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4 Steps to Increase your Return on Time



K S Ahluwalia - Executive Coach and Mentor- Excalibre


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The more aware you are of what blocks your decisiveness, whether its arrogance, fear of adverse repercussions, aversion to risk or previous failures- the more likely you are to expand your potential.

One of the biggest challenge / complaint is that you don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do more so when you ascend the corporate ladder and face larger and more complex projects and challenges. There is a limit to how much you can expand your working without ruining your health or damaging personal relationships- sleeping less certainly isn’t the best option.


But just as you can raise the return on your money by smart investing you can learn techniques to raise return on your time. Leveraging your multipliers- those things that allow you to accomplish more- will free your time and mental space to focus on bigger things, including your own learning’s and self improvement, while delivering results.


4 steps to get more from less- Increase your Return on Time


1. Delegate and Follow Through.


You need to be spending your time on things only you need to do while delegating the rest. Delegating may be difficult, cause of the notion that except you, no one can do that job well as you do, consequently performance will suffer and thus giving away control is simply not acceptable/ advisable.


It’s not really what you do, it’s all about brining together a group of people who have different skills, different capabilities and working through them to accomplish a stated objective.


Reflect - How you meet your own commitments:


  • Are you doing it by draining energy?
  • Driving people relentlessly?
  • Burning them with impossible demands?
  • Or by expanding the capacity of the organization, by helping people grow, such that they expand their own capacities.


What doesn’t work is assigning a task without knowing that the person is capable of delivering on it, remaining un-involved until the end of the time period, and then blaming others when results don’t materialize.  Delegation is done only when the person has necessary expertise and information to complete the job. Hence allocate time to help the person along by providing any necessary training /coaching/mentoring while making yourself accessible to answer the query as they raise.


Remember that the additional responsibility you assign will likely to be an opportunity for the person to grow, and your own capacity will expand as his/hers does, so it’s important to help the person succeed.


  • Give the entire task to one individual, not team. It’s faster, more efficient; the person won’t need to achieve consensus to make decisions and will own the task completely. 
  • Communicate clearly what you are asking for, being sure to break down concepts into specific action items
  • Identify the goals, controls, and boundaries, and furnish a context, explaining why it needs to be done, its importance in the overall scheme of things and the possible complications that may arise.
  • Articulate the end results you expect and the standards you will use to measure successful completion.
  • If the task requires collaboration with others, ensure to communicate it with them too, such that they understand that you expect them to participate.
  • Focus on ‘what’ and not ‘how’. Detailing how the work should be done is micromanaging, and it’s destructive all around; if you interfere without a good reason you will lose the person’s enthusiasm and commitment. Allow the person to devise his own methods and processes. If she is clear and committed, then trust her.


2. Trust but Verify


Most leaders feel their work is done once they have assigned the person and clearly laid out the expectations, but that’s hardly the case. Now comes a true test of your ability to execute, the discipline of follow through. As people start down the path, they are likely to run into roadblocks of differing kinds. They may start out gung-ho, then unarticulated doubts/questions/ confusions creep in. They loose momentum.


It’s your job to discover/ identify the problems/ bottlenecks and ensure they are resolved promptly. You will unearth them sooner if you review progress at agreed- upon intervals. These checks – ins, weekly, in person or phone, should have real substance to them.


Skip the superficial questions on how things are going and don’t just accept perfunctory answers that everything is just fine.


Ask probing questions like:


  • What is going better than expected?
  • What’s the biggest risk to completing the project on time?


Point is to understand any real –world problems that are arising without rushing to blame. Frequent check –ins are also a chance to acknowledge good work, which is energising.


Delegation and following through are critical to excellence in execution. To be sure, some people have risen far in their companies without this skill. They build their personal brand as a high-level thinker. They love the intellectual excitement of new concepts and thrive in the world of grasping and explaining strategies. Details bore them. They are willing to delegate, but know not how to convert their ideas into specific tasks and they don’t follow through, these leaders put themselves and their organizations at great risk.


Effective leaders think big and conceptualize, while never losing sight of the discipline behind execution and in fact, their strategic thinking is grounded in reality, because of it.


3. Create a repeatable process.


You inherit an avalanche of systems and processes, when you come into a job or scale up your existing business- mostly those who have outclassed their usefulness.You can double or triple your capacity by finding those that can be eliminated, automated, freeing up peoples time for more meaningful work. If you are delegating well, you might be able to cut layers out of the approval processes, thereby saving time, money and energy.


You simply can’t eliminate systems completely. Think about what kinds of communication, information flows and decisions-making processes are essential, and make them routine, keeping in mind that organizations of every size, including yours, need consistent processes to grow.


You should be thinking abut what data analytics can generate and how to combine it with kinds of insights, expertise and judgements only people can provide. For example, you would like to eliminate a dull –weekly staff meeting, in favour of a brief check-in during which a group reflects on how to respond given what the data analytics are telling them.


Any such mechanisms you create must be scalable, meaning it to continue to function effectively in the growth curve of the company.


4. Be incisively decisive.


Efforts to improve the return on your time will not amount to much if you have trouble making decisions. An analytical mind is an asset, but if you are perpetually seeking more information, more facts, more alternatives, and more certainty, you will waste time going down rabbit- holes. Meanwhile the train will leave the station without you.


Issue of analysis paralysis is hitting many business leaders who are temperamentally uncomfortable with ambiguity.  Put simply uncertainty is a fact of life. You have to know the difference between weighing the relevant facts and loosing time because you are dodging the issue.


Need to follow the 40- 70 rule. If you have less than 40% of information, you shouldn’t make a decision, yet if you wait until you have more than 70%, then you have waited far too long and missed the bus. Once the information is in 40-70%, go with your gut.


The more aware you are of what blocks your decisiveness, whether its arrogance, fear of adverse repercussions, aversion to risk or previous failures- the more likely you are to expand your potential. Like many people, you may have difficulty overcoming these blockages by yourself. You can get help by finding people in your working group who can point it out to you, someone who observes you and can give you specific feedback.


Take some well –calculated risks when you are in 40-70 zone, and learn from your successes and failures.