The first step to creating high value with your time: recognizing how you can help other people achieve goals, not looking for what they can do for you.
Shifting our point of view, is perhaps the most challenging obstacle we face when pursuing the elusive goal of optimizing the value of our time and effort. My hypothesis is that we must redefine a naturally self interested perspective (at least in my case :) ), to a view focused on aiding others. Identifying a source of great frustration and eliminating it for a large group of people is a common pattern among historically successful entrepreneurs. An alternative to a large market, is aiding a small group of folks that over see a large amount of resources. Light bulbs and alternating current provide great value to many people, hedge funds provide an investment vehicle for just a few asset fund managers. Both are enormous value products and services in terms of dollars.
Take note of a few historical entrepreneurs and how they achieved great value for their efforts and time:
Benjamin Franklin US founding father, and inventor
Franklin never patented his inventions; in his autobiography he wrote, "... as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."
P.T. Barnum Inventor of the Greatest Show on Earth
"'The public' is a very strange animal, and although a good knowledge of human nature will generally lead a caterer of amusement to hit the people right, they are fickle and ofttimes perverse."
Thomas Edison entrepreneur (attributed with the first commercially practical incandescent light)
The quadruplex telegraph was Edison's first big financial success, and Menlo Park became the first institution set up with the specific purpose of producing constant technological innovation and improvement. Edison was legally attributed with most of the inventions produced there, though many employees carried out research and development work under his direction. His staff was generally told to carry out his directions in conducting research, and he drove them hard to produce results. The large research group included engineers and other workers.
Henry Ford founder of Ford Motor Company
The American founder of the Ford Motor Company and father of modern assembly lines used in mass production. His introduction of the Model T automobile revolutionized transportation and American industry. He was a prolific inventor and was awarded 161 U.S. patents. Though better known for his contributions to industry, his obscure views as an anti-semite and publications under his name continue to stain his achievements as an innovator.
Howard Hughes a financial genius, but plagued later in life by psychological disorders
An American aviator, engineer, industrialist, film producer and director, philanthropist, and one of the wealthiest people in the world. He gained fame in the late 1920s as a maverick film producer, making big budget and often controversial films like Hell's Angels, Scarface, and The Outlaw.
So where do we begin? Many of us recognize gross inefficiencies in our daily lives, but decide it's too difficult to implement change. There's no reason we can't start out small. Look for a minor inconvenience that plagues a wide cross section of folks you know. Pay careful attention to what others complain about most often. You have many ways to go about creating a solution. Trial and error are the brute force tool, but getting user feedback from any product you create is a must. Carefully designing our solution can be a fun experience, and investing our own unique style and genuine persona into a product only adds to its value.