"All I do is work. Even when I'm with my family, I'm still responding to emails and texts for work. The saddest part is that my family has just gotten used to it. When I do actually put down my smartphone, they act surprised, as if I'm just a temporary visitor."
Over the past 25 years, I have worked with thousands of business owners who all have similar stories to tell. And for the majority of them, they don't really have a clear cut idea of where their time is going. So I wanted to share with you a little checklist that I put together for my latest book, The Freedom Formula.
How many hours on average do you spend per week doing the following activities?
- Sitting in unproductive or wasteful meetings.
- Dealing with low-level interruptions that easily could have been handled by someone else.
- Handling low-value emails.
- Handling low-value requests from co-workers.
- Writing reports that have no impact on the bottom line and that no one bothers to read.
- Streaming YouTube cat videos, checking social media, or indulging in other forms of escapism for a "mental health break."
- Doing low-level business activities that the company could easily outsource at a much lesser cost to the business than your time.
- Putting out fires that easily could have been prevented.
- Doing office work you could pay someone $25/hour or less to do (filing, faxing, copying, typing, shipping, cleaning, etc.).
- Doing personal errands you could pay someone $25/hour or less to do (laundry, cleaning, yard work, simple repair work, picking up dry cleaning, etc.).
Now multiply your total by 50 weeks per year. That's how many hours you are personally wasting on low-value work at present. When I did this exercise at a recent business conference I was keynoting, members of the audience averaged 18 hours per week of wasted time.
That's over 900 hours each year, or a full 22 working weeks a year that were wasted.
The Buffet Strategy of Time Management
Let's for the sake of argument say that you are wasting around 18 hours a week on lower-level tasks. You fit in the high-value activities when you can--often when everyone has gone home, the office is quiet, and the phone has stopped ringing--but by then you're too exhausted to think. It's almost like you are filling your plate at a buffet, where other people's urgencies and high-calorie, low-nutrition tasks dominate your plate, leaving little room for your most valuable, high-value (nutritious) activities.
Basically, your day is all cake and no vegetables.
So it's time to start thinking about your plate differently. From now on, try to fill your time plate first with the highest-value activities, in structured blocks of your best time, so that no matter what you fill the other space with, you'll get more of your highest-value work done in the best manner possible.
Your new mantra for your to-do list should be "Eat your veggies first." This simple shift in priorities will help you grow your business quicker, without spending all your time at the office. The goal is to get the high-value stuff done at work, and then be able to go home at the end of the day and be present with your loved ones.