The differences between taking the right shortcuts and getting short-changed are often hard to see in advance. While some shortcuts do allow you to realize the benefits of an activity faster, most involve some sort of trade-off between time and experience. Several books focus on this very topic:

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    In his book, “The First 20 Hours: Mastering the Toughest Part of Learning Anything,” Josh Kaufman suggests a shortcut to acquiring the level of skill required to be able to “perform well enough for your own purposes

  • In “Outsource Smart,” Daven Michaels provides a practical guide to hiring and managing a virtual assistant, as well as other outsourced, contract workers to shortcut all the less important things in your business

Each author will tell you that my description of his book is over-simplified. Each would be right. My descriptions are shortcuts, neither designed to replace the full experience of reading the books, nor attempting to substitute for complete book reviews. Instead, they get us to the main point of this article faster.

But beware – the main point for all of these books is that you should choose your shortcuts carefully, saving time on the things that are less important so you can devote more time to things, people and experiences that matter more. In business, that means short-cutting things that can be done “well enough” to get to the things that your most important customers value most. This is closely related to the art of delegating, which I discussed in a previous column.

Our book, “The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan” recommends devoting time and resources to executive onboarding in order to accelerate results – not shortcuts. But for those who can benefit from shortcuts, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Shortcut tasks others can do better than you can

Consider tasks others can do more effectively or efficiently than you can. First prize is to get others to do these things for you. Second prize is to find ways to do them more efficiently yourself. Either way, don’t keep doing these tasks the way you have been doing them. They are distractions from what’s more important.

  1. Shortcut administrative tasks

Consider the things you must do to comply with non-value-creating requirements from your boss, auditors, the government or that ancient policy or procedure that no one remembered to cancel when it went out of date. In any case, while you probably do have to get these things done, there’s no value in doing them better than expected. Take advantage of any and all shortcuts here.

  1. Invest in innovation in and around your core benefit

Benefits are the critical link between what you do and what your customers get. The reason to invest in the constant pursuit of mastery even beyond 10,000 hours is so that you can become ever better at delivering what your customers value most.

  1. Invest to find, secure and serve customers

Delivering a superior benefit is necessary, but not sufficient for success. The other critical area for investment is in finding, securing and serving customers – on an ongoing basis. However, don’t follow all shortcuts to save time. Follow appropriate ones to free up time to invest in purposeful innovation and customers.

In the end, shortcut:

  • Anything that anyone else can do better than you can
  • Administrative/compliance tasks

So you can devote time and resources to:

  • Innovating in and around the core benefit you provide
  • Finding, securing and serving customers

This gets at the heart of The New Leader’s PlaybookBRAVE Leadership

We’re all new leaders all the time. So remember all the time that leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. With that in mind, BRAVE leaders pay attention to their Behaviors, Relationships, Attitude, Values, and Environment – all the time.