Written by Heather L. Cole, January 13th 2022
I love this week in January as I use it to reflect on what worked, what did not, and plan for the next year. How about you? Did you have an extraordinary year? Did you accomplish your goals? For me I was able to accomplish some big goals in 2021, but not all the goals were complete. My excuse…. If I just had more time! As I reflect on this excuse it inspired me to share secrets to Finding More Time for Analytics Projects. But you will find these exercises help find more time for family, friends, working out… whatever your goals include.
Cutting Out Unnecessary Tasks
The first game changing exercise that I do at least every quarter and my executive coaching clients do, is to cut out the unnecessary tasks. Simply eliminating or delegating tasks you probably should not be doing can be liberating and help you find more time for your analytics projects. This task takes about 15 minutes.
- Grab a stack of sticky notes, you might want multiple colors.
- Write down everything you are responsible for doing. One task per sticky note.
Yes everything, personal and professional. I use different color sticky notes for Personal items, Lodestar Solutions tasks, tasks for my coaching business, Heatherized, tasks for the Boards I am on, and the charities I work with.
- Now sort them into 4 piles.
- Things only you can do, or you love to do.
- Things you could hire someone to do or delegate to others.
- Things you can automate.
- Things that aren’t really that important and don’t really need to be done.
You can have more piles if you want. Don’t tell my husband but I have a separate pile for things he should do.
- Prioritize the items in each pile.
Once you have your piles go through the first two piles and star those items that are Needle Moving! Needle moving items are those that help you accomplish your goals. They can also be the items that are more in alignment with your values and who you want to be. I call this your aspirational self.
In the book, “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan the authors describe the concept of a “Focusing Question,” which is, What is the One thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
You know how when you line dominos up you can hit one and they make all the others fall? Well in your life what is one thing that if you focused on, you could personally and professionally get where you want to go faster?
Example: Goal to Get a Raise
Let’s say you want to get promoted or get a raise. What tasks can you do to get you there faster? Could you design a new dashboard that would provide the CFO a view of the business that can be game-changing? If so, one task might be meet with the CFO to see what he really wants to see from his dashboard. I would categorize this as needle moving.
For more information on this area see our blog What are You Going to Accomplish This Year?
- Take the delegation pile and start sending emails or delegating.
This can be as simple as calling a cleaning service to clean your house, or a lawn service to take care of your lawn.
Repeat Every Quarter!
This is not a one and done exercise. I do this every quarter and sometimes monthly. After I complete it, I feel like a pressure valve has been released! More importantly I have massively freed up my calendar to focus on the important things.
Another Level of Time Recovery
Want to take this to another level of time recovery? For one week keep a detailed calendar of where you are spending your time. I like to use 15 minute increments. At the end of the week look back and break the time blocks into categories, such as sales calls, compiling reports, meeting with partners… Where are you spending your time? And is this really a good use of time?
Did you know a major time suck is switching back and forth between tasks? For years I thought I was good at multi-tasking, but numerous studies and science tells us otherwise. No one is efficient at multi-tasking. Switching from task to task is a major time waster. So, STOP DOING it!
In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport describes Deep Work as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. Unfortunately, many of us spend our time in Shallow Work, which is non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. Newport explains that if you spend too much time doing shallow work you permanently reduce your ability to produce game-changing, needle moving work that provides great value. He calls Deep Work the “Superpower of the 21st Century.” To learn more about Cal Newport, check out this interview.
I’ll admit, it took me a while to embrace this concept. But when I did, BAAM! Life changed. Here’s the secret I use for deep work.
- Open your calendar and look at what’s on it. Are the important items that will move the needle to your future and where you want to go given appropriate amounts of time? Or are you just getting to it when you get time?
- Update your calendar with blocks of time that are dedicated to focusing on the important projects uninterrupted. There is only one reason you get interrupted! You let people do it! The first step to getting seriously productive is to appreciate that time is the one resource you will never get back! Cherish it and protect it.
- When deep work time is scheduled turn off your phone, close your email and get to work.
When I coach clients on how to find time for their analytics project and introduce the idea of deep work for analytics, they often push back saying but you don’t understand. I must be available. Then I challenge them. Is that really true? If you put your out of office on for 3 hours with a message stating you are working on increasing your focus and productivity by working offline and would return messages in 3 hours, do you think the world would end? Probably not. In fact, people may just follow your lead. Imagine if your entire analytics team were able to stop the fire fighting and start focusing on the things that matter, would you make progress? I am certain you would.
So, you see finding time for analytics projects does not take a miracle. It takes commitment, discipline and focusing on what really matters. But you don’t have to go it alone! Lodestar Solutions can help your analytics team find more time and be more productive. Reach out to set up a complimentary chat at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.