Stop wasting time on low impact activities

 David M. Brear photo
David M. Brear Group CEO
3min read

We’re all busier than ever. Not even the most efficient human can cope with the trials we all face and the tasks we all have to do on a daily basis. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

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I've always jumped forwards and offered to help with things in my career. I’ve found “I can help with that” as a great proxy for getting involved with things far above my pay grade and gained experiences that I would never have got if I hadn't jumped in first and figured it out second.

Sadly though, that’s meant for the entirety of my career I’ve had more things to do than time to do them. So how do you deal with having more to do than time to do it? This is the eternal problem!

As a coping mechanism, something that I live by on a daily basis is this post-it note that I have on my desk and the question that I ask myself for everything that I do.

Question: Is the impact worth the effort?

In business there’s always a flood of opportunities and things vying for your attention. You can only do so much. There’s only a certain amount of time in the day, the week, the quarter and how you prioritise your time defines you as an individual and inevitably how your team and your business operates.

In business there’s always a flood of opportunities and things vying for your attention. You can only do so much.

Your business

When starting a business, there’s an overwhelming amount of decisions to make and it’s easy to get lost in the adrenaline rush of a big idea which, inevitably, is way down the line. Often people get paralysed by the abundance of tasks at hand. Having a solid mechanism for prioritising and holding yourself and the others around you to that system becomes your lifeline to success.

For example...

Back in 2016 when Jason, Simon, Ross and I started 11:FS in a Starbucks in Spitalfields we lived by the mantra “future us will worry about that”. This allowed us to compartmentalise the other stuff like values, salary, location or growth aspirations because we knew that future us will earn the right to think about those things in time. That's what really kept us focused on one thing we needed to do - put money in the bank. 💰

You

For the individual, the fear is always the things I haven’t thought about. The things that’ll pop into my head and fly straight back out again with all the other things funnelling in. That’s why making a list and plotting on this scatter diagram has helped me to capture everything and ensure I’m always focusing on the right things. It then becomes super easy to rule things out. If your time is your most valuable asset then saying no to things is a critical skill.

😋 Low effort, high impact

This is the stuff universally known as ‘low hanging fruit’. In some instances picking off a load of high impact tasks that require a small amount of effort allows you to spread risk in terms of time investment. But one to watch if they’re in abundance and you have a team behind you to delegate to.

😐 Low effort, low impact

From time to time - or in my case all the time - there’s that crazy idea that comes to you, but more often than not it’s something shiny and distracting. On further investigation you realise it’s not something to occupy your day with as the impact just isn’t worth the time.

🙁 High effort, low impact

Nope. A polite decline or firm back seat. Similarly, these tend to be outlandish ideas that are fun or for a very specific audience.

🙂 High effort, high impact

These are the biggies. Usually the business-defining and ship-steering activities that need to be prioritised. But approach with caution. With maximum impact these tasks are always worth the long game, but if you occupy your time with only these beasts be aware that all your eggs are in one basket. This is where the ‘low effort, high impact’ tasks can be weighed up. Will a bunch of ‘low effort, high impact’ tasks deliver the same success as ‘high effort, high impact’?

There are a lot of people, especially in corporate environments, that claim they’re busy. It’s easy to be busy. But what are they actually doing? What’s actually on their list?

There are a lot of people, especially in corporate environments, that claim they’re busy. It’s easy to be busy. But what are they actually doing?

My unfiltered opinion

We are what we do everyday. So be ruthless with your time. After all, it's your most valuable asset. Plot this diagram and you'll see that half the things you have in your calendar are pointless. Put them to one side and focus on what really matters. The success of your business depends on it.

 David M. Brear
About the author

David M. Brear

David is the CEO of 11:FS and since his dream of being a sportsperson was crushed (along with the ligaments in his knee!) and he had to get a proper job, he has worked in pretty much every angle of financial services industry but never lost that competitive desire to win.