How I Regained My Time -- and My Sanity -- and Still Grew My Business
As entrepreneurs, especially if we are solo entrepreneurs running a business that makes money and has customers, we need to figure out how to optimize our time. It's very easy to get into the "hustle mode," to constantly be trying to do more with the time that we have. But, at the end of the day, we all only get 24 hours. That's 168 hours in a week.
Not only that, but we only have eight to 10 hours a day to work, Monday through Friday. Working weekends is a failure to manage your time well.
How do we optimize our time for maximum output?
As business owners we have things that drive value and we have things that do not drive value in our business but still have to be done.
We also have to think about and manage our energy. We are productive at different times during the day. In the morning, maybe we have more energy for people. In the afternoon, we have more focus to write code. You need to figure out what works for you.
Over the last couple of years, I've worked to optimize my time, to optimize my energy and to optimize the things that I'm working on to the things that directly drive value on the business. Along the way I have tried to figure out how to get the other things done. Here are my three tips.
Split your days into time chunks.
You have probably heard people talk about time boxing, which is marking off certain times to do certain things at certain times of the day. But, because every person has different energy levels at different times of the day for different things, no one strategy fits everyone.
For example, I am borderline introvert/extrovert. I have more patience for people in the morning. Because I know this about myself, I schedule calls from 9 a.m. to noon. In the afternoon, I just want to retreat to a coffee shop and get things done and not be disturbed.
I've tested this out over time. I tested it out just doing sales calls in the morning, in the afternoon going to a coffee shop, and then for two weeks I flipped it where I went to the coffee shop in the morning, and then in the afternoon, I would do sales calls.
What I found was that I was more stressed out during those two weeks, and so I flipped it back. There's no harm in running these tests. I actually encourage you to run these tests, because you'll figure out what works well for your schedule.
Track time in 30-minute blocks for one full week.
For one week, I want you to write down everything that you are doing in 30-minute time blocks. Track it in a Google spreadsheet so that you can easily share it with others.
After that week, you can look back to figure out the tasks that took most of your time. Then you should ask yourself if those are the most valuable tasks you could have done. Ask yourself if they are moving the needle:
- On revenue?
- On new customers?
- On customer happiness?
Or, are you spending too much time on business management and/or things that you don't enjoy doing?
One challenge as an entrepreneur is to still get the things done that are necessary to move the needle on your business but that you hate doing.
I learned this strategy from my mentor Andy Drish, co-founder of The Foundation. Write your tasks down, look back a week later and figure out if you are spending your time on the highest-value things.
Outsource and delegate.
After the above exercise, you will have identified the things that you are doing that are not driving the most value for your business.
These are the tasks that you need to outsource. You need to figure out how to get someone else to do them. It's probably going to cost you a little bit of money, and short-term, it's going to cost you a little bit of time. But, the goal is to look back in about a month or so and find out that you're actually now saving yourself two, three or even five hours a week.
This time really adds up when you take the amount of revenue that you're making and then divide it by the time that you're working. If your time is worth about $150 an hour, and you've outsourced all these $20-an-hour tasks, you've all of a sudden made a lot more money every week, just by that time that you can put into things that generate revenue for you.
The solution isn't going to be the same for everyone. For some people, you have so much work for one specific job role that you hire someone full-time if your revenue supports that. If it doesn't, hire a contractor and then look to bring that person on full-time eventually if he or she works out.
Some tasks, such as bookkeeping, you can outsource pretty easily. You can use a service like bench.co, which for about $200 a month will manage your books for you, give you profit and loss statements, and more. Of course, you still need an accountant to do taxes and all of that, but for $200 a month you potentially can spend eight or 10 hours a month less doing your books. You'll still have the same insight, and someone else is doing it for you.
This is a great lesson in learning to outsource. Maybe if it's data gathering and you don't code, you can pay someone off of Upwork $10 an hour to gather the data for you. The options are endless.
If you've done the week-long exercise of tracking your time, look back at it today and figure out what you can outsource in order to make your business go faster.
We're all busy and have a lot to do, but if you follow these three tips you will see that you can gain a lot more time, you can make a lot more money and you'll be way less stressed out. In my mind is a win-win-win.
Related Video: 20 Quick Tips for Better Time Management