If I had a pound for every time a small business owner said to me ‘but I just don’t have enough time to do all the things that I want to do to build my business’ then I would be a very rich woman!
Now, I know that when you are a sole trader, a solopreneur, a one woman band or whatever you want to call yourself(!) you can feel that you are being pulled in a million different directions every single day.
You need to:
- Create your product or deliver your service and make sure that you have happy customers
- Keep marketing your business, even when your order book or your diary is full because you need to make sure that you still have a business in three months’ time when things quieten down
- Invoice, chase payments and keep your accounts in order
- Keep up with the countless other admin tasks that you need to get to done.
I get it. You’ve got a lot on your plate.
However, when somebody says to me ‘I don’t have enough time’ I get them to think about things differently and ensure they are MAKING THE TIME for the things that are important to them.
One handy tool that I use to show my clients how to make more time available for their business is my Time Tracker.
HOW I LEARNED THE VALUE OF THE TIME TRACKER THE HARD WAY!
I spent the first 10 years of my career working as a Business Change Consultant. Every single Friday I had to submit a time sheet. On that time sheet you had to assign the hours that you had worked that week to a particular code.
If you were working on a client facing project then you assigned your time to ‘Chargeable’ project code. The Project Manager would get a report every week with a list of who had assigned time to their project and they would then bill this time to their clients.
If you weren’t working on a client facing project then you would be given a ‘Non-Chargeable’ code where you could assign your time.
NOBODY wanted to be charging to a Non-Chargeable code for too long.
It would immediately raise questions about how you were spending your time. The company was still having to pay your wages but if you weren’t working on a client facing project then you weren’t bringing in revenue.
You were an overhead.
I must admit, when I left the Consultancy world I was DELIGHTED that I no longer had to complete a time sheet. In fact for the first few months on a Friday afternoon I would feel like I had forgotten to do something.
The idea of completing my timesheet each week was so ingrained in my psyche.
However, when I started working for myself I quickly noticed something.
I was really bad at estimating how long it was going to take me to get a task done.
Days and even weeks would pass and I would ask myself the question ‘what have I achieved?’ and struggle to answer.
I was spending WAY too much time on activities which in my Consultancy days would be allocated to a ‘Non-Chargeable’ code. Plus I wasn’t spending nearly enough time on work that would have been allocated to a ‘Chargeable’ code.
The bottom line was I wasn’t doing work that resulted in generating an income.
And worse than that, I was pouring my heart, soul and energy into my business and I would get to the end of the week and not even be sure of what I had worked on all week!
I now know that I am not the only one to have experienced the ‘disappearing week’ phenomenon.
Many of the business owners that I have worked with over the past few years have told me that exactly the same thing has happened to them.
After about six months of working for myself I decided to ‘go back to my roots’ and create my own timesheet. It was an eye opener!
I was wasting SO much time.
While I was telling myself that I was working every spare minute that I had (remember when I first started off I was working evenings, weekends and naptimes) when I took the time to track my activities I was sitting in front of my laptop every spare minute that I had but I was not working on activities that would make a difference and actually build my business.
If we apply the old 80/20 rule. I should have been spending 80% of my time on activities that would build my business and 20% on admin. In reality the opposite was happening.
I was merrily faffing away on admin tasks and not doing the real work required to build connections and relationships that would build my business.
I know that this might be familiar for some of you.
I have created this Time Tracker to help you understand exactly how you are spending your time.
The Daily Time Tracker
If you really want to take control of your time and make the most of the time that you do have available then the first step is understanding where you are spending your time at the moment.
I challenge you to record your time in detail for an entire week.
This may feel odd to begin with, in fact I have even had some people tell me ‘I don’t have time to record how I spend my time’ but it is really important.
Also, I want you to record where you spend ALL of your time. Not just the hours that you currently believe that you have available to build your business.
One of the great things about working for yourself is that you have complete control over how much or how little time that you spend on your business.
If you look at where you are spending your leisure as well as your work time you might be surprised where you could dedicate a few more minutes or even hours to building your business.
Even if you only decide to track your time for one week you will get some fantastic insights into your habits.
You can do anything for one week, right?
On the next page is a template that you can use to track your time each day.
