.
More to come next week!