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Investing or Spending: How are you using your time?

Time is a scarce resource for all of us. We need to change the way we think about time in order to get the most out of the hours available to us. Consider this. How often do you use the term “spend” when discussing how you use your time? Your language impacts the way you understand time. You need to start thinking and talking about time as an investment.

Think about it this way. We can spend or we can invest our money. We don’t expect much of a return when spending money on groceries, bills and leisure activities. For example, when we buy a new TV, we’re just looking to enhance our viewing experience. On the other hand, when we invest our money, we anticipate returns. When investing your money in stocks, you expect a larger return and envision the life you’ll be able to live after retiring.

It’s the same thing with time. In your business, you can either spend time doing low return, low rewarding activities or you can invest your time in high rewarding, high return activities.  How are you using your time? Are you investing or spending?

How do you know if you are investing or spending time?

To understand this, let’s define exactly what we mean by the two categories.

Investing your time: You are engaged in activities and projects that move you closer to your goals.

Spending time: You are doing things that do little or nothing to move you closer to your goals.

There are three key takeaways here. One, in order to use your time wisely, you need to have clearly defined goals and be conscious of what’s important, what’s urgent, and what’s not important. This gives you focus and helps you better understand where you should invest your time. Two, you need to know how you currently use your time. You can’t make positive changes unless you know what needs to change. Three, to use your time conscientiously, ask yourself and pay attention to WHY you are choosing to use your time on the things you do. It’s your choice: devote your time to those things that really matter and lead to the results you seek, or be frustrated at the end of the day, feeling that you ran out of time without accomplishing what you wanted.

Are you investing your time in the right areas of your business? 

Again, to answer this you need to first clearly define your goals. Let’s say your 3 year goal is to increase revenues from $150k-$300k and you want to jump to $200k over the next year. Attending networking events, prospecting, making cold calls, and having meetings with contacts could all be good investments of your time. On the other hand, you’ll want to reduce the amount of time you “spend” on day to day operational tasks as they do not directly impact your ability to reach that goal of $300k. Consider the following questions to apply this concept to your own situation:

  • What are your business goals?
  • Considering these goals, what areas of the business should you “invest” most of your time?
  • How are you currently using your time?
  • What activities should you “spend” less of your time on?

I can’t ignore the other areas of my business!

Of course, all the other hats you wear as a business owner do not suddenly become unimportant. We’re not suggesting you ignore operational tasks and responsibilities because they might not directly move you closer to your goals. Client orders, invoices and bills all still need to be taken care of. We do not challenge the necessity of such things. We do challenge you to ask yourself if you are the right person for these tasks however. If too much of your time is spent focusing on the day to day operations of your business, how many hours are left to invest in goal related activities? In order to grow, you need to free up your time. To grow, you need to invest and the most important investment is your time. Invest it wisely!

The Takeaway

View time as an investment. Cleary identify your business goals so you can invest your time more wisely. When making decisions about how you will use your time, always keep in mind the expected return, and understand which activities will progress you closer to your goals.

 

Do not let interruptions derail your day: Time management for business leaders

Time management for business leaders

You start the day with a plan and a list of things you want to get done. Then you get a call from a client asking for an immediate conference call to discuss an urgent issue. Your CFO requests an urgent meeting to inform you about a couple of trends she finds troubling. The marketing department has reached a standstill and needs your direct input to push an ongoing project forward.

Throughout your day, various interruptions and emergencies draw you further and further away from your schedule and plan for the day. Sound familiar? Of course it does. Still, interruptions and emergencies are no excuse for not completing the things you need to get done.

Below are some insights and guidelines to help you take charge of your day and better manage interruptions.

Prioritizing your weekly schedule

Setting a schedule for yourself is the first step to better time management for business leaders. It’s crucial that you have a clear idea of what you need to accomplish on a weekly and daily basis.

When setting your weekly to-do list, first look at your goal related actions. Think about the goals you’ve set for the year and consider the monthly milestones you’ve set for each goal. Then break it down to a weekly perspective and decide what actions you need to take this week to ensure you are progressing towards your goals. View these tasks as your must-do items for the week.

Of course, operational and routine tasks can’t be ignored. Follow the same approach here. Which tasks absolutely must be completed this week? Add these to your must-do list.

Setting your daily schedule

When setting your daily schedule, use the same must-do approach. Look at your must-do goal related actions and operational tasks for the week and decide what you will focus on each day.

Of course, as mentioned above, things happen throughout the day. Interruptions and emergencies draw you further and further away from your to-do list and schedule for the day. If this happens, it can suddenly seem as if there is no time to dedicate to your must-do tasks and actions.

Here are two guidelines to help you take charge of your daily schedule:

How much time are you actually spending?

When creating your schedule and to-do list for the day, it’s critical that you have an accurate sense of how much time each task will take. Consider these two questions:

  • How much time do you think you’re spending on your respective tasks?
  • How much time does it actually take you to complete your respective tasks?

Quite often, we are too optimistic when estimating the amount of time our different tasks take. This can lead to filling your to-do list with too many tasks, not completing all your tasks and actions for the day, and continuously pushing and shuffling tasks over to the next day.

Following a well-structured schedule is crucial for good time management. If you’re constantly shuffling your schedule around and pushing tasks to the next day, your schedule is no longer effective.

The key is to be realistic when managing your to-do list. Start tracking how you’re spending your time in order to gain an accurate awareness of how much time each task takes.

We recommend you give this time tracking software a try. It works great for us!

Are you doing your must do items at the right time?

Again, interruptions and emergencies are going to pop up throughout the day. Realistically, some of these interruptions can’t be ignored and require your immediate attention. Still, this is no excuse for not accomplishing your daily must-do actions and tasks. Here are some things to consider:

  • What time of day are you least disturbed by interruptions and emergencies?
  • What time of day are you the most productive?
  • What time of day are you the most creative?

You might find some consistencies in your answers here. It’s likely the time you are the most productive is also the time you experience the least amount of interruptions. This is the time of day you want to block out for your must-do actions and tasks. After you gain a true understanding of how much time you’re actually spending on your different tasks, you can set aside an accurate block of time to focus on your must-do items.

The rest of your day is suddenly open for meetings and responding to interruptions and emergencies. If there are no such interruptions to respond to, you now have the time to get a head start on tomorrow’s must-do items.

 What you can do

Review your yearly goals. If you haven’t done so already, break down what needs to be accomplished each month. At the start of each week, map out what actions you need to take to ensure progress towards your goals. Use this to create your daily schedule and must-do list. When scheduling your day, be aware of how much time each tasks actually takes and pay attention to what time of day you are most productive. Contact us to discuss strategies for taking charge of your day and improving your time management.