“So…are there other deliverables you can create to provide value?”
Deliverables can be tricky. They range in difficulty and scope and can be fudged to make it seem like you were more productive than you really were – much like meetings. [Sidebar: I personally hate meetings. I think 99% of them are a waste of time and could be done in 10 minutes. Interestingly, most people will echo this sentiment yet won't do anything about it except attend another meeting on "Should we continue meeting?"]
We Make Ideas
As you know, we live in a knowledge-based economy. Most of us don’t make widgets. Instead, we are involved in the creation and or distribution of ideas, information, and little bits of electronic information. Very little of what we do involves the physical transfer of products or even money. Consequently, we can be very busy throughout our day while not delivering much value to those we are supposed to be serving. A great example of this is email. It keeps most of us busy but delivers very little value in and of itself to the recipient.
Consequently, we have a hard time quantifying what we delivered at the end of each day. Answering the question, “What did I do and what value did it provide?” becomes much more challenging. And when we really sit down to answer that question, it can lead to a mini panic attack: “Oh my gosh! What DID I do today?”
Is “I sent 75 emails today” a deliverable? Probably not.
Can we avoid work that doesn’t deliver value?
Leverage Your Labor
Unfortunately, there is certain work we can’t avoid. It’s part of our job and we need to do it. However, I believe most work can be leveraged into valuable deliverables. Let’s say you have to document a particular process so that you can train the new employee starting next week. And let’s also assume that you’re not one of those rare people who actually love documenting processes. When you finish, you’ll have one deliverable: a document that outlines and explains the process to complete a task or series of tasks. And it is valuable to primarily one person – the new employee (and maybe the person currently doing the work).
Now, what would happen if you also decided you would make it easier for others to document processes in the future by spending a little extra time and also creating a tutorial called “How to Document a Process in Half the Time”? What could you do with this new deliverable?
If you’re self-employed, you own the rights to it. You could create an e-book and offer it as a free or paid download on your website or blog. You could send it out to your clients and customers as a nice way of thanking them for their business and providing value to their company. If you’re an employee, you can distribute this to the rest of your team or the company. And if you did it on your own time, not company time, you own it and can leverage it personally and professionally.
What was going to be a bunch of time spent for the benefit of a handful of people is leveraged into incredible value for a mass of people with only a small amount of additional effort. That additional value can lead to additional opportunities, connections and income for an enterprising person.
Exercise: Look at what you’re working on right now. What can you add to it with minimal additional effort to provide substantially more value to larger numbers people?