Four Ways You Can Do More With Less

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Guest Article by Zach Clark

The expectation placed upon both you and me in today’s economy is this: do more with less.

To actually do more with less requires that you and I constantly reinvent ourselves and grow our own leadership capacity for our ministry organization. Here are four proven ways that I find always take me to the next level of effectiveness.

Know where your time actually goes

It is crucial for you to know exactly where your time is going. Peter Drucker wrote about this many years ago, and found that most people make totally incorrect assumptions about where their time goes. When they actually go through the process of measuring where their time goes they are shocked at the gap between their perception and the reality.

At least once a year, journal your time for a two week period, measuring how you spend every ten minutes of your time. This insight will help you make significant adjustments in how you invest your time based on your priorities. Best of all, your changes will be informed by the actual reality of how you spend your time…not just your best guess. My rule of thumb is that when I start feeling like I’m losing my grip in the results I want to see in my life, I start measuring my time using an iPhone app and then make adjustments.

Focus on where you can make a real contribution

The second way to begin to expand your leadership capacity to do more with less is to intentionally focus more energy on what you can contribute, and spend less time focusing on exactly what you will do. Leaders have a bias toward action i.e., the doing part of the leadership role. You certainly can’t stop “doing” things, but you can deliberately spend less time and energy on things that don’t move the organization forward on the key outcomes you are responsible for accomplishing. Spend more time making sure you understand what your specific contribution can be to a conversation, meeting, plan, or project.

As your focus on your contribution improves, you will have a greater clarity for the impact that only you can have on your organization. You’ll begin to say no to good things in a respectful way, so you can focus on the best things. As I’ve put effort into this area of personal growth, I find myself more frequently saying, “I only have one thing I can contribute to this topic,” or, “I’m not sure I have much to offer to that idea, but I’m confident in your ability to make it work.” It’s embarrassing to me the amount of energy I’ve wasted on having opinions about things that don’t actually relate to the areas where I can make the greatest contribution!

There are many things that you and I might have opinions about that could be helpful, they might be good ideas, but they aren’t our greatest areas for impact.

Clarify the difference between responsibilities and projects

A third way to begin to expand your capacity is to make a clear distinction between the responsibilities of your role and the projects that you manage. It is wise to actually have this written down somewhere you can see it regularly. As a leader, you’re responsible for many things in an ongoing way. These responsibilities usually do not have a beginning and end.

Projects, on the other hand, do have a clear starting point and a clear endpoint. This distinction becomes increasingly important if you are expected to do more with less. If you are not careful, you’ll lose track of your ability to make progress in areas of responsibility and constantly gravitate toward doing projects, which are more achievable in the short-term.

Ongoing responsibilities are excellent areas for you to work on your systems and habits that have a cumulative impact over longer periods of time. I ask people to articulate what their daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly responsibilities are, separate from the actual projects they are working on. Consider how you can grow a system for success in your areas of responsibility.

For example, in your budget management, you may have a responsibility for keeping track of costs projections and how you are doing on budget versus actual. To grow revenues however, may be a greater responsibility, and will require a significant number of cascading projects to be implemented this year that require special attention from you as the leader. Knowing the distinction between responsibilities and projects is key. Manage your budget with systems for success. Plan and implement cascading projects to grow the revenue.

Define success in 100 day cycles

A fourth way to grow your capacity to do more with less is to focus and define the goals you will accomplish over a specific timeframe. I prefer moving forward in one hundred day cycles. Research actually shows that it is very difficult to sustain the energy of a group of people in a single direction for more than 100 days at a time. What I do is actually spend time one day a month thinking about what we will accomplish in the next 100 days, and I write that down in black and white.

Usually, I have no more than five or six areas of emphasis for the next 100 days. I think specifically and articulate exactly where each of these projects should be at the end of the 100 day cycle. In my notes I have a start date and end date. While this may seem simplistic, it is a critical cornerstone component of a system for success and has enabled me to be constantly focusing my energies in the right areas over the long haul.

The pressure to do more with less can cripple your effectiveness if you let it. These four steps constantly help me move forward and I know they will do the same for you.

If you would like to take action on the 4th step I shared above, click here to get access to our rapid success projects tool, so that you can find success within a 100 day cycle!