As a small business owner your time is your most valuable asset, but do you know exactly where it’s going?
Do you know how much of your time is spent on the activities that directly produce the results you want for your business?
Are you aware of how may hours are otherwise consumed by dealing with vendors, meetings, employees, paperwork, email and business drama?
If you are like I was, you don’t and it’s costing you.
Many small business owners simply don’t understand what their time and productivity means to their business. Even though you and your team are busy, you may be misaligned, not doing exactly what you should be doing to generate the highest profits for the business.
The most successful business owners and entrepreneurs know that time is their most precious asset and will do anything and everything to protect it.
And so should you.
“Four Quadrants of Time” framework
The Four Quadrants of Time is a framework I devised to help me get clear and stay focused on producing results for my business. The central idea is to maximize the time spent working on those activities that create the most profit and thereby greatest success for your business.
Accomplish time or direct profit producing tasks are different for every business, but to paint with a broad brush, those tasks directly related to marketing, sales, product development and customer retention are profit producers.
Think of it as anything that directly brings $$$ in the door. And you know that profits are the number one priority in your business, because without them your company will shrivel and die.
This is where you want to spend the majority of your time.
Activity time is work where you are busy, but not doing the work that directly contributes to your bottom line. This is time spent doing administrative tasks and is necessary for your business to run. You need to respond to non-emergency emails or phone calls, sort files, have operational meetings and work with your vendors.
This is the other area where you should be spending your time in your business, but it better be a whole lot less than accomplish time.
Now you may disagree with me as to what work falls into accomplish time or activity time and that’s fine. Only you know what’s most important to make your small business successful. Just make sure that you don’t convince yourself that the task you’re working on is truly profit producing when it isn’t.
This is incredibly valuable time where you completely disconnect from your work for a period to allow your brain and or body time to recover.
Break time can be your lunch (away from your desk), 5 -10 minute breaks to go for a walk outside, going to the gym for a quick mid-day workout, etc…
Break time is any time spent not focusing your mind on your work. This is mental and physical rejuvenation time. This is time where you recharge, refresh and tap into your subconscious and creative powers.
This is time (during your workday) that you spend “taking a break”, when really it is screwing off, procrastinating, chit-chatting, scrolling through Facebook and allowing your distractions to take hold.
Wasted time often happens when you don’t time your breaks and allow them to spill over or when you allow a distraction such as an email alert or the interwebs to suck you in.
During your workday you want to spend as little time here as possible.
“I must govern the clock, not to be governed by it” – Golda Meir
You must measure your time
If you’re ready to really take control of your time, then let’s get down to business and start measuring where it’s going.
Once I was crystal clear about where my time was actually spent, I used discipline and shifted my behaviors and habits to focus more on the accomplish time that directly moves my business forward.
Here is the tool and method I use to track my time.
Toggl is a FREE time tracking and reporting application. You enter the task you are working on, then hit the start timer and go. When you’re done with that task, hit stop and you are ready to enter in the next task. Toggl automatically calculates how long you worked on the task. There is an online version, desktop and iPhone application.
Toggl gives you the ability to assign time to projects and create time tracking tags. This is the simplest way I’ve found to track time and to give it meaning so you can process the data.
From the minute you start work until you are done you are going to input your time into toggle with projects and tags to help you properly track and measure how your time is spent.
What I recommend is this:
- Go to Toggl.com and create your free account.
- List out the projects you’re currently working on and create these in Toggl.
- Create four tags (Accomplish, Activity, Break and Wasted time).
- Track every minute of your work day and assign your task to a project and tag it.
- At the end of your workday, go to the Toggl reporting tool and create a report based on each tag.
- Put these numbers into a spreadsheet and calculate the percentage time spent in each category. This is your baseline.
- You need to determine your ideal times and percentages to shoot for, these are mine.
- Accomplish time 50%
- Activity time 20%
- Break time 25%
- Wasted time 5%
- Do this for 5 days so you can begin to gain a clear picture of where your time is actually being spent each day.
- BE HONEST! The only way you’re going to own your time is to get honest with yourself.
With realization, the only failure is not taking massive action to change
I understand that working on accomplish oriented productive tasks 100% of the time is not realistic, but just think… What if you could boost your accomplish (productivity & profit) time by 10%?
What would a 10 % increase in your productivity mean to your business and to your bottom line?
Your time is your most precious resource
Take real measurements on where your time is spent, then take massive action and start building new habits and routines to force yourself to to spend more time doing productive, profit producing tasks.
Spend as much of your working hours on activities that directly impact the profitability of your company.