Why are we getting it so wrong?
We tend to over-focus on stuff like “the to-do list,” which then extends into how we conceptualize meetings.In reality, to-do lists are a massive disaster and only about 11 percent of people accomplish them in a given day.
Why would that be? Well, oftentimes they’re hastily thrown together and they’re not tied to priority in any way. They’re tied to either:
The thing with checking boxes or task work is that, the next day, it’s just more and more checking boxes and task work. This creates the white-collar hamster wheel. To-do lists don’t often get you out of that.
But there’s a third criteria considered by a group of people whom Vaden calls “time multipliers”: significance. Rather than asking “What’s the most important thing I can do today?”, time multipliers ask “What’s the most important thing I can do today that would make tomorrow better?”
Vaden breaks this down into a four-step process, the sequence of which should terrify most current white-collar workers:
- Can I eliminate this task?
- If not, can I automate it?
- Can it be delegated or can I teach someone else to do it?
- Should I do this now, or can I do it later? (This is sometimes framed up as “The Eisenhower Matrix”)
That should terrify white-collar workers because it’s the same sequential flow companies will increasingly use to justify your job not existing. Oh well!
But could this work for individuals?
The argument for yes
If you think in terms of “When I have some free time, what could I set up that would make my life easier down the road?” then yes, that could definitely work and free you up. Automating bill payments or financial monitoring/budgeting to an app is a primary modern example. Now you spend 35 minutes less per month on that, which is over six-seven hours/year. Now go listen to 12 informative podcasts. You’re smarter and you got that time back from automating bill payments. You became a “time multiplier.”
The argument for no
If you’re not busy, what are you? Are you relevant? Could you be axed? Gotta show the bosses how essential you are by constantly talking about how much stuff you got going on, right?!? That’s 3/4 of the game, isn’t it?
So in many ways, there’s no true incentive for someone to become a “time multiplier,” because that would speak to productivity, and work isn’t actually about productivity. It’s about control.