Business owners and leaders don’t have the luxury of unlimited attention or time. As companies grow and their needs become more complex, the biggest players eventually find themselves with more on their plates than they can handle. Creating a focusfunnel allows executives and owners to follow a dedicated process to reduce their workload without sacrificing productivity in the process. What’s a Focus Funnel? In its basic form, a focus funnel provides a framework for someone to reduce his workload by eliminating, automating, or delegating tasks based on need. A focus funnel, which became known through leadership speaker Rory Vaden’s viral TED Talk, “How to Multiply Time,” empowers leaders who generally have more work to do than time to do it. Its aim is to help them fulfill their obligations when they would otherwise struggle to do so. A good focus funnel helps business owners and executives make snap decisions, eliminating both time wasted doing unnecessary work and time spent debating whether to do that work. Instead of suffering from analysis paralysis, leaders can evaluate a problem through a focus funnel, make a judgment, and act immediately. Focus funnels exclusively concern themselves with whether to do tasks. They don’t include processes to handle specific situations — other best practices and guidelines handle those details. A focus funnel can only answer “yes” or “no.” What the person does with that answer depends on the person, company, and situation. The 3 Questions of an Effective Focus Funnel Build an effective focus funnel by starting with these three questions: Is this worth anyone’s time? Is this task worth doing? If not, you can confidently dismiss the request or set the task aside. Consider both the needs and resources of the business for this question. You might love to build a new website, but if your budget is already empty, you must focus on more important tasks like sales and order fulfillment before you can consider luxury items. As the leader, your time is worth a lot, but your employees’ time has value as well. By asking whether to eliminate the task at the top of the funnel, you can save your employees the potential headache of wasting hours on unnecessary work. Sometimes, a task not worth doing may become worth doing later. If you anticipate a change, set a calendar reminder for a few months in the future to re-evaluate the situation then. The process takes little time on its own, but it could save you tons of wasted effort over the long run. Can a system do this work for us? Programmers love to automate, but they’re also the first to acknowledge that unnecessary automation is a waste of time. Once you acknowledge a task is worth doing, ask yourself whether the upfront work of automation would save you enough time in the long run to be worth the effort. Consider the tools at your disposal as you debate whether to automate the task. Can you automate the work with the resources you already have, or would you need to acquire new resources to get started? You may discover that a small request leads you on a path that ends with a new set of workflow automation software. More likely, though, the tasks that arrive on your desk will fit within the ecosystem of your current capabilities. When evaluating automation potential, weigh the likelihood of repeated tasks against the effort required to set up automation. If the task takes 30 minutes to perform and occurs once a week, a few hours of work to automate the task would be worth the trouble. However, if automation can’t completely eliminate the task — perhaps automation would reduce the task’s time to 20 minutes instead of 30 — the upfront effort may not save enough time to be justified. Can one of my employees handle this responsibility? When you can’t eliminate or automate a task, ask yourself whether you can delegate the work to an employee. Don’t treat this step as an opportunity to throw away unwanted work, though. In many cases, asking whether you can delegate the work includes asking whether you can teach someone else to do it. Keep a healthy respect for your employees in mind at this stage of your focus funnel. If you do decide to delegate, make sure employees understand why you decided not to eliminate or automate the task before passing it on. Offer support for employees, and encourage them to come to you with questions. Once team members learn how to do the task, you can delegate the work and expect faster completion in the future. While making your decision on whether to delegate, remember not to stick one employee with all the work. Even if you’re grooming one team member for a leadership position, that employee has other things to do. Employees may not realize they need to ask their leaders for opportunities to improve, so speak up and offer employees chances to diversify their skill sets when the occasion arises. What Happens After the Focus Funnel Most tasks filter out of the focus funnel at some point. The tasks that don’t filter out represent your most critical work — your focus. Once you eliminate or pass along everything that doesn’t require your immediate attention, you can spend the rest of your energy on the big items. Don’t think of your focus funnel as an excuse to pass the buck. That’s not the point. On the contrary, the focus funnel starts by identifying what’s worth doing, then moves to finding the best way to get the work done. As a leader, you can’t afford to spend your time performing tasks that someone else could do just as well. Maybe you could program with your software team or help your marketers craft email messaging, but that’s not your role. You trust your teammates to take care of that work so you can focus your energy on things only you have the experience or authority to do. Sure, you could step in to help with a coding emergency, but no one from your coding team can represent you at the next board meeting. Practice using your focus funnel over the next week to see how it changes your perception of your priorities. Over time, you may find that you need to add or subtract questions to your funnel, depending on your role in the business. Perhaps you should consider outsourcing work after delegating to employees. Whatever form your focus funnel takes, consistent and respectful use will help you and your team maximize productivity and spend less time on unnecessary tasks.