I had a boss once pull me aside and share his management philosophy. He used a three-tier wedding cake to describe the way he spent his time early on in his career. The base of the cake represented the majority of his time, which was spent on administrative tasks that brought very little value to the office. The middle tier corresponded to all the time spent in meetings with very little resolution. His most valuable work was attributed to the top and smallest layer, which only occurred about 10% of the time.
The wedding cake analogy applied also to his work interactions. He had found himself allocating the most time towards the lowest-performing individuals, about 60% of the time. Then, he would spend 30% of his time on mediocre performers. Since he knew his high performers could complete most tasks without any questions, they would receive the remaining 10% of his time. He then told me that after a few years of this, he decided to see what happened if he turned the wedding cake upside down, such that he could allocate the largest chunk of time towards his most important work.
His Plan of Attack
When he became a manager in his office, he was determined to flip this cake upside down for everyone. He was adamant about his employees making the most of their time and not sitting through pointless, time-wasting meetings. His goal was to create an environment for his office to maximize production.
He started thinking… Why spend so much time with people that provide little value and require excessive amounts of time? Most of these people were either going to move on in the long run or only ended up becoming mediocre performers anyway. Why not instead spend as much time with high-value resources to see what they could develop into? Wouldn’t this lead to even greater returns and productivity?
Once he flipped the wedding cake upside down, he indicated in the short term, his team did suffer. The bottom performers were performing at a worse level with less time and attention. However, he continued to spend more time with the high performers in order to cultivate their leadership skills and groom them to become more successful. By reallocating his time, he developed more leaders in his organization than anybody else, while also weeding out the lower-performing employees.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about his analogy more and more. Even though I’m not at his level and may never be. In a previous article I talked about what I spend the most money on and how those areas align with my values. But what about my time?
Analyzing a typical day, I wanted to see if I was performing high-value, beneficial activities with the majority of my time, or I needed to flip the wedding cake upside down.
Let me first say that I am not someone that can perform well on 4-5 hours of sleep. While I am envious of people who thrive with little sleep, I require at least 8 hours or 9 hours of sleep a night to be fully optimal.
So, a typical day for me starts around 7 am, and I’m off to work by 8 am. I then slug through my day until I get home around 5 pm. Quick side note: in a previous article, I talked about how I am looking for a new job. The update is I was selected for an interview and will be going through the process. Hopefully, I can replace “slug through my day” with “enthusiastically work all day” soon. Anyways, after work, I have about 5 hours where I’m able to play with my son, hang out with my wife, update the blog, and watch TV.
My Three Tiers
Let me start off with the good. When I last did one of these audits on my time, I found that I was spending way too much time on watching TV and researching stocks. I don’t know if any of you were like me, but I was constantly trying to optimize my finances. At one point, I even contemplated moving to an account that gave a 0.01% better interest rate. I mean seriously, who tries to optimize for just a few pennies? Gladly, this previous large base layer of wedding cake has flipped to the top and is drastically smaller.
Now honestly, looking through my day, I spend most of my time outside of work with my family. So, I’d say that is my base layer of my wedding cake. Updating the blog would currently fall in the middle tier since it’s important to me, but not nearly as important as spending time with my family. And as I just mentioned, watching TV and tinkering with finances should be at the very top. Although there is a lot of temptation to spend exorbitant amounts of time watching College Football and the NFL.
Areas To Add/Include
I really need to figure out ways to help my wife out more with cleaning and also allocate time for exercise. She does the bulk of the cleaning, and she never complains, but I know that I need to pick it up in this area before she hits a breaking point.
On top of that, I really need to get into a good exercise routine again. I feel sluggish, and while I appear to be in good shape, I know I’m not. I’m probably considered one of those skinny-fat people that looks fit but gets winded walking up two flights of stairs. I know this because the elevator was broken at work one day, and I was forced to climb four flights of stairs. It was a not a pretty sight.
These areas will probably make my 2017 goals list, but I am going to try to start incorporating them today.
So readers, what in your life needs to be flipped upside down? Do you spend too much time on activities that either don’t bring you joy or are huge time-wasters? Share your thoughts below.