We recently had a deselection epiphany at our annual strategic planning meeting. We were all feeling exhausted by the amount of work to be done and were having trouble seeing a way to a better place. Our immediate thought was, “It’s time to hire more people!” But as we all know, hiring additional employees can be expensive and risky — not to mention the possible adverse effect it can have on the company’s bottom line.

Instead, our facilitator suggested that we deselect — that is, eliminate low-value or out-of-date tasks to lessen our workloads while, in theory, not affecting the quality of our customer experience.

Organize to Unload

To start, we asked each team member to create a list of his or her ongoing tasks. As David Allen, founder of the Get Things Done work-life management system, says, “... as mundane as making a complete version of this kind of list may seem, it is key to masterful self-management.“

Next, we compared the lists to add duties that might have been missed and to identify duplication between team members. Once we had a complete list, it was time to deselect.

Each person had his or her bias about what tasks could be jettisoned without affecting the customer experience or putting a burden on someone else in the company. From the lively discussions that ensued, we chose a variety of tasks to deselect, modify to require less time and effort, or automate through the use of computer software.

Remodeler Martha Stinson, co-owner of Trace Ventures, in Nashville, Tenn., went though a similar process. “One of the tasks we chose to deselect was something that we had done for years — picking up and disposing of our clients’ Christmas trees,” she says. “When we started this tradition, we thought it was a great idea. But when we needed to take a look at eliminating tasks that just weren’t having an impact, this was one of the first to go. [Tree collection] was a tremendous pain in the neck, requiring a lot of time and effort.”

Although the Trace Ventures team decided to drop its tree collection, the decision wasn’t made lightly. “We knew that a few of our clients loved [this service] because they were very vocal about it. But when we really took a look at which clients took advantage of it, we found that it wasn’t the group that we most wanted to serve.”

The fallout from stopping the service? Silence. Nada. Nothing. “It was the right element to deselect,” Stinson says.

You’ll immediately feel the benefits of losing low-value tasks:

  • Members of your team will focus their energies on those tasks that really offer value to clients.
  • Staff will have time to be creative and develop better ideas that have more impact.
  • Everyone on your team will have more energy and be more enthusiastic because they’re not caught up in the grind of simply checking items off their to-do list.

If you’re feeling the crush, start that task list audit and begin deselecting.
—Victoria Downing is president of Remodelers Advantage, an organization dedicated to helping remodelers build high-performance, profitable businesses, and home of the industry’s largest peer organization, Remodelers Advantage Roundtables.

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