Productivity

Get off the couch: How to better value your time as a business owner

Tristan Wright /

What’s your most valuable resource?

When I ask this question to my clients most say money, yet when I dig deeper they reveal their desire to have not more money, but more time.

As a business owner time is a powerful asset, but unlike money, you can’t earn more. When time is gone, it’s gone.

Like my clients, I’m sure you echo the belief that there are not enough hours in the day to do what needs to be done. I disagree and don’t think that’s a valid argument, it’s a misconception. Here’s what I mean.

Undervaluing time

Unfortunately, most of us undervalue the time we’ve been given. We ‘achieve’ that in many ways, like the weekend couch-bludge. Chips in hand, coke at the ready we settle in for a Netflix-binge. Yet, when we look outside we see a beautiful world worth exploring. Then at work, we’re swamped and look outside and wish for a walk in nature.

What starts as fun or relaxation quickly forms a bad habit. Bad habits are toxic in business. The point is, TV becomes a distraction and one that isn’t important. You need to focus on the big picture (not the TV screen).

Distractions are everywhere on a daily basis. In fact, hugely successful empires have been built on trying to distract you – think social media.

In 2013, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s released their annual Internet Trends report and suggested that people check their phones 150 times per day and that more than 500 million photos are shared on some social media apps per day, a figure that was predicted to double the following year.

Social media, text messages, phone calls, emails the list goes on. Barring emergencies or work priorities, most of what you experience in a day can be tallied-up to a distraction. If we allow it to happen, we get frustrated and become stressed and that affects our output on what truly needs to be done.

So, delete the tweet and call mum back later. Here’s the formula I use to block out distraction and achieve what I need to.

First I start with a series of questions that sharpen my focus and allow me to identify priority over procrastination. Each week these questions are always the same:

  • What goals do I want to accomplish?
  • What would I regret not achieving?
  • What are my priorities?
  • What makes me get out of bed every morning?

I’ve found answering these questions gives my working week structure and my life purpose. With purpose comes motivation and that enables you to maximise your potential.

Have a plan

The next step is planning your day. Waking up to no plans is ideal if you’re on holiday and can sip cocktails by the pool, but not in business. Lack of planning is a killer and allows your competition to gain ground.

If your Monday morning starts with a ‘what needs to be done now’ moment you’re behind the eight-ball and playing catch-up. That’s when distraction enters, all of a sudden emails assume the role of priority and the snowball builds. Sound familiar?

On a Sunday I plan my entire week in advance, so when the alarm buzzes Monday morning I wake up with a sense of mission and clarity. I’ve written down the tasks that need to be completed and posted them to my project management software so my team knows what I’m working on (and that saves a distracting conversation).

As I move through my tasks, I get a great sense of achievement (and enjoyment) out of crossing off my list of things I’ve set as a priority. I also make it a point to pencil in specific times for self-care, which often includes exercise, reflection, learning or just taking five minutes to catch my breath.

If time can never be replaced, how destructive can an entire unplanned day become? Very, an ill-planned day leads to distraction and ultimately failure.

Don’t get anxious about it though, not every second of every day has to be structured with military precision.

Spend time wisely

Remember the couch-bludge example before? We’re all guilty of that and you’re allowed to do it as long you’ve planned your free time and can afford the rest. You need to spend your time wisely.

Free time means many things to many people and how you unwind is a matter for you. I deal with clients that use their spare time to practise martial arts or play sport, spend time with family and friends, read, visit weekend farmer’s markets, try new restaurants and bars.

Whatever it is you fill your free time with, make sure it’s still beneficial to the person you want to be and the responsibilities you have. Don’t be a Charlie Sheen because he was never ‘winning’ behaving the way he did.

It’s rare to find somebody who truly believes in their self-worth. In business, you’re going to need it because you’ll face more obstacles the further you go. You have to learn to let others know your time is valuable.

As I’ve discussed, time is of huge value and you shouldn’t be giving yours away too freely. The more you invest in the situations and problems of others the more you’re jeopardising the success of your own needs and wants. This is like making deposits into everyone else’s bank account but never putting a cent in your own.

There are obvious signs that you’re doing this:

Saying yes to everything: By accepting every request (business or social) that comes your way, you’re putting other people’s priorities ahead of your own. If you want to smash the goals you’ve sent, you need to learn to say ‘no’ to others.

You’re on call 24/7: Yeah, we all know who to blame here – smartphones. We’re expected to answer the moment something comes through, but that’s unacceptable and a recipe for disaster. As I said before, switch it off and learn to spend portions of your life without the constant buzz.

You allow tardiness: If a client or networker turns up late for lunch or a coffee, understand that it can be valid but make sure they know it doesn’t become common or is accepted. When others disrespect your time, you lose time to work on your goals.

If this is you, you need to establish boundaries and like a stickler, adhere to them. An 8 pm email sent through can almost always wait and a 30-minute meeting should be wrapped up by the 20-minute mark. It will take practice and a few attempts but soon others will get the picture you have more important things to do.

Unfortunately, as a small business owner, the chance of success is stacked against you. Reclaiming your time and prioritising how you use it is a vital step towards being where you wish to be. In business, I advocate the need to be more selfish.

“Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live, “ Oscar Wilde

No one else will value and respect your time more than you should your own. Make it count. If you plan on accomplishing your dreams and achieving a massive amount of success in the process, the key is to get very selfish with your time. It is your time, after all. It should be cherished, because it is one thing we cannot buy more of and one thing we can never get back.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Charles Darwin

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Tristan Wright

Tristan is the director of Evolve to Grow.

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