Many startup owners suffer from one disease called as pretending to work. I am no exception. When I started out, life was very very smooth. I suddenly found lots of free time, which I was using to play with my kids & wife, go on drives, read books and workout.
But with in a span of 6 months (by September 2010), my company was growing beyond my imagination. I was flooded with emails, phone calls and opportunities for work. Since I am very bad at saying no, I kept on replying to emails, answering phone calls, saying yes to work requests.
While all this seemed good (as sales & profits were increasing), the truth is more startling.
I was wasting more time on trivial, less bang-for-buck (we call this BfB hence) work!!!
How could that be possible?!?
Well, it seems that is quite natural for entrepreneurs. We as a breed have lots of passion. So much that often, we mistake non-work for work and spend hours on it.
How did I realize that I am wasting time?
As you can guess, the whole realization came from reading a book. I bought Tim Ferris’ Four hour workweek book recently. As I started reading it, the concept of 80/20 principle made more sense. So I thought, let me give it a shot. I listed all the activities and how much time I spend on them on a paper. And I was astounded looking at the stupid mistakes I am making.
Here is what I came up with.
As you can see, I spend 3 hours a day on email, another 45 minutes on trivial activities like social networking and checking stats. I had an inclination that I waste a lot of time on Gmail. Heck, I even wrote a post telling people how to use gmail effectively.
But after listing all these activities and adding a BfB rating to each, I knew that most of my time is spent on least BfB activities.
How am I planning to spend time?
I am planning to not visit my Gmail inbox more than thrice a day – 30 mins in the morning, 20 in the evening and 10 more before going to sleep.
I am also hoping to cut short my time on social networks and stats pages by 30 mins a day.
This is how my proposed time allocation looks
As you can see, I could reduce 180 minutes of time from everyday activities (*ed ones) and add 15 more minutes to occasional activities like financial planning.
I am hoping to stick to this schedule and see how it works out. I will report back in a month about the findings.
Some practical tactics to save time
- Delegate: Many of us think we should do everything ourselves. It is so wrong. Instead practice delegation and you will realize that you have more time for important stuff. I am learning this myself (read my experiences of outsourcing work)
- Use technology: Use tools like rescuetime and leechblock to monitor how your time is spent and reduce chances for waste.
- Take a break: Recently I was away from my home office for 9 days to do some workshops in Maldives (more on this later). Initially I worried how the business would run in my absence. But surprisingly, it made no difference. I did not post anything on my blogs, replied to only a handful of emails, did not answer phone calls (my phone was inactive), did not do any customer support work and still everything kept going. So you can see that many times, we just pretend to work. To test this, just take a break from everything for a week and you will agree.
- Introspect & Write down: knowing thyself is not only a remedy for inner peace, it also works for business. You can spend 30 minutes listing down all the things you do from waking up till you sleep. Then assign priorities to each of them. You will be surprised at what you discover.
Free Excel Template to Understand your Time
Naturally, I made a simple excel template to understand where my time goes and how I plan to spend it. Feel free to download it and modify as you see fit.
Tell me how you waste time
I used to think “we should spend time, save money – as if you do not do anything in an hour it is lost, where as if you do not spend a dollar, you still have it”. While my philosophy on money did not change, I now view time in a different perspective. Earlier I had lots of free time and very little to do. But now the situation is reverse and it is important to not waste time.
Tell me how you waste time and what you are doing to change the situation? Share your views on the ideas presented here.