Creating Time To Lead: The Leadership Task Filter

A Simple Exercise That Will Transform Your Business And Life

Dedicate Time
Set aside 45 to 60 minutes every week to focus on your vision for your business. What’s your one-year vision? What do you have to do this quarter to move you towards your vision? Are you on track this month for your quarterly objectives? What needs to be done this week? Who do I need to talk to this week inside and outside of the company to make my vision come about?

But you will need more than an hour. Planning and thinking are great, but leadership must function in the field. You need to regularly free up time in your business to be a leader. Below is the exercise I have all my executive coaching clients do. Do this exercise every quarter for the next 2 to 3 years and you’ll transform your business and your life.

This exercise is simple. Maybe even so simple that you won’t do it. That would be a huge mistake. I’ve tried to average the time that my clients have freed up to lead their businesses at the executive level and I estimate they have all gained about 30 hours a week, over the course of a year – by doing this simple exercise.

The Leadership Task Filter

The Task List
(Click here to download the Leadership Task Filter – no opt-in required)

Make a list of all the tasks that you do.

This may take you a few months as you won’t remember all the tasks you do on any given day so first write down as many as you can and then add tasks as they come up or as you remember them.

Now score these tasks…

Mark tasks that only you should be doing within your company with a 1.

Mark tasks that you are doing, but someone else in your company should be doing them with a 2.

Mark tasks with a 3 that you are doing because there isn’t anyone in the company who could or should be doing it.

Mark any task that no one should be doing with a 4.

Marking 2s and 3s will be the easiest to figure out. If you are in the startup stage, then you’ll have lots of 3s as you don’t have a team (or one big enough) to delegate work. If you’ve got a team, even a small one, the number of 2s will grow.

Twos
2s exist because, as founders, we had to do everything necessary to manifest our idea into reality. The longer it takes founders to get out of the startup stage, the more tasks they’ll continue to do out of habit even when there are others in the company who can do the work.

Threes
3s will almost always exist. Even CEOs of Fortune 500 companies do things that someone else should theoretically be doing, but that person may not exist within the company. Hiring to take some 3s off your list may not be wise as it could cost more than it helps.

Other 3s may take a while before you have the resources to hire or enough work to give a new employee (or even a VA). One of my clients showed me how he groups the 3s into jobs. Related tasks around processes or results are grouped together to form a job he can hire for.

Fours
4s probably exist in your business, but you’ll most likely mark them a 2 or 3. The longer you’ve been in business the more 4s exist inside of its processes. What happens is, in the early stages, there are a lot of experimental activities being done to build the business. Some of those worked, and get made into standard operating procedure but may eventually become outdated and useless.

Others never created results, but were hidden by successful activities. Those hidden, unsuccessful tasks keep getting repeated over and over until someone takes the time to identify and eliminate them.

Something that has come up with my clients is they find some 4s, but mark them 2 or 3 because they are afraid to eliminate them. They know they should, but just in case it really is an important task, they keep it in their company. My answer is, “If eliminating the task actually creates a problem in the future, you can fix the problem and reinstitute the task with the appropriate team member.”

Ones
I saved 1s for last because they are the most abstract.

There are few tasks in a company that only you should do as the founder and leader of the company. As an example, leading quarterly and annual strategic planning with your leadership team would be a 1. Communicating the company vision, culture, and state of the company to the entire team (as well as to vendors and customers) would be a 1.

In an early stage, you may be the only one allowed to approve purchases (or even to do purchasing) so that you can keep a close eye on expenses and profitability. You may also be the only one who should lead the sales and/or marketing team.

But ultimately all tasks, even high-level leadership activities, can and should be passed along to someone else. If you build your business right, eventually you’ll be hiring a CEO to take over leadership of the company and all of those 1s you had on your list will go away.

Simple Yet Effective
This is a simple exercise that will highlight what you probably already suspect about your daily activities and responsibilities. It will allow you to make appropriate hiring and delegating decisions.

Have your team do this too. First your leadership team can do this and then they can start having their direct reports do the exercise as well. It will create exponential efficiency and effectiveness throughout your company.

Revisit this Task List Exercise at least quarterly for two to three years. The progress you’ll make will be staggering.

Key
1 – only you should be doing this task
2 – someone else who already exists in your company should do it
3 – you need to hire someone to do this task
4 – you need to eliminate this task, as no one should be doing it