Working smarter to improve your quality of life

Easy-to-follow steps to improve your work/life balance and grow your business

Do you ever find yourself getting stuck in a cycle of doing without achieving? It’s a common problem among entrepreneurs. What happens when you are in this cycle is that your work and your business invade your personal life. You get so wrapped up in work that your quality of life slowly fades.

If this sounds familiar, then you could learn from Vroom’s expectancy theory. Let’s look at how this can be adapted to help you achieve a better work/life balance and grow your business faster.

What is Vroom’s Expectancy Theory?

Vroom’s expectancy theory crafts a relationship between the effort you put into doing something and your performance doing it, to the motivation to do what it is you’re doing.

Your performance is affected by factors that include:

  • Personality
  • Skills
  • Experience
  • Knowledge

Your effort is affected by factors that include:

In short, if you expect a certain outcome because of your ability to perform or the effort you put in, then your motivation to do will be higher. You’ll work harder.

You get stuck by working harder

The problem with Vroom’s expectancy theory is that it translates to working harder. You become expectant of better results because you work harder and put more time into your work. This is when you are most likely to become stuck in the cycle of expecting your time to boost productivity.

Four classic signs that you need to get unstuck from working harder

What we find is that entrepreneurs who fall into this cycle are suffering from four distinct failings:

1.      You’re not working toward something

Because you’ve become stuck, you stop working toward identifiable goals. You don’t have a one-, three- or six-month plan, never mind a year or further out.

In our podcast Episode 26 (‘Getting out of your own way’), Ken describes this as entrepreneurs “often working toward solving their problem of feeling stuck. They don’t know how to get unstuck because they’re stuck.

2.      You’re poor at managing your time

You don’t manage your time productively or intentionally. This, of course, links back to not having a plan. Without a plan, you will find yourself constantly fighting fires and doing what must be done today, instead of what will help you grow tomorrow.

3.      You work on things beyond your capability

Instead of asking who can help you fix something, you ask, ‘How can I fix this?’. You spend time learning a skill that others already possess. It’s not a core skill of yours, and probably never will be. But once you’ve learned the basics, you embed it into the tasks that you do – even though it takes you longer and removes you from doing what you do best, and what is most productive for you.

4.      You don’t understand what you do well

What do you do well, and why aren’t you spending at least 60% of your time on it?” Ken asks.

If you’re spending 80% of your time on things that you’re not particularly good at, and things that you don’t like to do – it’s demotivating and demoralizing. It also takes more effort and time. Which is where, for savvy entrepreneurs, Vroom’s expectancy theory breaks down.

These four failings add up to getting stuck in your own way. The question you need answered is, how to get unstuck?

Getting off the hard work cycle

Getting of this cycle of hard work, no time, and no quality of life can be hard. It takes a lot of self-examination, self-understanding, and realization that you can’t – and shouldn’t – do everything yourself.

We’ve boiled this down to seven steps, which we can summarize as follows:

Step #1: Realize there are some things you cannot fix

In the early stages, when I recognize that an entrepreneur is in that cycle, I shine the light on it. I ask questions about how they’re going to fix things I know they can’t fix,” explains Ken.

This realization that at least some of what you do is better done by someone else, or that there are things beyond your control that just can’t be fixed (coronavirus, for example), is essential. It can be difficult to achieve because you’re admitting your weaknesses. Often, you need help from a third party to get to the bottom of this first step.

Step #2: Schedule intentional time

It’s crucial to be intentional with your time. When you understand that time is a precious commodity, your priorities will change. You’ll understand better what it is that you must do to use your time more efficiently and effectively.

When defining what it means to be an entrepreneur, Ken says, “It’s not about money. It’s about doing what you love to do, what you are uniquely qualified to do, which will differentiate you from anyone else in the world and make sure that you are headed toward the things that you love to do. So, having the freedom of time, money, health, relationship, and purpose.

Step #3: Develop time to spend working on your unique ability

Do the things that you have a lot of passion for, that you are energized to do, and that you are good at. Spend at least 60% of your time doing these things. Delegate the other things to people who have passion, experience, and ability to do them.

Step #4: Understand your time value

Whether a solopreneur or expanding your business 10, or 20 and more employees, it’s likely that you do a lot of tasks that don’t make the best use of your time. Administrative tasks, as an example. You have a unique ability, and it is this that should determine the value of your time – and what you spend most of your time doing.

Step #5: Bring people into lower-value roles

As soon as you can, shift away from those roles that don’t use your unique ability. Others have unique abilities, too. Understand what it is that your people do best, and use their passion and skillsets to compliment what you are doing.

Step #6: Communicate what you are doing to be proactive

Stop being reactive. How do you do this? Schedule your time to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and then tell your people what type of work you are doing and when. Ensure that they are on the same page, and undertaking similar work.

When you align your team to the work you are doing during the time you are doing it, the likelihood of other things leaking into that time is minimized. Your focus will be stronger, disruptions fewer, and productivity will improve.

Step 7: Know when to stop and re-energize

You must re-energize. You must know when to stop, and to concentrate on your life away from work. Do the stuff that doesn’t feel like work, to stop work overtaking your life.

Work less and achieve more

The above strategy evolves Vroom’s theory of expectancy, replacing hard work by smart work. You don’t have to work harder to grow your business. Instead, work smarter. Value your time, and charge for the value you deliver instead of the time you deliver.

This reminds me of the story of the repair technician that was called to an auto shop to fix a machine. He inspected the machine, and gave a quote for $10,000. The quote was accepted. He went to his van, and returned with a hammer in his hand.

He climbed onto the machine, leant in, and tapped it with his hammer. Climbing down, he told the boss of the auto plant to restart the machine. Miraculously, it jumped back to life.

“You only spent five minutes on this,” the boss said to the technician. “Surely you don’t expect me to pay $10,000 for a five-minute job.”

“You’re not paying for my time,” said the technician. “You’re paying for the five years I spent studying, and the 15 years of experience that gave me the skillset needed to know where to tap the machine with my hammer.”

Four things to do today to work smarter now

You don’t have to put in place a big plan to start working smarter and improve the quality of your life immediately. Here are four things you can do now, as soon as you’ve finished reading this article:

  1. If you feel like you’re stuck, reach out to us for an outside perspective.
  2. Examine how you spend your time, and adjust so that you spend more time in your unique ability.
  3. Set time aside to rejuvenate, and give yourself the breathing space to look at things differently.
  4. 4.       Work out how you produce value for people. Here’s a question from Erik: “Are you stuck in a time economy? Is it an hourly thing that you do? Or are you using the value you have produced over your lifetime with experience and failures and wins to appropriately value yourself in the marketplace you have chosen?
  5. Check out our podcast “What’s Important Now?”.

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