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How to determine the highest-leverage activities in your work

by | Feb 18, 2014 | Time

Takeaway: To identify your three highest-leverage activities in your work, first capture all of the tasks you’re responsible for in your job. Then ask yourself: if you could only do one thing on that list all day long, what would it be? Ask yourself the same question again to figure out your second and third highest-leverage activities.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 51s.

Hammer and electronics

According to Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog, “[t]hree core tasks that you perform contain most of the value that you contribute to your business or organization. Your ability to accurately identify these three key tasks and then to focus on them most of the time is essential for you to perform at your best.”

You may already be familiar with the Pareto principle, which says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions, that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers, and so on. Likewise, there are a very small number of work tasks where you deliver 80 or even 90% of your value. These are your highest-leverage work activities.

How do you go about identifying them? Tracy recommends that you do four things:

  1. Make a list of everything you do over the course of a typical month, and figure out the main tasks you’re responsible for in your work.
  2. Ask yourself: If you could only do one thing on that list all day long, which item on the list would add the most value to your company?
  3. Third, ask: “If you could do only one more thing on your list of key tasks, which would be the second activity that contributes the most value to your company?”
  4. Finally, ask yourself what the third most important task is.

According to Tracy, “90 percent of the value that you contribute to your company is contained in those three tasks, whatever they are. Everything else you do is either a support task or a complementary task that could probably be delegated, downsized, outsourced, or eliminated.”1

When so much of your results come from so few activities, it’s worth thinking about what the highest-leverage activities in your work are.

Better yet, run through the same ritual and ask yourself what the three most important activities for your mind, body, career, finances, and relationships are. Figuring out where you can get the biggest bang for your buck is something you should do in every aspect of your life.

In case you’re curious, the three highest-leverage activities for my AYOP project are: writing, running productivity experiments on myself, and reading as much as possible.

  1. Source: Eat That Frog 

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of two books: Hyperfocus and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in 27 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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