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 small 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 simply disagree. Here’s what I mean.
Unfortunately, most of us misuse the time we’ve been given. We ‘achieve’ that in many ways, like a weekend Netflix binge. Chips in hand, coke at the ready, we settle in for a season of Stranger Things. Yet when we look outside we don’t see a beautiful world worth exploring. Then we’re back at work, swamped, and look outside and wish for a walk in nature.
What starts off as innocent fun and relaxation can quickly become a bad habit . Bad habits are toxic in business. The point is, TV becomes a distraction and serves you no benefit. It doesn’t rejuvenate you, and certainly doesn’t make you fitter, stronger or able to work harder. 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 – just think about social media.
In 2013, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers 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 is predicted to double the following year.
Scrolling Instagram on the train, Facebook open in the background of your computer, your smart watch pinging you WhatsApp messages, phone calls, checking Twitter ‘just for a moment,’ emails…the list goes on. Barring emergencies and work tasks, a big chunk of your day can be tallied-up to plain and simple distraction. If we allow it to happen, we get frustrated and become stressed due to the overload of unnecessary and unfulfilling information and that affects the way we perform necessary tasks.
So, log out of Messenger 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.
The next step is planning your day. Waking up to no plans feels great… If you’re on holiday and can sip cocktails by the beach all day. If your in business, waking up with no plans can leave you lost and overwhelmed.. Lack of planning is a killer and allows your competition to gain ground as you simply figure out what to do.
If your Monday morning starts with a ‘what needs to be done now’ moment you’re already behind the eight-ball and playing catch-up. That’s when distraction enters, all of a sudden it’s easier to scroll your emails, trawl the news, as the snowball builds. Sound familiar?
On 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. This also saves time because I don’t need to debrief each employee as they come in – it’s all there for them.
As I move through my tasks, I get a great sense of achievement (and enjoyment) out of crossing off tasks from my list. 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, think about how destructive an entire unplanned day is for your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your business. It’ll be harder to identify and chase your goals and you will definitely waste time and energy being worried. An ill-planned day leads to distraction and ultimately failure.
There’s no need to go overboard though, not every second of every day has to be structured with military precision.
Remember the couch example from before? We all indulge, and you don’t need to feel guilty if 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 always personal. I deal with clients that use their spare time to practise martial arts or do yoga, spend time with family and friends, read, visit weekend farmer’s markets, try new restaurants and bars, paint, plan great movie nights or simply sit in the sun with a cup of tea.
Whatever it is you fill your free time with, make sure it is in line with the person you want to be and the brand you are building. Don’t be a Charlie Sheen because he was never truly ‘winning.’. Sure, he enjoyed himself, but in the process he sabotaged himself and undermined his career
It’s rare to find somebody who truly knows their self-worth. In business, you’re going to need it because as your business grows you’ll face more challenging obstacles more frequently. You need to be confident to let others know your time is valuable.
As I’ve discussed, time really valuable and you shouldn’t be giving it away freely, either. 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 what I call 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. It’s a common scenario – you’re about to knuckle down on a major project or hit the gym when somebody’s standing by your office door or won’t stop ringing you. According to them, their issue needs urgent attention. So you stop what you’re doing to help them with their task, neglecting your own. Interruptions add up. Schedule specific times throughout the day to block out distractions – shut the door and turn off your phone, and get on with what you need to do.
You’re on call 24/7: Yeah, we all know what’s to blame here – smartphones. We’re expected to answer the moment something comes through, but you should accept constant demands for your time and attention. 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 they may have a valid excuse but make yourself known as a punctual person who doesn’t accept tardiness. When others disrespect your time, you lose time to work on your goals.
If you’re a ‘yes man’ who is on call 24/7 and always puts up with other people’s excuses, you need to establish boundaries and adhere to them like a stickler until prioritising yourself becomes second nature. An 8 pm email can almost always wait until the morning and a 30-minute meeting should be wrapped up on time, every time. It takes practice but soon others will get the picture that your time is valuable and you respect yourself – and they will respect you all the more for it.
Unfortunately, as a small business owner, the chances of success are stacked against you. Reclaiming your time and prioritising how you use it is a vital step towards getting to where you want to be and ensuring that your business survives and thrives. 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
You set the standards – no one else will value and respect your time more than you do. 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. Cherish your time, 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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