HomeAsian AmericansBreaking Bamboo: Maximizing Return on Time Invested

Breaking Bamboo: Maximizing Return on Time Invested

By Dave Liu, AsAmNews Staff Writer

  1. What is return on time invested or ROTI and how can I best maximize that to my advantage?

Return on time invested, or ROTI, is a measure I use to determine if I am using my time wisely. It is the ratio between output and time invested to generate that output over time. For example, if I am deciding which projects or deals to work on, I determine which will generate the highest return on my time. Which project will result in the greatest reward (monetary or non-monetary) to me? If it is work-related, which will give me the greatest chance of promotion or increase in compensation? 

Once I determine the ROTI of each prospect, I prioritize my time and effort accordingly. Considering my ROTI has helped me ruthlessly prioritize my time – my most finite resource. 

It is also a great measure of determining if you are adding value to others. If you are having interactions or meetings with clients, colleagues, or bosses, you always want to be mindful of their ROTI with you. If it is high, they are more likely to come away thinking, “Well, that was a good use of time meeting with Dave.” The worst is if they are thinking, “I wish I could get that time back.”

To best use ROTI to your advantage, always consider the ROTI of others. Make sure you are always adding value and others see interactions with you as additive to their goals. Otherwise, you’re better off not meeting at all.

  1. I have multiple bosses. Oftentimes I am asked to do tasks assigned by several of them. If I am overwhelmed, what can I do?

In corporate America, you often have a pool of juniors who work for multiple senior people. When I was at the worker bee level, for example, I didn’t work for just one person. I was a commodity, tossed around by many bosses, and it was to their advantage to work me to the bone because if they didn’t, another senior person would!

There’s a name for this. It’s called the Tragedy of the Commons, which is when every individual has an economic incentive to consume a resource but at the expense of every other individual. On Wall Street, it is one of the single biggest reasons for burnout. How can you not end up in a padded room when you have six different bosses asking you to perform six full-time jobs? Some people can’t even do one job for one boss well.

I experienced the Tragedy of the Commons as a junior person. Prioritizing who I was going to satisfy during my 16-hour workday was probably the most important thing I did to keep my sanity. Did that mean I was disappointing somebody? Absolutely, and it also made me enemies. Some senior managers thought I was a lazy schmuck after Matrix-bullet dodging their request for me to work on their deals. I tried to avoid the truth, that I thought their projects stunk and that if I spent my time on them, my career would be dead in the water right after jumping into the pool. So I was always very careful to scope out the superstars. Of course, this had political repercussions if two senior people were fighting for my time, but I made it their problem by letting them duke it out themselves.

The cold hard reality is you have to disappoint someone and it should be the person with the least power in determining your future.

  1. How do I maximize the art of delegating without seeming lazy?

Delegation is an important skill to master because it is fundamental to maximizing your ROTI and developing the management skills necessary to move up the corporate ladder. When I returned to Jefferies after business school, I started managing the people below me. How well I did at delegation and getting my team and others to cooperate was an attention grabber for promotion so I knew it was important to master it as quickly as possible.

However, delegation without adding any value whatsoever is the epitome of laziness. An example would include handing off an assignment given to you by your boss to your subordinates without any scrutiny or guidance. If you do this, you are what many companies call a pass through. Someone who takes credit for others’ work and does none themselves. Don’t be one because eventually this will catch up to you and your boss will realize you are expendable. Nothing shortens a career faster than being disposable.

To counter this risk, focus your energies on areas where you can add the most value. Do those tasks that leverage your experience as a senior manager. For instance, train your subordinates and give them clear guidance on how to do the work quickly and effectively. If needed, explain to your team how to do a task but don’t do it for them otherwise you won’t be getting leverage on your time. Train them so they can rinse and repeat. Once they give you their finished work, check it to ensure that it is perfect before giving it to your boss. That’s how you delegate, leverage your time, and, most importantly, not appear lazy.

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