Maximising Impact, Minimising Hours

2014-01-21 13.32.04

This post is the third in a series about my working life

I minimise the hours I work because that allows me to maximise the time I spend moving around, and done right it reduces stress and provides me with enough motivation to invest in maintaining a healthy diet, stretching, relaxing and all the other habits that help keep my health stable.

Minimising working hours only goes so far though because I still need to work.  That means I need to maintain a careful balance between between working too little and not having enough impact (which is pretty boring) and working too much, and not sustaining my impact for more than a few months (which turns out pretty painful).

The approach I’ve taken seeks to turn minimising hours into an advantage, using the following tips:

  1. I try to minimise desk work not ‘work’.  I’ve found that walking, swimming and cycling provide excellent thinking and research time.  I listen to podcasts/conference sessions while out and about and record ideas that come to mind while walking and cycling on my iPhone
  2. When I’m not working I take breaks throughout the day at various cafe’s.  Pop my laptop or iPad out and take an hours work break. 
  3. I have eliminated activities at work that take a lot of time and that other people can do just as well as I can.  For example I don’t attend routine conference calls, briefing that I can read the transcript of etc.
  4. I save up activities for when I’m feeling particularly ill, like expenses, watching videos of tech conferences and other events.  On those bad days I will cuddle up on the sofa with the cats and watch until I fall asleep
  5. I try to do some work every day, so that I don’t get behind.  When you only average 10 hours of ‘real’ work a week, getting behind on email, research, curation, weekly planning sessions etc. can be a real issue
  6. I try and work with the people who I know well, we have any easy working relationship with a lot of shared experiences and trust. I can get an hours value out of 15 minutes with these people
  7. I seek to maximise my productivity, a topic that I’ve saved for a post of its own that I will be writing later in the week

Even though I only do a few hours of desk work a day, it still seems as though I’m very busy.  It takes a lot of time and effort to challenge a chronic illness and win.  I spend very little time lazing around.

The points above just about cover how I try to minimise the hours I work, but when I am working how do I get the most impact:

  1. I work on things that are important but not urgent.  The vast majority of people are working on urgent work, some of it important, but a lot of isn’t.  As one of the few people working on work that’s not urgent I have more impact
  2. I try to educate myself on things that will be important in a few months to a years time.  When these things become important I’m already prepared.  If I waited for them to become important then I wouldn’t have the time to learn.  Lots of people think I work many more hours than I do because I always seem to know about everything that’s important already
  3. I work with people who I trust and believe will make a difference.  My focus is on supporting or ‘serving’ these people.  They work with me to develop great ideas and are then able to put the time and energy into making them happen.  I’m happy for others to run with my ideas, because I’m not personally ambitious
  4. I develop an outside in perspective.  Almost everyone at work is immersed in the company perspective on the world.  I try to bring a fresh view to situations, because of that people are always telling me I’m great at lateral thinking (which I’m not really)
  5. I try to take the side of the user.  It’s easy at work to believe that the customer is always right, but the customer is also just trying to interpret the needs of the their business and their  users.  We have other people at work who are experts in our customers’ business, but we have few people who understand users.  I’m a keen observer of people, love psychology and have worked on personal knowledge management, productivity and collaboration for nearly 30 years so it gives me a good perspective
  6. I try to work with people face to face when possible, this means a bit of driving (podcast) time, but a face to face meeting is 2-3 times more effective in my experience.  of course it depends on the type of meeting, but if you are trying to convince people, shape ideas together and forge agreement then f2f is best.
  7. I work to establish common ground with people, the more common ground the more likely any work we do together will succeed.  Little or no common ground, probably mean it’s not worth the effort. 
  8. When I’m not working face to face I try to work asynchronously.  This means I can work when I feel up to it and manage my energy levels.  It also means that I capture information in written, auto or video forms allowing it to be shared with a broader audience. 
  9. I’m fond of saying that I don’t do the same thing twice and asynchronous working is key to this.  My company and public (this) blogs, company strategy site and @steveisreading and @steveiswriting twitter feeds are my main channels for sharing information, @steverichards is my diary.

The picture is of Rivington, where I like to take walks before or after meetings at my local office.  Sometimes we do walking meetings here too and working lunches at the superb cafe.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

2 Responses

  1. April 2, 2014

    […] Maximise impact and minimise hours […]

  2. September 21, 2014

    […] Work with my employer.  I was very fortunate to have two things going for me, some great friends and supporters at work who worked with me to design a series of new jobs and bring them into existence and a lot of career capital built up over 20 years that allowed me to negotiate good terms.  Key to this discussion is the fact that the number of hours you work and the value add are not strongly correlated […]

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