[This post is part of a series on increasing your effective productivity. The introductory post is My Strategies for Maximizing Impact]
In the first post of this series, I said that my strategies can be captured as:
- Work on the things that matter most
- Maximize return on energy
- Spin the plates (i.e., keep things moving)
Now, let’s explore the concept of return on energy.
Maximizing your return on energy
Put simply, this one boils down to getting the highest impact out of every minute you invest, or brain cycle you apply, or calorie you burn, etc.
If you’re working on the things that matter most, then congratulations! You’re well on your way to maximizing your return on energy. But let’s look at optimizations that go beyond ‘just’ doing the right things.
In Product Marketing: team mission and strategies, I talked about a few things that can be applied here:
- Invest time upfront to reduce time ongoing: be effective in the early stages to reduce time on tactical support; build consensus
- Always look to maximize scalability: do a little more to get a lot more; reuse material and make material that can be reused
- Unify under a theme: group related activities and unite them; repeat key messages
- Think big before thinking small: serve regions, not individuals; objective–>strategy–>tactics
Pretty much every time I do something, I take a couple of minutes to ask myself, “How I can get the most out of this effort?” Instead of making a tool for one account team, can I make something that benefits the entire sales force? Now that I’ve completed a new whitepaper, can I provide the RFP team with a collection of related question and answer pairs? Who do I need to get to sign off on the core content or message before I invest time in building out a whole set of collateral?
Pretty much every time I do something, I take a couple of minutes to ask myself, “How I can get the most out of this effort?”
When you take the time to ask these questions, that little bit of incremental time turns into an awesome multiplier on the actual return you’ll enjoy. Not only will you make a much bigger impact for only slightly more energy invested, but you’ll also be freeing up more of your time…and time is the only truly finite resource we have.
Speaking of time, exactly how you spend it is critical.
Many tasks suffer from incredibly diminished returns as you asymptotically approach your ‘ideal’ or ‘perfect’ final version. For instance, let’s say you’re crafting a new presentation. You invest 4 hours and it’s pretty good. After 8 hours it’s very good. After 16 hours it’s excellent. After 24 hours it’s marginally better than excellent. On the one hand, you’ve got a better presentation. On the other hand, you took six times longer than it took to get it to pretty good. And maybe pretty good was good enough…This is especially likely if it’s something that’s going to be subject to change after a group review, or after some trial runs in the real world.
Get it to good enough, and then come back to it later when you have the opportunity. And in the meantime, move onto something else.
In general, in fact, you need to make sure you’re not over-investing in any one area at the expense of something else…because your returns will almost certainly be diminishing, and you’d get more out of your energy elsewhere.
You need to make sure you’re not over-investing in any one area at the expense of something else…because your returns will almost certainly be diminishing, and you’d get more out of your energy elsewhere.
Here’s another one: if a bunch of people are going to have opinions, and their opinions matter, then get them involved and secure their approval at the conceptual stage, before you go off in some direction and invest gobs of time only to find out later that you missed the mark – because then you’ll have to redo everything.
Finally, remember all that time we’ve been banking by working on the important things and being super-efficient when we work? That frees you up to try new things! Many businesses (and managers) are scared to death of new things, because the schedules are run so tightly that there’s no accommodation built-in for failure. So instead of trying something new that could really have a disruptive impact, they’re content to get the same old same old.
Well, since you’re so good at managing your time, you’ve now built up a buffer that you can put to use to try new things!
It’s these new things that really move the needle and that will take you from a solid contributor to an indispensable star. And since you’re working on them during your buffer time, it’s no big deal if they don’t work out.¹
It’s these new things that really move the needle and that will take you from a solid contributor to an indispensable star.
Let’s close things out by learning how to keep things moving.
¹Personally, I’ve worked on a lot of things in secret (using the buffer time) over the years, because I knew there’d be resistance to spending that valuable other time on my crazy rock-the-boat ideas…ideas that more often than not have turned out awesome.