If you’re like most small business owners, your day is busy. You’re working way more hours than you should, wearing WAY to many hats, and at the end of the day you feel like you’ve just run a marathon but never actually make it past the finish line.
In this article, you’re going to learn how to work less but get more done by using the same easy to use time management technique that highly successful people use. This technique will help you to become 10x more productive every single day.
As the business owner you’re being pulled in every direction.
This is a major problem and the #1 reason you’re finding it so hard to accomplish your goals. When you’re at work, you barely have a second to focus on the key areas of your business that desperately need focus and attention in order to provide business growth.
Let’s take a look at what a typical day in the life of a small business owner looks like, shall we?
- Wake up around 6am
- Shower and have some breakfast
- Get the kids off to school
- Stop to grab a coffee on the way to work
- Start your day by checking your email
- Maybe grab a second coffee and stop to chat with the staff
- Go back to your office and spend some time straightening out your desk
- Check your email a second time
- Quickly check Facebook
- Someone pops their head into your office and you chat for 5-10 min
- Time for lunch!
- Check your email a third time once you get back from lunch
- The phone rings, it’s a client that wants to pick your brain (you spend 30 min on the call)
- Go grab a 3rd coffee, catch up with a client that was just in the neighbourhood
- Check your email a 4th time
- Spend some time putting out fires in the business
- A staff member asks how to handle something, you could spend time teaching them, but it’s easier (and faster) to do it yourself
- Back to your desk, let’s tackle that sales call!
- Finally, you have a free moment to take a look at your website to see if it needs any changes
- Would you look at that, it’s 5 o’clock, time to close up for the day
- Grab dinner on the way home
- Spend a few hours with the family
- Sneak off to catch up on the work you didn’t have time to get done while you were at work
- Time for bed – we’ll do it all again tomorrow!
If your day looks anything similar to what you just read above, you’ve been spending your days doing what’s known as busy work.
This is not productive time, this is just you jumping from one thing to another being busy. None of this is helping you get to your vision for your business, none of this is helping you get to your business goals.
According to research from The Alternative Board (TAB) Survey – the average entrepreneur spends 68.1% of the time working “in” their business—tackling day-to-day tasks, putting out fires, etc.—and only 31.9% of the time working “on” their business—i.e. long-term goals, strategic planning.
By spending our time performing busy work type tasks, we “feel” busy throughout the day, but we never actually accomplish anything.
A time management statistic article by Timezy states: a typical office worker checks their email 50 times and their social media platforms 77 times per day while they’re at work.
A typical office worker checks their email 50 times a day on average, and business owners are no different! We spend our days with a little computer in our pocket connecting us to the world and we feel obligated to respond to everything that makes it ding within minutes of that happening.
Why? Because we’re afraid that if we don’t respond immediately, if we’re not “always on”, we may lose out on business to someone else who is.
We feel busy, but we never feel accomplished.
I want to assure you it’s not your fault. Growing up, our schooling doesn’t teach us the difference, in fact, school teaches us quite the opposite – if you’re not keeping busy every minute of every day, you’re failing at goals.
What is busy work?
Busy work is any type of work that can be taught to someone else to free up your time for more important tasks.
Emails – busy work… someone else can check and sort them for you. Seriously, you DO NOT need to respond to emails immediately. The world didn’t always have email or cell phones and business managed to get on just fine if the boss was unreachable. Hire a VA and give them a directive on how email should be sorted and / or responded to.
Ordering stock – busy work… you can train a staff member to take inventory and place orders based on what’s needed.
Invoicing, banking, receipts, accounting, late payment reminders – busy work.. hire a bookkeeper to handle this. And before you say “I don’t have the money”, what is your time worth? If you have that time back to focus on bringing in new business, would you make MORE than what you’re paying the bookkeeper? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to hand it off.
Stop working your ass off on things in your business that aren’t moving you forward. You may not even realize it, but you’re standing still even though you have jobs coming in and you have money coming in.
