Tasks fall into one of the following four zones:
For most, the Genius Zone is where they should spend most of their time, as it’s where most of the profit will be made. Yet most business owners I meet are often spending very little, if any, time in this zone.
The ultimate goal is to spend the majority of your time on ‘genius’ tasks, with a bit of time on ‘excellence’ tasks, and the rest of the tasks now become your Stop Doing List. When you stop doing these tasks, you’ll find you are now focusing on areas that will ultimately provide more profit.
If you aren’t good at a task, you delegate it to someone who can be excellent at it. Meanwhile you’re freed up to spend more time on what you love doing, and you’ll gain more passion for your business. You’ll find more freedom in your business and find more time for family, health and personal passions. I’ve been discussing genius a bit, and for good reason. When you begin to focus your time on your genius, not only do you start growing your business faster and generating more profit, but you also start enjoying business more. The tasks you choose to do every day contribute to your overall enjoyment when working, and the time being reclaimed will bring balance back into your life.
Tasks that are placed into the Incompetence Zone are tasks that you know have to be done, but don’t know how to do them yourself. To give you an example from when we implemented a piece of software in our business called Time Trade, I had received the link from someone else, did some quick research and saw it would be a great fit for our business. It could save us both time and money, but I had no idea how to implement it properly. It’s simply not my genius.
I suggested the new system to my virtual assistant, and got her to research it, try it out and make a recommendation as to whether or not it was the right fit. It then became her responsibility to integrate it within the business, tying it in with our existing systems. I didn’t need to know how to use it myself, other than telling clients how to book an appointment with me. (Which is pretty simple — click the link and book a time!) We then made sure the system was documented. This was all put in place by my virtual assistant, who is the one using it most of the time. Thanks to the documentation, it can be picked up by anyone in our business in the event my virtual assistant is sick or leaves the company.
When we are learning anything new it often takes a long time and requires a lot of focused energy to implement. These tasks are often low value and create negative energy when you implement them (stress, angst, frustration). The goal is for you to spend zero per cent of your time performing incompetence tasks.
Tasks placed into the Competence Zone are tasks you know how to do but are not very good at or loathe doing. These tasks really drain you of energy. For most business owners this is administration, filing, bookkeeping, or many of the current technology needs a business has, such as social media, search engine optimisation or Google AdWords. These are tasks you can do, but you really shouldn’t. Not only will it take longer for you to do it than someone operating in their genius, but it will also often add to your overall lack of satisfaction in your business. In my work with clients I see a lot of tasks deemed ‘urgent’ falling within the competence category. There is inevitably a long list of these tasks, and business owners tend to procrastinate or avoid doing them which causes them to build up and create even more stress. Many of these tasks can be performed by someone else for a fraction of your hourly rate.
Again, the goal is for you to spend zero per cent of your time doing competence tasks.
Tasks that are placed into the Excellence Zone are tasks you’re really good at, that are valuable to the business, but you don’t necessarily love doing. An example of this for myself is spreadsheets and financial models. As a trained accountant, I am capable of doing them to a high level of excellence — but I don’t love doing them. Excellence tasks can be stopped; however, in my experience you will generally need to invest a little more money into a person or system to achieve this. The goal is to spend 30 to 40 per cent of your time doing excellence tasks. This leaves 60 to 70 per cent of your time for the Genius Zone.
The simplest way to describe your Genius Zone is tasks or activities you love to do and are really good at, and if your day was filled with these tasks or activities you would feel energised and happy. Genius Zone tasks are generally easy for you to do and you tend to do them naturally. Your genius zone tasks also tend to be highly profitable.
You will often hear yourself saying ‘If only I had more time to XYZ, then we would make significantly more money.’ Owners of fast growing companies understand this philosophy and understand that the more time spent in the Genius Zone, the faster the company will grow.
One of my genius tasks is one-on-one coaching. I absolutely love coaching, I can (and do, at times) coach all day and my energy at the end of the day is the same, if not higher, than when I started. When you have a day doing the things you love, your energy never seems to waver — in fact, the more you do it the more energy you seem to create. Remember, you should end up with no more than three to five genius tasks. You want to focus your time on these and delegate the rest.
Matt Malouf is a passionate speaker, author, entrepreneur and business coach on a mission to help fellow entrepreneurs around the world break the shackles of mediocrity and reach new levels of business
success. Edited extract from The Stop Doing List (Wiley $27.95) by business strategist Matt Malouf, now available where all good books are sold.