Continuing the series on Foundations, in this episode Dom talks about valuing your time. This is both about making sure you make the most of your time, and get maximum leverage from it, and also about charging an appropriate amount for your services.
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Valuing Your Time
Dom Goucher: Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of PreneurCast. I hope you didn’t miss us too much now that we’re at an every other week frequency. It’s another show with just me. Pete is still away. And I’m going to be continuing my series on Foundations to get you heading in the right direction for this year. This week I’m going to be talking about valuing your time, which is a slightly different take on time management.
As you may have noticed, this little series is a little shorter episodes, mainly because there’s just one of me. But hopefully, they’re packed with action items and things that make you think so you can use the time between the shows to go away and implement some of this stuff. Now, big news, congratulations to Pete and his lovely wife Fleur. Their baby was born this week.
Again, Pete is still away for a little while longer, but he’ll be back with us soon. So on to our main topic for this week, which is valuing your time. Time is a resource just like any business resource. But time is an absolutely and definitely finite resource. We only have a certain amount of it. I spent a bit of time over the Christmas break, kind of going over some of Brian Tracy’s material.
I talked about Brian Tracy in last week’s show. And one of the things Brian Tracy talks about in his time management material is first of all, that we don’t get any more time. We only have a certain amount and it is perishable. If you don’t use it, it’s gone. So we have to be careful how we use our time.
So as I said in the introduction, this is a new take on time management that I want to talk to you about, which is looking at time as a resource just like staff or any other business asset. And looking at the importance of how you use your time. One of the other things that Brian Tracy and many, many, many, many other people who talk about time management say is you can’t actually manage time.
You can only manage how you use it and what you do with it. And that’s really, really important. So you need to make sure you’re using your time effectively and make sure you’re getting a return on your investment. I’m going to break the episode down into two parts really. First of all, it’s about using your time effectively.
And the second is about getting a return on your investment, which may mean being paid accordingly for your time. We raise it in the 7 Levers of Business in terms of if you are trading time for money, then you should make sure you’re trading the right amount. But very few people actually really review how much they’re being paid and how much they are paying.
So I’m going to look at that towards the end of the show. But first things first, I said you can’t manage time. You can only manage what you do with it. And this is something again, over the Christmas break that somebody, a friend of mine, flagged to me. And I’ve started to do this because it’s a very, very powerful exercise.
As we always say, you can’t manage what you don’t measure or what we measure gets managed, whichever way around you want to look at it. One of the things I suggest everybody does, if you don’t already do this, is to track your time. Track how you’re using your time throughout your day. And track it in 15-minute windows.
Now if you don’t use any other time management, time control system then 15-minute windows is a reasonably frequent block of time to see what you’re doing. Just start the day, get a lined pad, write the time out in 15-minute intervals, or write it out every four lines in an hour interval if you want to save yourself some time setting the sheet up.
Keep that pad with you and whatever it is that you’re doing, starting at the beginning of your work day if you want to just track your work time. But I would track from when you get up to when you go to bed for a couple of days. Just track every 15 minutes and what you do. If you’re distracted, if you’re looking on Amazon, or reading the funny comics, or on Facebook, or watching TV, or whatever it is, just track what you do.
What most of you will find is that one, you get distracted quite a lot. I know it’s something that I found on occasion that I was getting distracted quite a lot. And two, it will highlight to you where your time is being spent, what kind of tasks. In the past, Pete and I have talked about core versus mechanics.
Tasks in your business where only you can do them; and they are tasks that are moving your business forward, driving profits, increasing effectiveness, etcetera, etcetera. They are core tasks. Tasks that someone else could do or that aren’t moving your business forward or driving your profits, those are most likely to be mechanical tasks.
Now some of those tasks that are important in your business: building clients, dealing with support e-mails, etcetera, they are important to your business, but they can be done by somebody else. They’re not necessarily core tasks to you. They may be core to the business, but they’re not core to you.
Tracking everything by 15 minutes gives you a reasonably granular look at your day. It gives you a reasonably detailed look at what you’re doing and what you have done. And it’s quite important to be granular because most of us can pass an hour and only remember doing one particular thing. I was writing an article, or I was making notes for that video, or I was writing up a proposal for that client, whatever it might be.
But if you’re tracking it at 15 minutes, you might realize that you weren’t just doing that for the whole hour. That’s why we go for the slightly more granular tracking. And so when you’ve got your list of these tasks, look at it against the idea of core versus mechanics.
Look to see how much of your time is spent on core activities, because one of the things that you’ll hear a lot is this idea of the 80-20 rule. This idea that 20% of the things that you do in any given day go towards 80% of your profits or 80% of your results. And this rule appears everywhere and people talk about it a lot.
