Being a checklist person, I like to write down tasks and I feel immense satisfaction from checking things off as I complete it. When I first landed in China to open up Auntie Anne’s, I recalled the thrill of working late into the night to get things up and going. I wrote up so many random things to do for myself. Some of them are simply dumb and a waste of time.
For example, I spent a few nights creating a database with pictures of the items that we needed in the store (e.g., mops, buckets, oven models, etc) along with a naming convention to categorize it well. I was thinking 10 years in the future if we were able to expand to hundreds of stores and how such a database would be useful to stay organized. Yet, we had not opened a store or sold a pretzel yet. What a waste of time as it was non-value adding work.
The most important areas that I should have focused on was to figure out how to find great locations, how to hire the right people for operations and anything that could have translated to us getting sales. Instead, I found comfort in non-value adding work that helped me feel happy about completing my checklist. Building a database for a fast food chain could be important if we are established and disorganized, but certainly not a top priority to spend my time on initially.
These days, my approach is very different as I am focused on being clear in what my ultimate goals are. I evaluate each activity to see if it adds value to getting me closer to accomplishing the goals. If the answer is not a clear yes, I typically avoid investing time in that activity.
If you look at what you spend your time on, do you also spend time on non-value adding work?