Stop Working Below Your Pay Grade

There are three main resources in business: money, people and time. The only one under our control is time. Yet, no matter what you do, it continues to pass. Although there is nothing you can do to stop it, what you can manage is how you spend your time.
It is always easier to do something yourself than have somebody else do it. All too often, business owners wear so many hats in their business they lose sight of the fact a number of the activities they take on are well below the real value of their time. It is too easy to get dragged down by the tyranny of the urgent and lose sight that you are carrying out tasks that should be handled by someone paid considerably less.
When people hear the phrase “time management,” it conjures up a picture of lists and methods of prioritising what you have to do and becomes a tactical exercise amounting to nothing more than organising activities. That approach ignores the strategic implications of managing what gets onto those lists in the first place. It is essential to attack the time management problem at a much earlier stage by taking rigorous control of what you allow into your day. Before you spend any of your valuable time organis¬ing, you must stop working below your pay grade.
This point was driven home by a TAB board member who told me how his partner had decided the value of her time was £450 per hour. A few weeks later, she volunteered to pick up some suppliers from the airport, taking three hours out of her day. When he pointed out that she was “working below her pay grade,” she instead booked a chauffeur service for £220 and gained valuable time potentially worth £1,350.
The return on that investment works out at over 600 percent, which speaks powerfully to the value of the concept. If you relate to the woman in the story, let me show you how you can stop working below your pay grade.
Putting a Value on Your Time
The first step in this process is establishing the value of your time when you are working on the things that bring the greatest value to your business. I call these Platinum Activities, and it is important you take time to identify them properly. They will include areas such as new clients, products, and markets. You should be sure to include all the activities that support your long-term strategic goals.
When you have made a list of your top five Platinum Activities, identify what your time is worth when you are doing them. This number has nothing to do with what you pay yourself and must be calculated based on what value you believe these Platinum Activities bring to the company. I suggest business owners value their time at no less than £450 per hour, and possibly much more.
Once you determine the value of your time, write it down and put it somewhere on your desk where you can see it. Then, use that value as a prism through which you review all the activities that fill your day.
Setting a Time Gain Goal and Creating a To Don’t List
To change the way you spend your time, you need to know not only the value of your time, but also what working below your pay grade is costing you. The best way to give yourself real moti¬vation is to identify how much time you currently spend on Platinum Activities and set a goal for how much additional time you want to spend working on them.
Most people I meet who go through this exercise identify that they spend an alarmingly little amount of time on their Platinum Activities, because they are consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and working on things that are below their pay grade. For most people, there is an opportunity to gain ten hours a week of addi¬tional time to work on Platinum Activities. At a £450 per hour rate, that is potentially worth over £200,000 a year. Most people I meet who go through this exercise identify that they spend an alarmingly little amount of time on their Platinum Activities, because they are consumed by the tyranny of the urgent and working on things that are below their pay grade.
There is a finite amount of time available. To realise your time value gain you have to find those extra hours somewhere. The final step of the process is developing your “To Don’t List.” Every time you find yourself doing something that is below your pay grade, put it on the list. You don’t have to take action immediately, but if you write it down and identify what it would cost to have some¬body else do it, you will have ample motivation to put together a plan to delegate these tasks and gain the time you need.
Maximising Your Prime Time
The final piece is to rearrange your day to handle Platinum Activities during your Prime Time. Each of us has a time in our business day when we are at our peak. Some time management experts recommend doing strategic things in the morning when you are fresh, but plenty of people do their best thinking and work in the evening or even late at night. Identify your best time of day and start to think of this as your Prime Time.
Make a commitment during your Prime Time to work only on your Platinum Activities. Minimise interruptions during this time, including reading emails and taking phone calls. If you can reorganise your day around Prime Time and turn it into a habit, it will impact your business significantly.
Try it and let me know how you get on?


Our guest blogger, Ted Robinson, is MD at The Alternative Board (TAB) ,Birmingham . TAB helps forward-thinking business owners increase profitability and improve their lives by leveraging local peer advisory boards, private business coaching and proprietary strategic services.You can email Ted or read more on the website,