What do you do best? (Work Edition)

I’m finishing 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam this week. Earlier this week, I wrote about Vanderkam’s idea of core competencies, or focusing on what you do best, to use time more wisely at home. Today, I’m discussing what we do best at work. How can you do more of what you do best, and less of what is either unimportant or a weak area for you?

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I work mostly from home and though I am part of a team, I essentially work for myself. I am much more aware of time management now than when my company paid me to be there from eight to five everyday.

While my current job rewards me more for production than time, I am still paid for my time so I have to be sure I’m really working for any hours I log as work.

Vanderkam will be so bold as to say:

“Any ‘work’ that is not advancing you toward the professional life you want should not count as work. It is wasted time” (85).

When I had to stay in the office until 5:00, I unintentionally stretched out my workload to fill the time. On my own time, I know that if I finish my day’s work more efficiently, I can move on to something else, like writing this blog, or I can get ahead for the next day. It’s an amazingly different amount of work that gets accomplished in a genuine hour of work versus an hour of being in the office.

At work, I have two primary goals: build our email address list and get signed contracts. I know the several activities that achieve these objectives, and I try not to do anything else in my work time. Of course I get sucked into directionless appointments and nonessential tasks sometimes, but I ask myself several times a day how what I’m doing contributes to either of my goals. Since I am the only person in my role at my company, I focus on doing what I have uniquely been hired to do, and largely ignore everything else.

Tim Ferriss’ presents an exercise in The 4-Hour Workweek which encourages readers to imagine that, for health reasons, they can only work for two hours a day. You will die if you work more than those two hours. This exercise is meant to help people prioritize which functions are essential, and which they should minimize or stop doing altogether. Combining this idea with Vanderkam’s idea of core competencies, what are your most important functions at work- the things that you can do better than others and that make the most impact?

Just like at home, there will likely be some parts of your required job description that you don’t enjoy and aren’t very good at. Is there someone else on your team that excels in that area that would enjoy doing it? Is there a way to minimize it or do it less often? If the bulk of your job responsibilities fall under this category, what type of work could you pursue that would utilize your core competencies?

Feel like your day at work evaporates without you realizing where it’s gone? Take a cue from dieters and track your time. You can find an Excel version and printable time sheet here.

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