But it’s that 20% of things that you do, that core activity that you do, that will make the difference to your business. You need to be on the lookout for that. There’s a couple of ways of keeping an eye on this that are maybe a little bit easier than the 15-minute tracking if you’re not bothered about that. One of them is something Pete found actually from a guy called David Seah.
I won’t bother trying to spell that or say that again and insult the guy by saying his name wrong. I’ll put a link in the show notes. But he has a great series of tracking documents that you can just print out. One of those could be used for tracking core versus mechanics. He calls it high-value to low-value tasks.
And he gets you to score the task against how much value there is and then gets you to track how much time you spend on those tasks. So that’s another way to track this information. But whatever you do, just keep an eye for a couple of days on how you spend your time. Another way to break this down is to look at the tasks before you start.
Look at how important they are and whether they need to be done, whether you need to do them, or whether they even need to be done at all. One of the things I talked about last week in terms of determination versus discipline was this idea that the biggest waste of time and energy is to perfectly complete a task that did not even need doing.
These are one of the greatest ways to save time and organize your time better is to look for those tasks. A great model again from Brian Tracy is this idea of the ABCDE [Method] model. And the way that he breaks down his tasks, anything that he’s been given to do is to have an A task and a B task.
The A tasks are the things that need to be done now, that you need to do as soon as possible, that will make the biggest impact on your business. The B tasks are pretty much everything else. Things that will wait a little bit longer that you can do later. He sometimes classifies those as A’s are urgent and important and B’s are important but not urgent.
C class tasks, in this case he uses C for could do. They are things that you could do, but you don’t really need to. So if you don’t do them, nothing will particularly go wrong. That’s things like having a chat with somebody, for example. Going out for lunch, etcetera. D tasks are tasks you can delegate. And if you find a D task, then you should do everything you can to get rid of that task and give it to somebody else.
E tasks are tasks to eliminate. Those are the ones you really need to look out for. Do they even need doing? Do you actually really need to read that funny post on Facebook? Do you need to read that article in that magazine? Do you need to read that advert? Do you need to go look for something online, etcetera.
So if you start your day by looking at your A, B, C, D, E task breakdown and then allocate those tasks, Brian Tracy also says you should always finish your A tasks first. Start with your A tasks and finish those first. Never start on a B task until you’ve done your A tasks.
If you start your day with your A, B, C, D, E categorization, and then track your day against A) whether you did those tasks, or B) how you spent your time in those 15 minute blocks just to see if there’s places where you’re getting distracted, you’re not focusing, and so on and so on.
Now I know people that will go through this exercise and one of two things will happen. The first and very common thing is that as you go through your day, you started your day with so many tasks and you categorize them A, B, C, D, E, but new tasks arrive. And one of the ways that I certainly deal with new tasks, and a lot of people do that, is that they have a notepad open.
That might be a text file, which is something I think Pete uses. But I actually use a physical piece of paper, a notepad on my desk. Anything that comes in that is going to distract me, that is going to require my attention at some point, a new task or whatever it might be; I write it down.
I write it down so it doesn’t get lost, but I also write it down because there’s no way I’m going to do it there and then. I’m not going to let it interrupt me and stop me from completing my A task. I’m going to write it down, and then when I take my next break when the A task is complete, that’s when I look at that list. And I usually will just add that list into my task management system which at the moment is Evernote.
Pete, as you know, uses OmniFocus on the Mac. But Evernote is rocking it for me at the moment. I make a note in my Evernote and scratch it off my paper list. And I carry on with my day until I get around to that task having allocated and prioritized it, if necessary.
So that’s the first thing that happens to people is that they have this new task problem. What do I do? A new task comes in and interrupts me. Well, just make a note and carry on. If anybody has ever tried meditation, it’s a little bit like the advice that they give you with meditation.
When a thought appears to you, you acknowledge it and then you let it pass. You don’t examine it. So that’s getting a little bit deep into another topic, but it’s a really powerful technique. Having this piece of paper, having somewhere you write down the things that other people have asked you to do.
And obviously, if you’re finding that you’re distracted throughout the day, you need to do things like turn off notifications. Turn off your e-mail. Things like that, things that we’ve talked about many, many, many times. But the other thing that a lot of people find is that they master this idea of prioritizing their tasks.
They use whatever prioritizing system they want, whether it’s the A, B, C, D, E, whether they use their OmniFocus, whether they use Getting Things Done, whatever they use. And they find that they are super efficient and they’re not getting distracted. But they get to the end of the day and they’re just not clearing their task list.
