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  • Writer's pictureWanda Wallace

The Hassle Factor: Taking Charge of Your Diminishers

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”

William Penn, founder of the Province of Pennsylvania, 17th century.

This is as true today as it was in the 1600s. Today, many of us are working two, three or four jobs – or covering what used to be the jobs of multiple people – and time has become our most precious commodity. If there is one thing that all my clients struggle with, it is lack of time to get everything done.


But as performance expert Neen James emphasized on an episode of my podcast Out of The Comfort Zone, there will never be enough time. There is always one more report to read, one more meeting to attend, one more email to send, one more person to talk to. And as soon as there is a single minute unallocated, someone or something will fill it. Here’s the harsh truth: If you are at a certain level in your career and you run out of things to do, then you’re doing something wrong.


So how do you make time for what really matters? You need to cut the items on your agenda that are neither adding value right now, nor serving a bigger purpose or long-term goal. I call this reducing hassle.


Multipliers vs. Diminishers

In the first part of this series, you have identified which of your tasks add the greatest value and have the highest impact – whether that is financial, social, developmental, or other. These tasks are your multipliers – they make the present or the future better, which is why you should be spending as much time as possible on them. But the only way to get more important work done is to spend less time on the unimportant tasks. In short, these are your diminishers – the things that drain you and eat up your time but ultimately produce little value for you or the company.


How do you cut back on your diminishers? Two approaches have proven beneficial; both are based on the work of author and entrepreneur Richard Medcalf, who was a recent podcast guest on my show Out of The Comfort Zone, and whose work influenced my take on reducing hassle (you can listen to his episode here).


ERASE What Doesn’t Serve Your Purpose

One great tactic to reduce hassle is to subject the tasks on your agenda to the ERASE-acronym.

· Eliminate the task

· Reduce the amount of time you spend on the activity

· Assign the item to someone else

· Systematize or automate the task

· Expand on the time spent on task


Some activities you are currently doing at work can be eliminated – this mostly includes items in quadrant four – the things that are neither urgent nor important. This could be the time that is taken up by distractions such as social media, time you spend looking for an email or piece of data that you misplaced due to a poor organizational system, it could be time spent preparing for a project that is going nowhere, or discussions about a past mistake that no one can learn from. When it comes to all tasks that could and should be eliminated, what is really comes down to is discipline. You need to be conscious of your commitments, and stop investing in things you know aren’t serving you or anyone else.


But not everything can be simply cut from the agenda. This is where you have to become strategic. You could reduce the time you spend in a meeting that does not take priority by only attending the last thirty minutes. Or, you could attend the first 15 minutes of that meeting to provide your input so the team can continue without you. You could assign work or meetings to someone else even if it takes them longer to come up to speed (read the next installment on how to delegate effectively here). Sometimes, tasks can be systematized or automated, and technology can do most of the work for you. The last tactic will surprise you: Sometimes it makes sense to expand on a task either because it has more value than you originally thought or because it could have more value if you invested a bit more time on it.


If you want to free time for what really matters, you cannot just focus on streamlining your own commitments. There is one more thing to address: Your interactions with your team members.


Stop being Sherlock Holmes

When your team comes to your desk with a problem or a question, do they present to you all the information you need to make a choice? Or are you the one making phone calls, generating alignment, and looking for the crucial pieces of the puzzle?


You are not Sherlock Holmes – it is not your job to collect the evidence. Teach your team how to do the investigative legwork and how to present the information they have gathered effectively. This way, you can make an informed decision without having to do all the work yourself, and you leverage time better spent on more important tasks that only you can tackle.



Train Your Team How to Use Your Time

So how do get your team on the right track? First, you need to shift your own mindset: Are you willing to let go of the details? Are you committed to empowering your team and letting them come to their own conclusions? Then, it’s about training your team and your peers how to use your time effectively. I personally recommend the “SCARS” -framework:

S – Situation: What is the problem you want to discuss with me?

C – Context: What are the facts around the situation that I need to know?

A – Analysis: What has been tried in the past, what options have you already considered, what data have you analysed?

R – Recommendation: What do you think we should do?

S – Stakeholders: Who needs to be consulted on this decision? Who needs to be in the loop?


By asking the right set of questions and communicating your preferences to your team, you can keep the decision-making authority without having to do all the work yourself. A shift like this will take discipline on your part – don’t allow yourself to do the legwork if a team member is not immediately rising to the challenge. Instead, send the team member off to find the answer to your question. If adopted correctly, this framework can be a gamechanger: In the long run, it will save you enormous amounts of time you could better spend elsewhere all while giving your team the opportunity to grow.


Take Small Steps Consistently

In the next instalments of this series, I will focus on two additional aspects of the journey towards taking control of your time – how to delegate others, and how to organize yourself.


For now, remember that the process of reducing hassle in your work life is just that – a process. Your goal should not be to tear down your well-trodden ways and rebuild all your systems in a day. The key to success is to keep taking small steps to free up your time, and then using that time to create even more leverage. That is how you – slowly but surely – make time for what’s truly important.


You can access a free tip sheet here:


Time Commitment Analysis exercise copy
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Download PDF • 78KB


I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Send me an email at wanda.wallace@leadership-forum.com or connect with me on Instagram


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