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Make Time Work for You

By Dan Coughlin
Posted: March 2, 2007, from the March 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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       Stop doing the wrong things. The key to Toyota’s success can be summarized in a single word: stop. On the manufacturing floor, any Toyota employee who sees something wrong with an automobile can say, “Stop.” The assembly process comes to a halt until the problem is fixed. This is, in essence, the key to making the highest-quality automobiles in the world.
        Look at your projects. Is there anything that’s going wrong? If so, stop the process and fix the problem right away. One of the biggest time-wasters is redoing work that you’ve already done.

       Beat yesterday. Here’s one more secret to Toyota’s success. It’s not that they are just saying stop. With each step in everything they do, they sincerely try to get better. They call this kaizen, which means, “continuous improvement.”
        Look around your business. When do you need to say “no” and “stop”? Instead of executing a lot of good ideas, focus on carrying out a few great ideas. But it’s not enough just to do fewer things. Do those few things with such focus and attention and with such a desire to improve that you do them better than you’ve ever done them before.

       Use the 1-3-6 Rule. Here’s the rule:

* One: Write down the single most important business outcome that you want to improve in your organization.
* Three: Then write down the three things you can do that would have the greatest positive impact on improving this business outcome.
* Six: Then—and here’s the hardest step—write down the six things you are going to stop doing so you will have the time and the energy to do the three things that matter the most.

        People invariably say that everything they’re doing is important, and they can’t stop doing anything. While it may be true that everything they’re doing is important, not everything they’re doing is as important as everything else they’re doing. Some important things will have a greater impact on improving their desired outcome than other important things.
        If you keep doing everything you’re currently doing, how are you ever going to have the time and the energy to do the three things that matter the most as well as you can? As you let go of activities and focus your energy, your most important results will improve. Remember, you’re not paid to do things; you’re paid to improve results.
       Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Apple’s Jonathan Ive, the leader of the design team for the iPod, from an interview in Fortune magazine’s September 2006 issue: “We don’t make very much stuff. That’s a very important part of our approach to what we do, which is to not do a lot of unnecessary stuff but just to focus and really try very sincerely to care so much about the few things that we do.”

       Sacrifice to accelerate. In summary, look around you and decide what you can let go. What meetings, projects, customer visits and processes can you stop doing? Find the few activities that will have the greatest positive impact on improving your most important business outcome. Then do those two or three activities to the very best of your ability within a reasonable time frame.
        And then go home.