When we are approaching problems we usually look at the Value Added and non-Value Added time and actions in a given process. Do you step back and do that for your process and your work? Tim Ferriss and others have brought this up many times and though I hear I have had a hard time implementing it. I have gotten better at this with a couple of strategies and one may call exceptions.

If you are like me sometimes it is hard to determine what is value and what isn’t. Is it value added to help a co-worker? Is it value added to volunteer for a team project? Is there a limit to what you will work on for your manager? I will discuss these items from my perspective and I am sure there are other points of view as well.

Helping co-workers is a quandary when it comes to value add or not. I think instead of a series of questions.Will this help the team or just the individual? Is this a monkey on their back from someone else or a legitimate need? Is this something that your coworker struggles with or something that is well within their skill set. Also, why are they asking this of you and not something else? Do you have a value add task that stops you from helping? From this kind of review, one can make a better decisions related to “helping.”

Helping the team is another item that comes up. I have looked at this probably differently from most and this may stray from the true theme of value added activity. First, will this challenge me or will I learn a new skill or skills? If yes, I am in. If not, I need to think more about it. Is anyone else signing up for it? If not, once again, my assumption is that I will learn something new about myself potentially than a new skill. Anyone raising their hand? No, I am in. The last item is related to what I am working on. If I am struggling or have a deadline or in the middle of learning, I will usually take a pass. I have done when I have been moving into other roles and finishing up a big project, I will not sign up.

When your manager asks you for help, one would usually just say, no problem. I do have a couple of questions for managers that may help you make a better decision as well as improve your relationship with your manager or in other words, your customer. First, what do you think I bring to this task or what will I learn from this experience? This is a better phrased question than the “Why me?” question. Secondly, it should give you insight into not only what you can get out of it but what your manager thinks of you in relation to the other team members. The next question is internal. Do you think you can perform this project effectively? In the past I have signed up for tasks that I haven’t performed well and my other work has suffered as well. I no longer do that. If I can’t pull it off, I say that. “It sounds like a great opportunity and I have two other projects that are going that I would like to complete before taking on this task.” If they still want you to do it, make sure they understand the risks to current work load as well as the task that is going to be added.

When looking at value added work for yourself remember that there are external customer needs and internal needs that need to be evaluated and reviewed before deciding if it is values added or not and then balancing that against current workload. And remember, in true Ferriss fashion, you and your family and your interests are part of the workload as well. There is no amount of money that will let you trade time with family and friends.