And that is where really valuing your time comes in. Because if you properly value your time, then you choose more carefully the things that you do with it and how you use it. So the first way is to find more time in the day. To make more time is to be really, really brutal about delegation and elimination. Look for those tasks you definitely need to do, definitely don’t need to do.
Look for the ones that nobody needs to do and look for the ones you need to delegate and get those out. But if you really do have too many tasks to do in a time that you have, and one of the reasons for this could be that you have a day job and you’re trying to start up a business, which is a very common situation.
Or, and I talked again about this briefly in the previous show, you’re self-employed, but you never seem to find the time to do those tasks like marketing, prospecting for new clients, generating marketing materials, whatever it might be. If the basics of your business take up the majority of your day, getting those extra tasks done can be quite difficult.
Let’s look at some ways of making more time for you to do things. The first one and this is something that I’ve been experimenting with in this New Year, has been to go to bed a little bit earlier and get up a little bit earlier. The reason for that is that I work best in the morning. That’s something I’m going to talk to you about in a minute.
But some people work better in the evenings. You need to find that out. But let’s look at going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. Me, I become less and less effective as the day wears on. By say 10:00 at night, not that I want to be working at 10:00 at night, but it would be unwise, as they say, for me to handle heavy machinery after 10:00 at night.
It’s actually quite easy for me to go to bed a little bit earlier and wake up maybe an hour earlier each day, and go through, have my breakfast. Do some exercises. And then before I would normally start work, I have maybe an extra hour. And suddenly, I have an extra hour in the day.
And I have an extra hour when actually, there’s no one around. There’s no one expecting me to be online. There’s no one expecting phone calls. There’s no one expecting anything. This is a great time to create content. I know a lot of people that are starting to do this and are finding it’s really helpful. Finding this time, when no one else is around, to create content.
Sometimes, this creates problems. One of them is that if you have a busy morning schedule, especially if it’s to go say, get ready and go to your day job, or go and just get to the office, then sometimes what happens is that schedule expands to fill the time that you’ve just created. So you create an extra half an hour or extra hour in the day in the morning and yet you still end up doing the same things.
One way to address that is to deal with some of those tasks the night before. One thing that I do is that I make sure that everything for the next day is ready the night before. That’s a task that I can do in an evening. It’s not a particularly difficult task making sure that my clothing for my exercise routine is out, my trainers are ready.
Making sure I’ve got my audiobook loaded on my iPod ready to go. Things like that. Those are things that you can just while an evening away doing and making sure they’re in place so that when you get up, you can get up and get on. So that addresses that issue.
Another issue is this idea of people who say, because one of the standard pieces of advice for focus, getting things done, is when you get in the office or wherever first thing in the morning, don’t start your e-mail. Don’t open your e-mail as the first thing you do. And a lot of people will say, “But it’s my job.
I’m expected to do that. There are customer support issues,” blah, blah, blah, dah, dah, dah. Okay. You’re expected to get in or to do whatever it is at a certain time. If you are ready to go an hour before that time, no one’s expecting you to do that thing until that time. So you have this extra hour.
And that ‘read your e-mail first thing in the morning’ was something that I was very, very guilty of. It was the first thing I did. I was really terrible, I would do it before breakfast because I have an internet connection at home and I don’t even need to go into the office. I can fire up my iPad or fire up whatever it is, and I can see my e-mail.
But it really messes your head up to look at your e-mail first thing in the morning. So if there’s some big task that you’re trying to achieve, this extra hour, and really, really allocating it and saying look, this is my time is a great way to deal with that and still feel like you’re meeting your responsibilities in your business.
The other thing, I kind of talked about this as I started that point was, to find out what your optimum time is to do things, because if you do things at the optimum time then you’re more efficient. You’re more focused and you can get them done quicker and easier. You’ll find you’ll get more done.
My time in the morning is my most effective time. I get two or three times the amount of work done in the morning than I do throughout the rest of day. Because no matter how disciplined you are and no matter what you do, once everybody else starts work around you or once everybody else wakes up around you, there’s going to be interruptions and distractions.
You’re going to have to go out and see clients. You’re going to have to make phone calls, respond to e-mails and things like that. So this time outside of that time can be your most effective time. But you need to find out which it is. Some people are night owls. I have a number of clients in Australia who work into the middle of the night. That’s their time.
They like to do it, which is fine for me because it means I can talk to them at a reasonable hour of my day because they’re still awake. I personally can’t do it. If I stay up too late, that’s it. I become useless at that point and I also become useless the next day. And I’ve found over time that getting up early is the time for me. But find out when that time is for you and then allocate your work to those time slots.
