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How To Eliminate Tasks – Two Classic Ideas & One That Might Get You Fired

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen R. Covey

One question that keeps popping up from time to time is some version of:

“How can I minimize the amount of tasks/things I have to do?”

When it comes to time management there are two main tools and a third that’s a bit, well, controversial.

Let’s go over the first two:

  1. Covey’s Quadrants
  2. The 80/20 Principle

Covey’s Quadrants is taken from the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It’s a good read, so I suggest you get yourself a copy.

Here’s what it looks like:

Covey's Quadrants

Huey Lewis was right. #80sPopReference

Q1 is really easy, as we naturally want to get those things done first.

What trips up most people are Q3 and Q2. Somehow we manage to get confused and put urgency ahead of importance.

Most of the time we’re so focused on doing what’s urgent that we lose sight of what’s important.

Things like thinking about the future, finding the solution to a problem that’s coming up in 3 months, or being creative are not urgent but they are important.

Meanwhile, making phone calls and sending e-mails might be urgent, but not that important.

So, the phone calls and e-mails get done and we don’t make time to do the big things that matter in the long run.

This leads to us constantly putting out fires instead of thinking about how to avoid them in the first place.

We’re reactive instead of proactive.

Of course, if your baby is on fire that’s not the time to start thinking about how to not have that happen in the future.

Baby on fire definitely goes into Q1.

Baby On Fire

Baby, you on fire!

In short, the 80/20 principle (A.K.A the Pareto principle) says that 80% of your work is responsible for 20% of your results, and 20% of your work is responsible for 80% of your results.

This means, in theory, that you if you can figure out what 20% of your work is responsible for the $80.000 out of $100.000/year you make, you can cut down on, delegate, or completely ignore the other 80% of work that’s only giving you $20.000/year.

You’re effectively spending 1/5th as much time on work and still making $80.000/year. That way you can spend your newly acquired free time finding and doing other equally rewarding work instead.

Now, to be clear, this might not hold true for everyone in every single case but if you start applying the principle you’ll at the very least notice what is giving you greater returns on time invested, and what isn’t.

Pareto Principle 80/20

Ye, the math checks out.

The third one is going to lead to some bad results in the short term but can yield tremendous results in the long term.

I urge you to only use this when you’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure things out and eliminating tasks. Especially if you’re working for someone else.

If you’re self-employed you’ll have an easier time getting away with it, since all you’re going to do is to piss off potential customers/clients. Think you can handle it? Then read on.

Simply don’t do certain tasks.

If there’s no other way to figure out if a task is essential or not, then don’t do it and see what happens.

Is anybody pissed you didn’t do it? No? Good. Then keep on not doing it. See what you can get away with.

Somebody’s pissed? Great! It’s a learning experience and you get to apologize, make things right, and come out as the good guy.

Again, and I can’t stress this enough, only do this if you can’t figure out whether it’s a necessary task or not. There’s a good chance you’ll get reprimanded or even fired.

What you constantly need to be doing is revising and adjusting as you go along. You remember that thing you did 3 years ago that paid huge dividends? Yeah, it doesn’t work so great anymore.

Things are constantly changing and evolving, especially when it comes to technology. So, you need to keep an eye out for what things you can/should automate, what new tasks you should start doing, but also look at what your big goal is.

Are the things you’re doing today getting you closer to it? No? Then stop doing them, if they have to get done then find someone who can do it for you ASAP.

The question says so much about our mentality around getting things done.

“How can I minimize the amount of tasks/things I have to do?”

There are a lot of have-to’s in the world. I get that we want to cut them out. But very few of us focus on maximizing what we GET to do.

I’m sure there’s something you absolutely love doing, whether it’s necessary or not. Find ways to do more of that and less of the other stuff. It’s not always about just being productive, it’s also about enjoying the ride.

That’s what we all want, right? More time to do the things we actually enjoy, whether it’s at work or home.

Time is our most precious asset. Spend it wisely.


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Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!

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