Time management is something that, as entrepreneurs and business people, we put a lot of emphasis on. We all want to find a way to make more efficient use of our time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Why then do so many of us find ourselves bogged down, working all of the hours that God sends and wasting so much time on fruitless activities? This brings me to my first time-management principle.
1. Align your subconscious
When we consciously set out to make sizeable changes in our lives, we meet significant resistance.
So when it comes to a conscious desire to improve our time management, work more efficiently and free up our time, we wind up looking for more to concern ourselves with, not less. This is partly due to resistance from our subconscious, but it's also our belief systems getting in the way.
The simple fact is that a lot of us simply don't believe that it is possible to have more free time and scale up our business. So we fall back on what we do know: More growth means more work. We think that we need to find more people and processes if we are to claw back some of our time. But let me share with you a quote that we would all do well to remember:
"Simple scales, complexity fails." - Steve Jobs
If you add more elements to your business, even to save labor, you will add complexity. Suddenly, what took you and a laptop to accomplish takes two members of staff and a new, expensive piece of software. And when that doesn't work, who's going to wind up doing it anyway and having to fix said new process?
"Innovation is about saying "no' to a thousand things." - Steve Jobs
He was a smart man that Steve Jobs, and he was right. You need to find ways to remove tasks from your day, not add them. To do that though, you first need to align your subconscious mind with the belief that that is achievable.
There are lots of great ways to do this. I would start though with practices of centering and bringing your mind to the present moment. This will have the effect of neutralizing your subconscious and stopping it from dwelling on whatever agenda it has for you today. You will be able to keep your decision-making grounded in the present, and not be emotionally swayed by an imaginary future or misremembered past.
From there, you need to drip-feed your mind with evidence that working less and earning more really is possible for you. Start small and just keep increasing it one baby step at a time. That way you'll avoid overwhelming your subconscious and the resulting shutdown while building steady momentum towards your goal.
2. Identify the tasks that yield the highest results
This probably seems obvious. Fair enough, but here's the thing: If it's so obvious — why don't we do it? Taking an audit of your daily tasks and ranking their profit yield probably feels like more work on top of an already packed schedule.
This is where, perhaps, finding outside consultancy would help. But either way, you need to find the time or resources to devote to this. I promise you though, that it will free you up more than you think without affecting your bottom line.
Think about how many tasks you perform daily, whether it's answering emails, producing reports, or taking phone calls. I bet you that the stress tends to come from those tasks that yield the least but cost the most, whether that's in time or money.
As the Pareto Principle dictates: 80% of your return is coming from 20% of your work. All the other white noise is simply wasting your time. This is true of your client base too. 80% of your revenue is likely coming from 20% of your clients, and you've probably seen this in action many times. There are those clients who squeeze you for all your worthwhile demanding that they pay you as little as possible.
So how do you deal with them? Put your prices up! Either they'll leave you, in which case: good. Or you'll drag them into that 20% (thereby expanding it) at which point, you won't mind if they talk your ear off on the phone for hours — because they're paying for it!
If you can make that 20% into 40%, you're at 160% output for less than half the work. You're welcome.
3. Create leverage over yourself
You know as well as I do that change is never easy. That's why you haven't managed it thus far. Despite your protestations and intentions: You've fallen back on the same patterns. Change is scary. It naturally creates mental blocks that cause inaction. That's why you need leverage to overcome them.
The problem is that, at the moment, despite having to flog yourself half to death each week: You're still realizing 100% output (at least 100% of your max right now). Even though you could be working 60% less, you don't need to. Or so you think.
No matter how much you might be able to intellectualize, and even recognize the reality that you're headed towards burnout, you don't really think it'll happen. You haven't burned out yet, right?
Armed with that blissful (and willful) ignorance, you soldier on thinking that working half a week for 160% of your current revenue is just not for you. That's for those rich folk who were born into privilege, or whatever. Yeah great — except one day, you'll have to pay the piper.
Nobody expects burnout. They don't see it coming. Ask anyone who has! They ignore the warning signs, thinking that they'll have plenty more notice before it happens. And then one morning; they can't get out of bed. Or worse, it comes in the form of a stroke or heart attack.
Don't wait for the burnout. Find leverage now, in order to make sure that you take action in the present. This could be by speaking to those who have burned out or by consulting with a therapist or physician. Make the horror of burning out as real for yourself as possible, so that you have to take action now to avoid it.
Time management is about giving yourself a life.
You absolutely can free up a majority of your time while continuing to grow your business. You just have to do the work of aligning yourself with that intention, finding the leverage over yourself, and then taking the action. Don't wait for burnout. Don't keep flogging yourself over tasks, processes, people, or practices that aren't serving you.
Remember that you can choose a more abundant, joyful, and purpose-driven life. Others do. You just need to connect with the right people and inner energy to make it happen.