In early 2017, my business coaching firm launched a comprehensive study on time management. We interviewed and surveyed small business owners and their key executives in order to learn how they spend their time and, particularly, where their time gets wasted.
We began this investigation because we kept hearing the same concern over and over again. My business coaching clients kept saying, "David, I just don't have time to do the things that I know I want to do -- and need to do -- in the business."
Of course I could understand. I've been a business owner for over twenty-five years. I've often felt the same way. But if more than two decades of coaching business owners has taught me anything, it's that we really do have all the time we need. It's just hidden inside the time that we're wasting.
I know that's an extreme statement. That's why I brought data to back it up.
Before I tell you the results of our study, I want to put these numbers in context.
The Harvard Business Review reported on a Covey Center for Leadership study that investigated the emerging length of the American workweek. Surveying more than four hundred executives, business owners, and entrepreneurs, they discovered that the average business leader works a 72-hour week. So the age of the 40-hour workweek has gone the way of the dodo bird.
Meanwhile, in a joint poll, Gallup and Wells Fargo found that 57% of small business owners work six days a week. And over 20% of them work seven days a week.
But it doesn't have to be that way. You can achieve more while working less. But, to make that possible, you have to make sure that the less you do matters more.
That's where our study comes in.
When we evaluated the work habits of business owners and their key executives, we discovered that time-wasting, low-value and no-value activities accounted for more than 30% of their workweeks.
The business leaders we polled spent 6.8 hours per week on low value business activities that they could easily have paid somebody else $50/hour or less to handle for them. That means that they were wasting almost a full workday each week on these activities -- activities that they could have paid somebody else to do at an hourly rate far lower than their own.
They wasted 3.9 hours each week indulging in what we might call escapist "mental health breaks" --streaming YouTube videos and checking social media.
They spent 1.8 hours a week handling low-value requests from co-workers and another 1.8 hours a week putting out preventable fires.
Finally, they spent an average of 1 hour each week sitting in completely non-productive or wasteful meetings.
Total that up and we're looking at 21.8 wasted hours each week -- hours that are going up in smoke while you're doing things that contribute little to no value to your company. Depending on the length of your workweek, those wasted hours could account for as much as one third of your time.
So I want to challenge you to ask yourself how much time you waste on activities like this. How could you better structure your day, your week, and your quarter so that more of your best attention goes to those things that matter?
I hope that this self-reflection will help you start working less and achieving more.