Okay, so I’ve droned on enough here and you’re probably thinking, what’s this time management technique she promised at the start of this article?
Do you ever wonder why even though you find more clients and take on more work, you still don’t have more time or money to get ahead?
The answer is that you’re spending to much time on busy work! This is the problem that most small businesses have. They are doing busy work. They’re not doing productive work.
Let’s chat about how to get rid of all of this right now.
That’s right, time blocking. There are 3 key areas that every business owner should dedicate a percentage of each day to in order to be productive, feel accomplished, and find growth, and we’re going to accomplish this by blocking out a certain amount of time each and every day to dedicate to these.
- Learning (10%)
- Strategy / Reflection (10%)
- On The Business (25%)
I know you’re looking at this and you’re thinking “I have so much crap to do, how am I going to find the time to do allocate 45% of my day to this!?”. This is what I’m going to show you.
By spending 30 minutes at the start of each week laying out the week ahead, we’re going to drastically reduce your daily workload, increase your productivity, AND still have time to allocate 45% of each day to things that will move our business forward.
When we spend our time wisely, what we put out into the universe comes back to us 10 fold.
So let’s dive in.
Start by downloading a copy of this free worksheet, we’re going to use page 1 as a bit of an eye opener exercise, then we’ll dedicate page 2 to pre-planning out our week.
In the box labeled “Value”, I want you to assign yourself an hourly value – as in, if someone were to hire you for an hour, what would your time be worth?
As an example, my time is worth $125/hr. If someone wants to book me for an hour of consultation, they would need to pay me $125 to show up to that meeting.
Now under that box in column 1, write out every task you currently handle, and I mean EVERYTHING.. from sales calls, to responding to emails, helping staff with tasks, making decisions.. EVERYTHING.
In column 2, place a ballpark figure of how much time you spend on each task.
In column 3, write what the dollar value for your time is on that task (time spent X your value = dollar figure)
In column 4, write down what it would cost you to have a VA or someone from your team handle that task.
Does the dollar figure of your staff / VA come in at less than the dollar figure of you performing that task?
If the answer is yes, you need to immediately stop doing this and train someone else to handle it, you’re losing money!
Yes, I realize it takes time to train someone, but if you document the process while you’re training them, you’ll only ever have to do it once and the blueprint will be set moving forward.
PRO TIP: A great book to help you with this is Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz, you can grab yourself a copy from Amazon.
Great, now that we’ve figured out the tasks that can be handed off to someone else, put a line through them. Now what’s left?
- Are these items you don’t enjoy doing?
- Are these items you can train someone else to do?
If you answered yes to either of the above, put a line through them.
Now we’re going to move to the second worksheet, this is where we’ll start to block out our week. Think about your workday, how much time are you working right now at this point in time and how much time to you actually want to work.
For me, the magic number was 6 hours. I want to put in a solid 6 hour work day, then I want to enjoy my day. Time is the one thing we can never buy more of, so I want to spend my time wisely.
Now remember the formula from above?
- Learning (10%)
- Strategy / Reflection (10%)
- On The Business (25%)
If I want to be more productive, but spend less time doing things, grow my business, and still get in a solid 6 hours a day of work, then I know I need to break up my day to include roughly:
30 minutes of learning
30 Minutes of every single workday should be spent learning something that will better your business, whether it’s time management techniques or learning to create processes, learning a new skill or investing in a course or reading some business books. It can be anything that will make your business better, and that can help you (as the owner) grow.
30 minutes strategizing / reflecting on things learned that can help the business grow
30 minutes of every workday should be spent on strategy / reflection. This can be thinking about the best way forward for your marketing, or facebook ads, creating a social media campaign, mapping out a new product you can sell to existing clients or how to implement the new things you’ve learned.
Anything that allows you to create a plan for growth, map it out on paper, and start breaking it down into small manageable tasks and milestones. Once you have milestones and tasks mapped out, you can start to implement them during your On The Business time.
