When I was going through managerial training, we had a leader, Steve Miller (no, not that one), that changed the way I looked at time management. Up to that point, like many people, I had kept a schedule and had what I thought was a pretty solid routine going for myself. My weeks went pretty smoothly. Sure, there were those times when I had to put in a few more hours and things occasionally got hectic, but I felt, all in all, that I was doing a pretty decent job managing my time and tasks. Then, within an hour, I felt like the least productive and most disorganized person in business. It all started with one question:
“Are you spending your time working at your business or are you investing your time in your business?”
Looking at time as an investment is what really changed the way I thought about work. Heck, if you want to get all deep and philosophical about it, it changed the way I thought about time in general. After that day, I tried my best to keep that mindset. Do I slip up from time to time and find myself stuck in a rut? Sure. Does it last longer than I want it to sometimes? Yes. However, at some point, it always comes back to realizing that I am not treating my time as money that I am investing in my business.
What is your time worth?
So, this may seem like a pretty simple equation, and probably one you’ve done before. You take the amount of money you make each year divided by the number of hours you work and there’s your wage per hour. Use that to calculate your daily or weekly or monthly salary. That’s the easy part, right?
Now, the hard part is figuring out how best to invest that money in your business in ways that will grow your investment. If you think about it from the standpoint of a 401(k), you want your money (time) to earn the greatest return (money or growth in your business) and not sit there and stagnate, grow slowly, or, worst case, decrease in value. So, you want to be investing your time in the activities that will produce the greatest return on your investment and avoiding, delegating, or outsourcing the ones that don’t and that you deem as still necessary to your business.
To start, make a list of the things you do on a daily, then weekly, then monthly basis. Don’t avoid anything. Write it all down. If it takes you keeping a time log for a couple of months, do it. Then, when you have a comprehensive list, it is up to you to decide which ones are the tasks and activities that will generate a return, which are the ones that won’t, and which are the ones that you have to do but are pure overhead. The first list is where you want to invest the vast majority (80% or more) of your time. The second list needs to go away. Trash it completely. Maybe you’ve put a lot of time and money into some of them, but if they aren’t showing a return, cut your losses and walk away. The last list, the necessary but not productive items, needs a little more analysis.
Sweat Equity vs. Check Equity
If you’re relatively new in your business and funds are limited, you might find that you have to put in the sweat equity on the tasks that are low return. If that’s the case, try to limit the time spent on these activities to the parts of your day when you can’t be doing revenue generating activities. If you are able to afford it, you might consider some check equity to take care of the little things and free up more of your time to focus on the revenue generating activities that will grow your business.
Prioritize and Delegate
The last part of this equation is taking your 80% list and your 20% list and prioritizing the individual tasks on each. Which ones are either more vital to your business or give the greatest return on your investment of time? Those are the ones that you want to prioritize in your business. The ones on the 20% list that are the highest priority are the ones to spend that time on. The others need to be delegated or outsourced. Yes, I know, you’re a control freak and have a hard time letting go. Fine, that’s your choice. The sooner you do, the sooner you will see greater returns in your business.
At the end of the day, it’s the end of the day. You only have so many minutes, so many hours, in a day. What you make of those minutes and hours when you are working is your investment in your business. Are you investing your time where you will get the greatest return on your investment? Will your business be better off tomorrow because of the tasks you prioritized today? Answer the question from our training class as honestly as you can. If there’s any doubt, go through these steps and see what the results are on your business. You might be surprised at what a smart investor you become.