Protecting most valuable activities by prioritizing the least

Garbage Can

It might seem counter productive but least valuable activities should be manged and contained.

I know a professor who teaches a full schedule, writes regular articles and produces a book almost every year. I asked his spouse how he did it while remaining so responsive. It was simple, he limited his least valuable activities.

Discover your least valuable activities (LVA)

An LVA is low priority or generic unspecialized work. Basically anything anyone else can handle but somehow it was left to you to perform. First write down everything you get paid to do, if it helps assign a hourly wage value both above and below your hourly wage. Include zero for work that has no value but must be done.

Examples of my LVAs

  • Responding to calls, composing emails or similar activities
  • Unspecialized administrative work
  • Housekeeping or making coffee for the office 🙂
  • Gossip and interruptions
  • Social media
  • Sales calls and similar requests

Discover your least productive work times

I’m least productive when I arrive at work, half an hour after lunch and near the end of the day.

With this information we can schedule the lowest priority activities to keep them contained and blocked from interfering with valuable and specialized work.

Next, schedule them for no more than 25% of the day. This is my usual LVA routine.

Arrival at work and the first hour

  • Email, replies and similar activities
  • Chatting, gossip and available for likely interruptions
  • Administrative work and morning coffee
  • Project planning

2pm or after lunch for a half hour

  • Review emails, voicemails or notifications and reply

Half an hour before end of work day

  • Review email and reply
  • Planning for tomorrow
  • Minor tasks

Scheduling these hard blocks within 25% of the work day then actually performing these tasks is key. Once the allocated time has passed anything left unfinished is delayed to the next block.

This effectively batches busy work together reserving time for the real work to be performed during the other 75% of my day.

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