One way to answer this question is by asking yourself “Is this necessary?” the next time you undertake a repetitive or regular task.
I often ask myself this question about the repetitive work I do. I sometimes surprise myself when the answer I give comes back not as “Yes, this is necessary…” because of x, y or z valid reason, but “Yes, this is necessary…” because, well, I’ve always done it and I can’t stop doing it now, can I?
Eliminate unnecessary tasks
We can often find ourselves undertaking repetitive tasks within our businesses because at some point, when we started doing those tasks, it seemed like a good idea. Over time, we’ve continued completing that task not because it adds value to our business, but because we’ve committed to doing it.
But why are we still doing that thing?
As human beings, we often seem to be adverse to losing things, or giving things up. Think about the clothes in your wardrobe. Are there any clothes that seemed like a good idea when you bought them, but you’ve hardly ever worn or never worn? Why do you keep those clothes? Why not give them away if you’re never going to wear it again?
It’s the fear of loss. We’ve paid for the clothes so by keeping hold of them, we attribute some sort of false value to them.
So I’ve found it is with repetitive business tasks. We continue doing something, not because it adds value, but because we have a fear of giving that thing up.
How to un-commit from unnecessary tasks
One way to eliminate unnecessary tasks is through an experiment. I’m a big fan of experiments. Labeling something as an experiment gives it the indicator of being temporary. Of being a test. If you are scared of trying something new, or fear others will be scared of a change, label it an experiment. People are more open to experimenting than making changes. It feels less permanent.
Try experimenting with ceasing a regular task you suspect is unnecessary. This is especially useful if the task is customer facing.
For instance, when I owned my IT business we used to send out executive reports to decision makers at our clients each month. These reports took some time to create and send but the theory was the customer would find value in them.
We experimented with ending the task of collating and sending these reports. Not one customer complained or even noticed the report wasn’t sent at its usual time. The customers didn’t see any value in the report, we just assumed they did and therefore that producing and sending the reports was something we should be doing.
Which tasks are you regularly undertaking that you suspect you might only be doing because you’ve always done it, and not because it adds value to your business?
Experiment with ceasing a task and seeing the impact on your business. If somebody notices the absence of the result of the task, ask them why they found it valuable. At least now, if you choose to re-implement the task, you have a legitimate reason for expending time on it.
If nobody (especially you!) notices the task hasn’t been completed, then you’ve saved yourself some valuable time that you can spend elsewhere within your business on a task that does add value instead.