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What is HABU?

by Ryan Giles

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn


Recently, I was working with a client whose director was having trouble meeting her goals (let’s call her Elisabeth). Elisabeth is the managing director of the business, so some of her responsibilities include achieving the company’s business plan, setting company goals, working on company strategy and new ideas, developing the other leaders within her organization, and making sure each department stays within budget.

During our conversation, I took Elisabeth through an exercise to develop her organization chart. When we reached her position on the chart, I was shocked to learn that many of her days were spent answering the phone at the front desk and working on bookkeeping. It suddenly became evident why Elisabeth wasn’t reaching her goals.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe every leader should be willing to do any job within their organization. In fact, this willingness is a characteristic of a great leader. However, as your business grows out of the startup stage, the leaders should focus most of their time on their highest value contributions…their “unique abilities.”

I learned this lesson years ago from one of my mentors when he explained the concept of HABU to me. HABU, or Highest And Best Use, is an old real-estate term that he applied to leadership. As leaders, we must find the highest value contributions that we can make, and then we should spend most of our time working on these things.

If your organization is small, you may find yourself occasionally working on lower-value tasks (for example, I’ve been the janitor, bookkeeper, and marketer in the early days of my businesses). However, if you make yourself focus on the high-value tasks, you will quickly have the resources to delegate lower-value tasks. Remember that a low-value task to you may be a high-value task to someone else… I promise.

So, where do you begin? Let’s start with your goals. Pull out your quarterly and annual goals (you do have written goals, don’t you?). Now grab your calendar (I prefer a paper calendar). Write down your daily activities for the next few days in 15-minute increments.

You’ll most likely notice several things: you task-switch far too much, you spend too much time on email, and most of your daily activities are not congruent with your stated goals. Beginning tomorrow morning, block off at least two hours on your calendar to work on your most important goal (this should be as early as possible, before you check email).

Guard this time with your life and commit to staying focused. It will be hard at first, and distractions will bombard you, but stick to it. It will get easier with time, and your persistence will be rewarded. Focus on your most important goal until you’ve accomplished it, then begin on goal No. 2. Rinse and repeat.

For more information and tips on HABU, visit


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