Your days are full, but there’s more you wish you had time for. Sleeping less just sucks. There must be a better way. These are the questions that so many people ask themselves in this 21st Century. They have become so good at filling their day, but they have missed the key point. If you want time to do something, you have to empty your day. Just like an empty room has so many possibilities, so does your day.
Typical Employee Mindset
Do all the work the boss tells you, and when you are done, you can ask the boss if there is anything else you can help with. But you’ve got to be careful, because if you get your stuff done too much quicker than your co-workers, they may gang up on you because you are making them look bad (in Australia this is part of what we call the tall poppy syndrome). You might offer to help others. Or maybe get a start on your future tasks. Or spend time learning a new skill. Or maybe just goof off and waste time while no-one is looking. Basically, you will find ways to fill you day, so you will look busy. Because if there is not enough work to keep you fully occupied, they may cut your hours or fire you or someone else in your team (even if you are the most productive person because you know how to get a whole day of work done in less than half a day!). Or if the business has loads of work on, the “reward” for you getting all your stuff done quickly is more of the same work, when maybe you’d prefer something a little different. What kind of reward is that! If you knew how to get a whole day of work done in a few short hours, you’d run the risk of reprisals from other employees and the boss. Is it any wonder that employees who can get all their work done quickly would be really good at hiding that fact, so they get to choose how they fill up all their spare time.
Typical Boss Mindset
Keep the employees busy. If you see them idle, “reward” them with more work. But don’t teach them you to do your job, or you’ll have nothing left to do. “I’ll make much more money if I do it all myself” said Sir Richard Branson never! And if there isn’t much work around right now, look out for the employees who look idle and fire them. The ones who are staying back late and barely finish their tasks on time must be the good ones, right?
And if the business could run without you for more than a few days, you wont feel needed, so you better make yourself indispensable. Take on extra responsibilities, but don’t let anyone else know how you do it, so the business can’t survive for long without you. Then complain to anyone who will listen, about how many hours you are working and how you can’t take any time off because your are such an important part of the business (as if working 60+ hours per week was the mark of success that you aspired to when you were in school dreaming about your career).
Empty Your Day
The key to successfully growing your business or your team’s contribution is to get really good at emptying your day. When you look back at the two typical cases above, you can really see how that type of “leadership” in the business will steer it down a dead end, rewarding those who are slowest at doing their work, firing those who are the best, and placing a hard limit on the size the business can grow to (after all there are only 168 hours in a week. Everyone can fill their days, and always have. But when you can empty your day really well, that is rare and powerful!
So be a different type of leader. Look at all the stuff you spend time on, and find ways to give as much of that work as possible to people in your team. But give it as a reward to those people who want to step up, want to have a go at the trickier stuff, those who’d love to have your job one day. And teach them how to empty their days too. Instead of paying for their attendance, reward them for the Results they deliver. Find those who can do the work quicker, and get them to teach others and incorporate their best practices in how the whole team works (your systems). They’ve got great ideas, so go hunting for them, and reward them with something that they will truly appreciate.
They all get better at doing their jobs in less time, and they get to do more of the fun stuff in the business that they always wanted to have a chance to do. And maybe you will find that your team can do all of their work AND most or all of your work without you doing anything. So you get to go to your boss knowing all your targets have been achieved and get to ask them what it would take for you to get the great reward that would be meaningful for you (whatever that may be for you).
Because when you are great at emptying your day, it makes your team much more satisfied with what they are achieving and how they are doing it. It means that when you go home at a reasonable time each day, you know you had a good day and got all the stuff done that you intended. And you know that you are good at what you do, and the business is fortunate to have you.
And share if any of this resonated with you. Now off you go, and find ways to empty your day, because you’ve got better things to do with your time.