1.5 hours On The Business (OTB)
1.5 hours of every day should be spent OTB. Don’t confuse on the business with in the business. Remember, the goal is for you to work LESS but still accomplish MORE.
Now 1.5 hours may seem like a scary number, but this time does not have to be taken all at once. You don’t have the block out an hour and a half of your day all at one time, you can chunk it out throughout your day based on the tasks you’ll assign yourself from your strategizing above.
You could spend this time spent doing something like creating and implementing processes for all the work you no longer need to be a part of. Interviewing a VA to take over checking your emails. Implementing ways to automate the things that don’t actually require human interaction. Creating sales kits to set your staff up for success. Launching a marketing campaign.. literally anything that will help you streamline your business, increase revenue, and free up your own time in the process.
So out of that 6 hour workday we’ve decided we want to achieve, we’ve now assigned all the tasks that someone else can handle away and dedicate 2.5 hours of every single workday to moving our business forward a little bit each day.
And just like a snowball rolling down the mountain side, it may be little at first, but as it continues it’s forward motion, it continues to grow.. just like your business will if you commit to blocking out your time.
Do’s and Don’ts – The secrets of highly successful people.
The below advice is not for the faint of heart, but it IS the difference between highly successful people, and the people stuck doing busy work all day long.
Say “NO” to everything!
Seriously.. the biggest problem most business owners have is letting other people use up their time. If you’re running yourself ragged during the day, but getting nothing done.. it because you’ve been giving away your time to other people. 10 minutes here, 5 minutes there, it all adds up!
Can I just pick your brain for a second?
Sorry man, I’m pretty busy.
I have this great opportunity I want to pitch to you!
I’m sure it’s great, but I’ll have to pass.
Hey, I know you emailed it to me before, but can you resend me X?
Nope, your email has a search function!
It’s in our nature to feel bad about saying no, but truthfully, your colleague WILL find X if they search for it, they’re just being lazy because you always comply. That opportunity may be great, but there’s always another one right around the corner. And the guy that wants to pick your brain… how much is that knowledge worth? Are you giving away free advice to be nice? Because no one values things that are free 😉
DO: Have an availability calendar
There are a thousand different services that offer this, but you just need to find one that looks good to you and stick with it. Don’t get distracted by the choices, they all do the same thing
A few good ones include:
- Calendly (has a free version)
- Book Like a Boss (14 day free trial)
- MixMax (has a free version)
- Aquity (has a free version)
All of these also offer you the ability to choose what days & times you make available for meetings, so if you don’t want to be disturbed on Tuesdays, just don’t allow any meeting slots on that day!
Let your staff know that although they don’t need to schedule an appointment with you, they DO need to respect the time blocks you’ve mapped out to dedicate to your 2.5 hours of Learning, Strategy and OTB time. You need to protect this time, it’s what is going to help you move the needle!
Yes, everyone says they’re a multitasker, but truthfully, humans aren’t meant to perform multiple tasks at once. While you “feel” like you can handle it and will be getting ahead, it’s really an illusion.
A cognitive psychology article written by Kendra Cherry from the website Very Well Mind states “research has shown that our brains are not nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as we like to think they are. In fact, some researchers suggest that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by as much as 40%”.
There have been a number of studies on the subject and they all conclude the same thing – switching from one task to the next takes a serious toll on productivity. Multitaskers have more trouble tuning out distractions than people who focus on one task at a time.
Focusing on one task at a time is one of the many ways highly successful people work less bu accomplish more, so stop declaring you’re a multi-tasker!
DO: Put your phone in a drawer and turn off email
Technology companies have made that little thing WAY to damn irresistible!! This is not unintentional, they WANT you addicted to your smart phone, they WANT your inner voice yelling at you pick it up “just for a second, let’s just quickly check our text, socials, game, INSERT APP HERE”.
