The beginning of the year is when many of us refresh goals and write down the things that will be achieved in the year ahead – Personally, I like to review every quarter or so, but the flaw in most approaches is that we don’t have a system for what we will NOT be doing. This in my view is the most important aspect of achievement planning.
The corporate time-suck
If you have worked at an organization of anything larger than 20 people, then you will have reflected on the ‘time-suck’ meetings or activities that you engage in – Some more frequently than others. I have a couple of challenges for you to reduce this. When discussing activities I refer to ‘ROTI’ – Return On Time Invested. This should be a lens through which we view our calendars every week. When you realize that you are attending a recurring meeting or completing a recurring task that you feel is detracting from you hitting your goals, then try this flow out:
Whether it be a weekly report that is sent but not acted upon, or a group meeting where you don’t say anything, I am sure that you can find low ROTI items in your routine. The practical issue is that it can be daunting to think about saying, “No thank you” to meetings that have been embedded in your schedule since day 1. If you have a lot of your week dictated to you by a manager or peers, then try this emotionally intelligent way of requesting a meeting about it:
Subject: Helping me be more effective
[name], I am looking for your help in being more productive this year. I have done a review of the return I am getting from a bunch of activities and would appreciate it if we could grab 30 minutes so I can get your perspective on how to improve. Specifically, I want to get more out of my high-return activities and remove or reduce the activities where they aren’t moving the needle for me. Having your perspective on this will really make a difference.”
You can use this format with your boss, a peer, or a report – It is all about joint problem-solving and not in any way challenging any views that they may hold relating to the current schedule. Depending on their role, you can get their approval/input on how you can remove or reduce your exposure to these low ROTI items.
As an ongoing practice I weave this into my day with an accountability buddy who asks me a related question that I designed, “On a scale of 1-10, how well did you do yesterday in working on things of enduring value.” I put this question in our daily stand-up because I found myself saying, “Yes” to too many things, and for me, this question is a perfect filter. For salespeople, you might use something like, “How much of my time was spent creating, advancing, or closing the pipeline yesterday?”…
Salespeople are particularly prone to low ROTI activities
If you take a moment to reflect, it should be obvious that the highest ROTI for a salesperson is to be working on opportunities that are of the highest value, fastest time to close, and that will be won. Win rates in most B2B companies I work with float between 15%-35% – We breeze over these stats, but essentially, we are saying that in the best cases, a salesperson is spending 65% of their time on activities that achieve no meaningful result! In an attempt to avoid this we do pipeline reviews and opportunity inspections – Don’t misclassify these reviews as low ROTI because they could be giving you a ton of time back for working on deals that will actually close!
One bugbear of mine are group sales meetings that are simply data readouts – They are a legacy of a time when we didn’t have instantly updated sales reports and dashboards, requiring someone to collate the data and let us know where we are at – If you are in a weekly meeting where you don’t say anything, then it is highly likely this could be automated.
Fun story: I once worked with a guy at a large natural gas firm who was pretty sure that his boss wasn’t reading his voluminous monthly report, so he starting randomly inserting profane words in the middle of the text – It wasn’t until the 6th report that his boss asked about it…. They then agreed it should be quarterly and could be more succinct!
Solopreneurs are not immune
Solopreneurs are aplenty these days and you would think that they are immune to these time sucks, but I can tell you from previous experience that they are not! If you are stepping out on your own in 2024, then it is imperative to have someone who can hold you accountable to high ROTI – Every minute that doesn’t advance your goals is costing you time/money/enjoyment. Good examples are:
- Rewording that handout for the 5th time
- Changing the colors on your website
- Reading Linkedin, rather than engaging/posting with your prospective customers
- Agreeing to ‘free advice’ meetings…
Time blocking up-leveled
In practice, you will need to calendar time to do a review – Those who have worked with me may remember that on Friday afternoons I had 1 hour blocked called, ‘Forest & trees’ – A shorthand for taking time out to step back and review the overall picture to ensure that I am not on autopilot each week. You can have your own version of this which includes doing a quick review of the week through a ROTI lens and on Monday review that with your boss or accountability buddy to talk through how to make the next week higher ROTI.
- Audit your calendar by looking at your calendar for the past month
- Meet with your stakeholders/boss to discuss remove/reduce/delegate strategies
- Schedule time in your calendar to review the week through a ROTI lens once a week
- Bonus points if you have an accountability buddy other than your boss to review with.