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🎯 Work Smart Wednesday

👋 Hey there!

Here is your weekly dose of Work Smart Wednesday

In these emails I will share with you 3 things to help you work smarter  in 3 minutes or less. That leaves you with 10,077 more minutes to conquer your goals this week

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1. 🔄 Don't create a task, create a rule

We spend our lives making decisions. What to wear, what to have for dinner, how to complete a task… the list goes on.

Psychologists have documented that large numbers of decision cause “decision fatigue”, which causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making - it causes us to make mistakes.

This effect is exacerbated by having to make decisions from a ‘blank slate’. If we have to evaluate our options from stage 1 every time, it takes more energy to make the decision. More energy means more fatigue. More fatigue means lower-quality decisions.

A simple fix to avoid decision fatigue, and make your life easier in numerous other ways, is to try to create a rule rather than a task.

For example:

❔Do you give money to individuals experiencing homelessness? Or do you buy them food? Or something else?

❔Do you accept every PR or podcast interview request?

❔Do you offer discounts?

For each of these situations, people often evaluate the situation anew each time. While there are some advantages to evaluating each time, the research (and my anecdotal experience from myself and my clients) suggests that the advantages of thinking anew each time are far outweighed by the negatives.

Humans are emotional creatures, we make low-quality decisions when we are tired and when we have limited frameworks to support our decisions. Rules provide frameworks. You may choose not to give to charity because you were agitated from traffic, then regret your decision. You may give a discount because you feel under financial pressure, and then get lumbered with a bad client or find it difficult to say no to discounts in future.

Instead of evaluating the decisions from scratch each time, becoming fatigued in the process, create rules. For example, I always create a list before going shopping. I never offer discounts for my services. If my clients or their family are ill, I always offer to reschedule sessions without charge. If my friends or family say they need me, I always shift my schedule to accommodate them. I always tell job applicants the outcome of their application, if they make it to the interview stage then I always provide some personalised feedback.

Creating rules provides structure and reduces the mental load of making repetitive decisions. Your rules don’t have to be arbitrary. Exceptions do happen. You can leave room within rulesets for exceptional circumstances, just make sure you define what constitutes an exception first. You can also always update your rules and exceptions as you continue to learn throughout life - it is unlikely you will get it perfect the first time. That is okay. Rules can be adjusted over time based on experience and evolving circumstances, ensuring that your decision-making remains efficient and effective.

In your day-to-day life and business operations, identify repetitive decisions and turn them into rules.

What are the best tasks or decisions that you have replaced with a rule?

Let me know in the comments.

A graph showing decision fatigue, decision quality vs decision quantity. Why do entrepreneurs wear the same outfit every day?

2. 🧑‍💼 Why hiring is the last thing you should do

You have a problem: you are too busy. You need help. What should you do?

Most people in this situation opt to hire employees or freelancers to work alongside them and relieve the pressure. This is often the first thought, a hire-first mentality, a kneejerk reaction.

In effect, they are hiring people in an attempt to improve the system - the system has led them to become overburdened, they hope that by adding another person into the system it will spread the burden and lighten their load. This is a mistake.

Do not hire to improve systems. Only hire to improve bandwidth within the system.

Adding people into a bad system merely multiplies your problems, when you hire you just have more people doing the wrong things. Change becomes harder, costs become higher, problems are left unsolved. Fix the system before you expand it.

If you are too busy, you need to first look into what specifically is causing the problem. Which tasks are taking your time? Which tasks are taking your energy? These are not necessarily the same things, we need to identify both.

When you know what the main culprits are that take your time and energy, create a simple process outline for those tasks. What are the steps that take place to complete that task? A pen and paper task list or a diagram is fine.

The next thing to do is to run through the ESAD acronym

Importantly, do it in order:

🗑️ Eliminate - bin all steps that are not strictly necessary. Often, the entire task can be eliminated. This can include cutting out bad clients or low-profit services. Simple questions to ask yourself to help you: if I stopped doing this what would be the consequence? Would stopping this make something else significantly more difficult? Would my client miss it so much that they would reevaluate working together?

✂️ Simplify - How can the process be simplified? What parts can be removed or readjusted? Would things run smoother if I changed when this action happens? Or if I changed who is responsible for completing the action? Changing the flow can make a surprisingly large difference. This simplify step includes stripping processes back to basics and standardising them, such as through the creation of SOPs. You can use ScribeHow to make SOPs quickly and easily.

⚙️ Automate - automate the process as much as possible. Even if you are not great with computers you can easily use Make, IFTTT, or Zapier to automate a lot of your tasks (both personal and professional!). From switching the lights off when you leave the house to invoicing clients, you can probably automate it. Automation is MUCH cheaper, easier, and more reliable than delegation.

🤝 Delegate - If you still need help, now you can hire. You have the added bonus of knowing exactly what things you need them to do and a well documented process on how to do it. Your employee will be both happier and more efficient.

By going through these steps, you have likely eliminated the need to hire anybody at all in the vast majority of cases. This will save you a LOT of money, and even more time.

When it comes to improving systems, do what you can to improve the system yourself and then seek an objective point of view, ideally from an expert. The insights you get to further improve your systems will be more than worth it. Hire employees to execute when the system is running at an acceptable level of efficiency.

When you are ready to hire, you usually want to start out by hiring freelancers as generally it is easier, higher quality, lower risk, and provides more flexibility. Whether a freelancer or an employee, every new hire adds a lot of complexity. This complexity scales much more quickly than you think. The below example illustrates it.

Keep things simple. Only hire after eliminating, simplifying, and automating.

Some people argue that not everybody needs to be able to talk to everybody else. In a small business, this is rarely true. Bottlenecking communications by being the main point of contact as the owner is a common mistake with small businesses, it makes it incredibly difficult for you to grow as you spend time on passing messages rather than working on the business. Trust your people. If you can’t trust them, find new people.

Image showing how complexity scales logarithmically for each new hire. Why you should not hire and you should keep things simple.

3. 💡 Quote I'm pondering

"Robots aren't taking the jobs of humans, humans have been doing the jobs of robots”

Click here to share this quote on Twitter

Breaking from tradition, the above is actually a quote from a university lecture on automation that I gave in late 2017. One of the first talks I ever gave to a large audience.

Thankfully I am a much better speaker today, I shifted on the skills continuum. Here are the presentation slides from the talk.

A student from that lecture recently reached out to me on LinkedIn as they are now running their own start up and wanted to thank me for changing their outlook on work and automation. That conversation, coupled with a recent client session, inspired this edition of Work Smart Wednesday.

That's it! I can't wait to hear what you think. What did you find most useful? What do you want more or less of? Reply to this email now and let me know

Also, if you have anything interesting to share, I want to know about it😊

Have a great week,

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P.P.S. Thank you for trusting me with your time. If these emails ever turn into a burden, I encourage you to unsubscribe. I strive to provide real value and I am here to help you to make the most of your time

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When you’re ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

Clarity Call - we will discuss your situation and create a step-by-step action plan together so you know exactly what you need to do next for maximum impact

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