5 time investments you can make today, to save you time tomorrow

One of my five core principles is 'working less & focus'. The least exciting way to do this is by getting better at productivity.

One of my five core principles is ‘working less & focus’. There are a few ways you can ‘work less’ but today I want to look at the least exciting way – productivity. This post isn’t about the minutiae of managing your inbox but about a core theme that runs at the centre of the way I get more done in less time.

I want to make case for the theory of “spending time to save time” so lets first expand out that statement and outline the big idea to you here in 35 words.

Spending time on understanding specifically what you’re working on and how you work most effectively, then developing a set of systems and processes which allow you to work only on what matters is the key to working less.

(extra points if you counted the number of words)

This subject is one I hold dear, so the playbook “Taking Back Control of your time” dives a lot deeper. Download it here

Understanding exactly what you’re working on

If I had just one thing to teach on productivity it would be this. The first step to improving your productivity is actually to understand that your time has value, then assess whether it was “worth” that value or expenditure for you to do XYZ task that just took you 30 minutes.

Yes it’ll be quicker and less hassle to do that 30 min task yourself every other day, and yes that won’t “cost” you anything in monetary terms but there is an opportunity cost associated to it. Something you couldn’t do to grow your business, service a paying customer, get better and generally do something that “matters” your prosperity.

By tracking your time (as I’ll go in to later) you’ll get a really clear “to the minute” idea of where your time is spent allowing you to make more objective decisions on whether you’re really the best person for that particular job.

If you can shift away 2 hours per day that doesn’t 100% require your involvement you’ve instantly clawed back 1 day per week.

Understanding how you work

We all have our quirks, for me personally I have crazy-unhelpful (to sleep anyway) energy last thing at night. My brain whirs with new ideas and fresh perspectives as soon as the “noise” of my day dissipates. Conversely, for “heavy lifting” and big bulky items which require 100% concentration I’m best between 11:00-13:00 with really loud music in my noise cancelling headphones, then I break for lunch. For some people that is a version of torture.

By understanding how you best work and by tailoring your day around those key “red zones” and natural concentration / productivity spurts you can create yourself a “map” of your day which puts your key ‘to dos’ in the boxes that’ll result on them being completed.

Developing a set of systems and processes

I dove quite deep into the power of processes in another post so I’ll spare that particular in-depth guidance. Let’s just say they’re pretty darn crucial and whether or not you’ve gotten them down in black and white everything you do is a process.

So processes are great, but defined processes alone are pretty useless. Developing processes and systems pays dividends when you begin to understand that because your time is valuable you leverage external support to help you deliver chunks of the process.

Would you swap 10 hours per week at $7 an hour for 10 hours you can bill $50 an hour for to clients?

Work only on what matters

“Only what matters” is subjective but think of it in terms of a cross section of these two principles:

– Do you enjoy doing it? i.e. is this what you’re in business for?
– Does it bring you revenue?

These are traditionally “what matter” compared to general admin, paperwork, tax filing and activities that just “come with the territory” of being in business. The great news is that even for the stuff that brings you revenue there are mechanical elements which you could leverage a remote team for.

To help hammer this point home, opposite is an excerpt shot from the free book I mentioned above, its the yes/no diagram I use to really determine whether an activity is better with me, or with someone else. You should look at every link in your process and run it through this yes/no diagram.

With these core ideas fizzing around lets take a look at the main, compound move you can make to attack all of these points in one fell swoop.

Introducing, your ‘consumption diary’

So we talked about how your time has value, and how understanding where you spend yours is of the utmost importance. Adding a layer then if you went to a coach whose job it is to teach you to lose weight, the first thing they’ll throw you is a pen and pad (or an app more appropriately these days) promptly followed by “We need to understand exactly what you are eating on a daily / weekly basis because we need to understand where we can eliminate the things that are making you retain fat, along with trying to find where we can actually double up on things that are good for you that you actually enjoy eating.”

Extrapolating this principle to time management was a real “aha moment” for me.

Back to our previous example, of something that takes you half an hour or so every other day. By tracking your time you can assess whether it is essential that you do this task, whether it can be outsourced and you can build a plan to invest 2 hours (spend time) in actually diligently teaching someone how to do that. After the first couple of weeks that task is eliminated from your list and on someone else’s, saving you 78 hours a year (save time) to spend on actually helping your customers.

In that example of just 1 very minor task you can open the doors to $3,900 extra revenue per year (if you bill $50p/h).

Every time you “just do” that task you’re wasting an opportunity to do something else, earn more, work less etc. That is the concept of “opportunity cost”

You have it within you to shift your mindset, to move non value-add, non-revenue tasks to people that can probably do them better; in some instances do them quicker and always do them more profitably.

You need to understand the value of and battle to safeguard your time as a freelancer. If you can’t understand the value of your time, you’ll have no way of ever establishing whether something is better to be with you or without you.

So that’s it, I’ll close on the big idea driving all of this, hopefully it’ll resonate with you second time around:

Spending time on understanding specifically what you’re working on and how you work most effectively, then developing a set of systems and processes which allow you to work only on what matters is the key to working less.

This subject is one I hold dear, so the playbook “Taking Back Control of your time” dives a lot deeper. Download it here

Learn anything? Please share

When you’re held ransom by client work and income instability how are you supposed to find time to work on “growth” (whatever that means).

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