Achieve More by Focusing on the Ten Highest (and Lowest) Value Uses of Your Time …

About five years ago, I decided to watch the 1946 movie One More Tomorrow on Turner Classic Movies.

It stars Dennis Morgan in the lead as "shiftless playboy Tom Collier III." Among the cast was an actress by the name of Ann Sheridan, who passed away in 1967.

Now, while I had heard the name before, I didn't know what she looked like or anything about her. But when she came on the screen that day (playing a photographer), I was blown away by her "girl next door" beauty.

I started to collect and watch as many of her movies as I could find. Then one day, I decided to put together a website about her.

I knew that a site featuring Ann was not something that would attract a lot of visitors. Most people only watch more current movies. And a site focusing on a more well-known actress of that era, like Bette Davis, Lana Turner, or Katharine Hepburn, would garner more interest.

I knew from reading Nick Usborne's How to Create Your Own Money-Making Websites program that it was not an ideal topic to base a site around if I hoped to turn a profit.

But I pressed on …

I reserved the URL, www.ann-sheridan.com, and made a deal with a fellow in California to obtain 50 pounds of Ann Sheridan memorabilia and started building my site. I even made contact with Ray Hagen, who had interviewed Ann extensively in 1965. I interviewed Ray about his interview with Ann and included the transcript of our conversation on my site.

And while I love my little Ann Sheridan website, if I'm honest with myself, it is not the best use of my time. And it's cost me money due to my memorabilia purchase.

It gets about 2,800 page views a month – and I can't see it going much beyond that.

Have you ever done something similar?

Have you ever found yourself working on something even though it was pretty obvious you'd be farther ahead financially and goal-wise doing something else?

The book The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch addresses this very subject.

If you're not familiar with the 80/20 Principle, it’s based on the idea that 20 percent of your effort produces 80 percent of your results. Some well-known 80/20 Principle-isms are:

20 percent of customers produce 80 percent of a company's profit.
20 percent of a company's staff generates 80 percent of its productivity.
20 percent of the time you spend at work accounts for 80 percent of what you achieve.

In his book, Koch talks about the top 10 low-value uses of time (my Ann Sheridan site would fall under number 6). I’ve listed them here:

  1. Things other people want you to do
  2. Things that have always been done this way
  3. Things you're not usually good at doing
  4. Things you don't enjoy doing
  5. Things that are always being interrupted
  6. Things few other people are interested in
  7. Things that have already taken twice as long as you originally expected
  8. Things where your collaborators are unreliable and low quality
  9. Things that have a predictable cycle
  10. Answering the telephone

The idea is that much of the above 10 items make up a large portion – 80 percent – of your day and only contribute to 20 percent of your results. So, in order to boost your productivity (and actually achieve something worthwhile), you must eliminate or substantially reduce the time you spend on the above.

Instead, you should focus on the high-value items that take up the most productive 20 percent of your time, which are, according to Koch:

  1. Things that advance your overall purpose in life
  2. Things you have always wanted to do
  3. Things already in the 20/80 relationship of time to results
  4. Innovative ways of doing things that promise to slash the time required and/or multiply the quality of results
  5. Things other people tell you can't be done
  6. Things other people have done successfully in a different arena
  7. Things that use your own creativity
  8. Things that you can get other people to do for you with relatively little effort on your part
  9. Anything with high-quality collaborators who have already transcended the 80/20 rule of time, who use time eccentrically and effectively
  10. Things for which it is now or never

Not a bad list to focus on, huh?

One day, I plan to update my Ann Sheridan website as I still have plenty of great information I could add to it, but for now, I'm going to focus on more high-value uses of my time.

What do you think of the above lists? Will you shift from focusing too much on the ten low-value areas to the more beneficial high-value areas? Tell me how below, and then come back and let me know your results.

If you'd like to learn more about the 80/20 Principle and how you can use it to skyrocket your productivity, read my article, “Get More Done in Less Time Using the 80/20 Principle."

By the way, a high-value use of your time in 2012 would be to transform yourself into a social media expert. It’s a huge and growing niche, with thousands of clients in need of experts to guide their social media efforts. With the proper training (which is a lot easier than you might think), you can become one of those in-demand experts.

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Published: January 27, 2012

3 Responses to “Achieve More by Focusing on the Ten Highest (and Lowest) Value Uses of Your Time...”

  1. This is a fascinating article, John. (And a great tribute website to Ann Sheridan.) I'm going to print out those 80/20 checklists. Thanks!

    Marianne FoscariniJanuary 27, 2012 at 9:00 pm

  2. But how do you make the switch from the low-value list to the high-value list? It is a good principal, but many of those low-value items are crucial parts of your day, no? I spend much of my time trying to figure out HOW to make that switch, and how do you account for THAT lost time. Are the answers in the book?

    Guest (StepByStepMarketingcom)January 29, 2012 at 5:55 pm


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