Welcome back!!! Thanks for joining me for the second part of my series on Time Thieves. I'm all about finding a path that allows joy and happiness to abound. We put too much of ourselves into our careers and businesses to allow it to be a constant source of negativity, exhaustion, and resentment. That's why I'm talk about one of the biggest levers of change at our fingertips—our relationship with tasks and time.
Last week I told you about Planning Fallacy and how it causes you to get behind and feel like you can never get caught up. This week we're exposing another thief that plagues everyone.
thief #2. Confusing activity for productivity
Prioritization and time management are two of the most common struggles for which people seek help. It is easy to overcommit our time and fill our day with too many tasks. Without clear boundaries and criteria to prioritize our effort, we quickly fall into a pattern of activity that leads to exhaustion. And, unfortunately, our fatigue compounds the problem because it slows us mentally and physically.
One of the biggest differentiators of business owners and leaders is the volume of competing commitments business owners juggle daily. Business owners wear all the hats—sales, marketing, development, accounting, operations, etc. And let's be honest, most of us lack the knowledge and training needed to do these roles efficiently.
Consider this example from one of my favorite clients, Stephanie.
Stephanie's business was flourishing. She had a steady book of business and clients who gave her glowing reviews. However, she still had room to grow and wanted to reach and maintain a client book that was 30% higher than her current volume.
As the company owner, Stephanie was the primary sales and marketing person. She had a small staff who managed many of the operational duties. When Stephanie focused on making sales calls and invested in marketing, she always saw an increase. The dilemma was that daily operational issues constantly filled her available time. She'd quickly allow weeks to pass in which her attention remained distracted from sales and marketing. Then, as her income began to decline, she'd make it a priority again. She was caught in a cycle she wanted to break.
We tend to procrastinate on challenging tasks, choosing instead to complete easier, more enjoyable, or urgent duties. By failing to consider the relative importance, we treat all things as equal, which is rarely beneficial. As a result, we are always actively working in our business, leaving insufficient time for tasks that fuel growth, build market share, and generate income, commonly referred to as time working on the business.
When working with clients, I teach a three-step process for stopping this time thief.
I'm a fan of Stephen Covey's work and like to share his prioritization tool with my clients. Covey uses a 2x2 matrix with importance on the y-axis and urgency on the X-axis. His teaching is that we tend to respond to urgency, to the detriment of important things.
Things that are important but not urgent tend to have a longer-term focus and require more time and effort before seeing results. Thus, when we ignore them until they become urgent, we've backed ourselves into a corner because we cannot get the results we need as quickly as we need them.
To combat this problem, our daily and weekly plans must include time committed to items that fall into the important but not urgent category. But where do you find the time? The answer is in the matrix. The next step is to look at the items that are not important.
Automation is one of the only ways to create time, as I learned many years ago when I bought my first Roomba. I could walk out the door to go to work or the grocery and come home to clean floors that required no attention from me. And the mental boost was more significant than the efficiency improvement.
Today, many hosted software programs automate routine administrative tasks. There is often a small fee, but you have to look at your matrix and remember what your time is worth. If you are spending hours on work that is not income-producing, you are likely losing money, and you are definitely losing time.
My fantastic colleague, Senathia Johnson, can get your business humming with automation for under $100 a month. Her services include coaching as well as doing the setup for you. Just click her name above, and you can learn more about her services.
Some tasks require people, but that person doesn't have to be you. Perhaps you may have employees to whom you can delegate responsibilities. However, if you don't, getting help doesn't mean you have to hire staff. Outsourcing is an effective solution for many small businesses.
One of the best learning from the pandemic is our ability to collaborate effectively across distances and time zones. Virtual assistants are abundant. Some focus on traditional administrative tasks, while others specialize in managing social media.
Website designers, bookkeepers, and marketing managers are examples of professional skill sets that most business owners do not possess. Therefore, we are not as efficient when we do this work and are typically less effective. Engaging the services of a professional is a vital growth strategy that enables you to stop squandering your time and mental capacity where you are least effective and focus instead on your zone of genius.
I frequently coach business owners through the process of identifying the highest and best use of their time and talent and the subsequent decisions regarding how to build the best operating structure to handle the responsibilities they are delegating. When done correctly, the ROI on these changes is less than six months because the business can scale to match the new revenue growth.
Confusing being busy with being productive is more than just a time thief; it's a grave mistake for business owners. For certain, it limits your growth and adds stress. It also has the potential to torpedo your success and happiness. To learn more about Covey's work around this issue, read First Things First (1994).
Don't let this thief steal your time and the soul of your business. I'd love to help! You can get your FREE initial coaching session by clicking this now.