Time Sucks

Let’s talk about where you spend your time. Do you know? Do you think you know? How do you know? I suggest getting some actual information.

Try this for a week: set an alarm on your phone for every hour on the hour between 7am and 7pm, during your typical workweek. This is the normal time you spend doing “work” stuff. I want you to think about work stuff as actual work, as well as traveling to and from the office and getting ready with your “uniform,” what ever that is. Then, keep a journal — on your phone in a note, in a little ledger you keep on you, or some other logbook that works. When the alarm goes off, record what you’re doing. Be as specific as possible, and also categorize it into general areas, as well. For example, I would use creating idea content for marketing, prospecting, client project work, social media activities, administrative tasks, cultivating relationships, and others.

At the end of one workweek, take the journal out and look over what you have spent your time on. Create a table with all the days and times and activities. Next, use a simple tally mark system to calculate the total number of points you have for each major category. After that, calculate the percentage of time you spent doing each one of the general tasks. THIS is what you spent your time doing last week.

Why is this important? Because what you spend your time on is what you are going to get the most results in. If you’re smart enough of a business leader to create goals and track them, time management is going to lay the foundation for what you do every day. The data you’ve just collected is going to provide some real-time tracking about how you’re doing at meeting your goals.

This kind of reporting is helpful because you can take corrective action relatively quickly. For instance, if one of your marketing initiatives is to build new business and you had planned on spending at least one hour a day devoted to achieving this goal, but the logbook shows zero or one data point capturing activities related to building new business, well, you know you need to shift some of your current energy from something else to this important objective.

At the same time, you can identify easily what you are spending too much time doing. For instance, are you spending a disproportionate amount of your time on current client work? To be clear, all clients should get the excellent outcomes you guaranteed when they booked your services for their needs. The question to ask yourself is, Am I meeting their objectives or am I spending time focused on things I am pushing for that they didn’t purchase. Or, like perfectionists often do, are you spending time on diminishing returns in areas that are not as important to the client as they are to you? If you find these in your dataset, work out a plan to cut them back as soon as possible.

The alarm and logbook exercise is a good idea if you find yourself overwhelmed with work week in and week out. It’s simple and easy to do. You get hard data to review, and you can measure performance in your time management abilities, which are crucial to you achieving your goals. If you use it right, it can even be a reliable predictor for future returns to your business. If you are not doing much work in generating new business, for example, you can probably predict that your future revenues are going to start drying up. If you’re falling behind on administrative tasks like bookkeeping, compliance needs, paperwork processing, bill paying, you can expect to start to run into operating issues down the road that will be come a big time suck.

If you look at what you are actually doing hour by hour, day by day, week by week, you will start to see the picture of your future business outcomes take shape.