Improve Efficiency with a Personal Work Analysis

by Tom McBride, Partners for Creative Solutions, Inc.

Have you felt pressure to get more done at work?   Are you working harder, using more and better technology, but still working long hours?  This article describes an approach that may help reduce your pain.  It is called the Personal Work Analysis.  Here is how you do it.

  1. List activities that make up a typical work day, including your primary job tasks, distractions, and interruptions. 
  2. Categorize each item as:

Value added –Work having a direct positive impact on the production of products or services, including efforts to improve efficiency, quality, or effectiveness in your area.  

Necessary – Non value-added tasks that you are required to perform.   Performance reviews, expense reports, staff meetings, and some reports are good examples.

Unnecessary – Wasteful activities that reduce efficiency and effectiveness.  Rework to fix errors, expediting, fire-fighting, searching for tools, complaining (or listening to it), and some meetings are examples.

Not working – Waiting (for anything), personal activities, arriving late, and socializing are examples that absorb time but produce no output.

  1. Create a score card on which to record data about your daily activities.   Use the tasks as column headers, grouping them by the categories noted in step #2 above.  Consolidate tasks if necessary to conserve space on the form.  Create 15-20 rows for recording data points, and allow one row for recording totals.  Use grid lines to create data boxes.  The figure below provides a visual example.
  2. Collect data about your work habits using one score card per day for about two weeks.  Record data while at work, traveling for work, working at home, etc.   Use a device such as a wristwatch with countdown timer to generate a signal at random or irregular time intervals.  A vibrating signal is less disruptive.  At each signal simply mark your activity on the score card.  Be brutally honest about your activity and its value.  Total the columns daily and at the conclusion of your study.
  3. Analyze results – Look for high scores in the “unnecessary” or “not working” categories.  What changes can you make to reduce this wasted time?  Next, what can you do to increase your efficiency in high-value categories?

Once the low hanging fruit has been harvested, repeat the process to find ways to improve your efficiency at the higher value tasks.