This is by design! The quicker they can get you addicted to their device, the quicker they can sell you their next device. It also doesn’t hurt the ability to raise licensing fees for app providers when providers have hard data on the time you spend using a providers app on their device either 😉
But here’s a little secret, you can easily (and quickly) train your brain to stop focusing on it, all you need to do is remove it from your line of site and put it on silent. Don’t worry about missing a call, you have voicemail to handle that. And if you REALLY need someone to get a hold of you for in case of a REAL emergency, you can set up numbers to an emergency list to ring through even if the phone is on silent.
When it comes to email, give yourself 1-2 times to check you email throughout the day and stick to it. Add a small sentence to your signature telling people you only check email 1-2 times a day so they’re aware they won’t receive an immediate response. Don’t worry, if the office is on fire they’ll find a way to reach you.
Quickly checking your email is
1) a stressful distraction – even if you don’t realize it
2) letting other people dictate your time and your task list and
3) making it much harder to get back to the task at hand (see multi-tasking above).
DO: Stay off social media during work time
Whoa ho ho ho hooo.. this one is a big one, and probably the hardest! Thanks to social media, we’re in a constant battle within our brain for focus. You see, humans as a species are a social animal, so having access to laughing faces, positive recognition by our peers and messages from loved ones at the touch of a button is an incredibly powerful drug. Seriously.. it’s called dopamine.
What is dopamine?
Dopamine is a chemical produced by our brains that plays a starring role in motivating behavior. It gets released when we take a bite of delicious food, have sex, after exercise, and, importantly, when we have successful social interactions. In an evolutionary context, it rewards us for beneficial behaviors and motivates us to repeat them.
The above explanation comes straight from the Harvard University Blog. To break it down further, as humans are social creatures, we long for interaction with others. Thanks to social media we’re always connected, so everytime we feel lonely, wish to be praised, are looking for motivation, or a thousand other reasons, we pull out of phone and check socials without realizing it.
When we do this, we get a little hit of dopamine, our happy receptors make us feel good, and we more of that feeling. But just like a drug addict, we get numb to things and begin checking socials more and more to keep getting that hit of dopamine.. and it’s killing our focus!
TL;DR version.. it you want to be productive, work less but accomplish more, stay off social media!
So How Do We Accomplish Working Less But Doing More?
How to we overcome all the temptations? People interrupting us? People pulling at us for our time? Emails, text messages, having our day dictating by others?
How do we finally find focus?
The first step is to recognize where the problems lay. Reading this article should have made you a little more aware of your surroundings, but you still need to fill out the worksheets and acknowledge your surroundings and behaviour. Once you’ve acknowledged it, you can make a plan for real change.
Follow the tips above, figure out your goals and start working towards change. Like I said, it won’t be easy, and it WILL be work to get the unnecessary distractions off your plate, but this is what makes highly successful people highly successful. They show up each and every day ready to roll up their sleeves and put in the hard work.
One final DO: Checkout Focusmate or Brain.fm
Both of these services have been a MASSIVE win for me.
Focusmate: This service allows you up to 3 free sessions a month or unlimited session for $5/month. You schedule a 50 minute block of time you’d like to focus on a specific task and then show up prepared to work. They connect you to another professional at that time, you both introduce yourself, say what you’re working on and then mute your microphones and get to work. Your cameras are on the entire time, so think of it like working in the library or a co-working space.
It sounds hokey (I sure thought it did), but when I took my first session I was amazed by the results. By having someone working virtually beside you, you’ll find more focus because you’re now accountable for your behaviour AND you’re aware that you can become a distraction for someone else’s success if you’re not focused.
Brain.fm: The service is a science based approach to functional music. The company states by listening to their music, you can improve focus within 15 minutes. Again, I was a little skeptical of this, but they had a free 3 days trial so I gave it a shot. Not only was I able to dig into my work and REALLY focus on my task, but my overall productivity levels while listening to the app have shot up.
Well, that’s it for this article, let us know in the comments down below how you make out!