The Daily Time Tracker – What You Need To Do
There are all sorts of apps and programmes available to help you track your time each day. If you are comfortable using them then go for it.
For the purposes of your first week I am going to suggest that you keep it SIMPLE and stick to pen and paper and that you complete the Daily Time Tracker.
So, here is what you need to do:
1.Write down each task that you complete. For the purposes of this exercise I want you to write down everything that you do, not just the work related tasks.
2.When you have completed the task I want you to write down how long it took you to complete that task. You can use a timer (you probably have one on your phone) to track how long the tasks take you or you might prefer to write the beginning and end time for the task and you can calculate the time taken later.
3.For non-work related tasks you might want to group activities together so for example rather than listing out:
- Had a shower
- Brushed teeth
- Blow dried hair
- Made breakfast
You may prefer to group those activities into a ‘Got ready for the day’.
However for work related tasks I want you to be as specific as you can.
For example for me today, one task could be ‘Create Time Tracker Workbook’.
That is not specific enough. Instead I need to list out:
- Write content of workbook
- Proof read content of workbook
- Format workbook in Canva
- Create page on website for workbook
To get a much clearer idea of exactly where I am spending my time to complete the task.
At the end of each day I want you to go through each of your activities and assign them to a category.
Categorizing How You Spend Your Time
Content creation/service delivery – the time that you are spending on your customer facing activities. If you are a Virtual Assistant this is the time that you spend working for your clients. If you are a novelty cake maker this is the time that you spend baking and decorating cakes.
MARKETING – the time that you spend marketing your business. This could be posting and scheduling on social media, attending networking events, writing blog posts etc.
ADMIN – the time that you spend on necessary admin tasks such as invoicing, responding to emails, filing etc.
LEISURE – this is the time that INTENTIONALLY spend on leisure activities. For example, you may block off time every evening to spend with your family. Or you may attend a weekly exercise class.
FAFFING– I think it’s very important to separate out ‘Faffing’ from Leisure. Too many people tell me that they don’t have time to go to the gym or that they don’t spend enough time with their Partner or Husband and then when they track their time they find that they spend an enormous amount of time in ‘faff’ mode.
Faff mode is when you start to get ready for bed to get an early night and then spend an hour getting side tracked and try out every colour of nail varnish in your collection and that early night doesn’t happen.
Faff mode is when you go to schedule your Facebook posts for a week and get sucked into the social media vortex only to emerge 45 minutes later knowing how to make ‘Healthy Pancakes 4 Ways’ but still not having scheduled that post.
For your first week using the Time Tracker I suggest that you stick to these categories. Don’t make life more complicated for yourself than it needs to be. If you do then you are more likely to give up on the process completely.
However, after you’ve completed the first week and got a good picture of where you are spending your time then feel free to add in additional categories to help you spot your own potential time sucks.
At the end of the day add up how much time you have spent on each category of activity and add these numbers into your Weekly Time Tracker.
Anaysing your Time Tracker
Prepare yourself for a few A-HA moments!
If you are spending more time on admin than on your product creation you have some serious rejigging of your time to do.
Perhaps you always feel like you never have enough leisure time but you discover that you are spending hours each day in ‘faff’ mode.
Be honest with yourself when you look at where you are spending your time. Don’t beat yourself up about bad habits that you have got into in the past.
That is the past.
Now you need to focus on the future.
And Now What?
Get clear on what you want your week to look like. What changes do you need to make to get closer to your ideal week.
How would you need to change the balance of your activities?
Decide on what that ideal week looks like for you and then SCHEDULE IT INTO YOUR DIARY.
Continue to Track Your Time
At an absolute minimum I would suggest that you complete the Time Tracker for an entire week.
To get maximum value from the exercise continue tracking over a four week period to get some real insights into where and how you spend your time. On the next page is a template that you can use to track your time over a number of weeks.
Once you get into the habit of using the Time Tracker you might decide that you want to use a version of it permanently and it becomes part of your daily routine.
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t complete the Time Tracker every single week.
If I have a particularly unproductive and dis-satisfying few weeks then I will make sure that I record my time for the next week and then take a look to see what lessons I can uncover.
It’s a great tool to get me back on track.