And as I also said, prepare ahead of time. If the things you need to do a task are there ready when you’re ready to do that task, you’re using that time only to do the task, not to prepare for it. One of the great times to prepare to do something is the night before. Making sure that all of your notes are up to date.
If you’re going to record a video, for example, or a podcast, then the night before is a great time to just go over your notes for that video, or go over your script, go over the notes for the podcast. Maybe even review support e-mails that you’re going to have to answer in the morning if that’s what you’re going to do.
Or look through forums and mark up the posts that you’re going to respond to and make notes. Things like that. Just get it all ready ahead of time so that you can apply that focus. Now this is something that comes back to something that Pete and I have talked about a lot, which is the idea of core focus time or critical focus time depending on when you want to talk about.
We call it core focus time because it’s focusing on those core tasks, the things that are going to move your business forward. But one of the things that doesn’t always get talked about is how you actually get the tasks lined up, get ready so that you’re using that time most effectively. The idea behind core focus time is that you allocate blocks of 25 minutes and you work solidly on a task.
One of the things I know a lot of people have done when they first start doing this is they spend the first 25 minutes getting ready to do the task. Well, that’s not a good use of core focus time. If you have one hour in the morning before everything else that you think that you’re going to motor through a bunch of forum posts for example, then the best thing you can do to make that time effective is the night before, line up those forum posts.
Make a note of links to the forum post in a text document or in Evernote, or something like that, so you can literally just crank down them. Click on the link. Go to it and answer it. Maybe even think about what your answer might be or the key bullet points of what you want to respond with.
So when you wake up in the morning and you’re fresh and you’re ready to go, you can just crank down that list. You can get 20 or 30 forum posts out in an hour blocking your time out that way. But if you were to use your core focus time to find those posts in the first place, well, then you could spend an hour and find three.
Some of you may have come across Pete’s method of dealing with this which is that he actually outsources the finding of those posts and the building of a set of links to them to his team. And they send him an e-mail. He literally just opens the e-mail and cranks down it that way, which is another way of preparing ahead of time, getting somebody else to do the preparation for you.
But that can definitely make more time for you. Anything like that, either do it outside of your optimum time like the night before, or get somebody else to do that prep for you. And one of the things that it’s really, really, really important to do in terms of handling your time, working with your time more effectively, is that you need to schedule down time.
In the last show, I talked about determination versus discipline. And I talked about the dark side of determination which can cause burn out because you are working and working and working because you can. And very often you don’t feel it until it hits you and then you’ve worked too much for too long without enough rest because you can’t keep going.
You have all the energy. You do feel like you can go on forever and one day, you will just stop. And so it’s really important. And this is more so for people in industries that we call knowledge working. So people that are working to create information products, people who are designers, people who depend upon what’s in their head to get their job done, which is becoming more and more common these days as a job.
Because it’s easy to spot when your body’s tired, but it’s not so easy to spot when your brain is tired. And your brain needs serious recovery time. It uses up a phenomenal amount of energy from your body and uses that energy up almost invisibly. You don’t notice it. You don’t feel it. It doesn’t make you feel hungry. It can make you feel slightly tired and slightly blurry, but it’s not something that lots of people are aware of and notice.
One way to handle that down time and make sure you take it because you need it, is to put it in your calendar 90 days out. Some people say you should take four days every 90 days, and I would agree. I would agree that you do need some extended breaks. I have a policy personally of stopping on Friday afternoon and not doing anything on Friday afternoon, all day Saturday until Sunday afternoon.
So I’m effectively taking two whole days off. And I find that works for me and keeps me refreshed and keeps me going. But even at that, I still need to take extended breaks. One of the best ways to make sure that you take that break, whether it’s an extra day or whether it is just a long weekend or even just a complete weekend if you’re even struggling with that, is to put it in your calendar 90 days out.
Ninety days from now, marking your calendar, I’m taking a break. Because if it’s 90 days out there is absolutely nothing that can get in the way or needs to get in the way. There’s nothing at all that you can’t adjust with 90 days warning.
So clients come to you and say “hey, I need this doing, when are you free?” You can easily say, not then. It’s that simple. Just so that’s the top tip, put it in your calendar 90 days from now that you’re going to take some time off. And when you do take that time off, take the time off.
Again, 90 days is enough time for everybody to cope with the idea that you’re not going to respond to your e-mail on a Sunday afternoon as some of you do. Ninety days is enough warning for everybody that you’re not going to answer the telephone. That you’re not going to be online. And do that thing where you spend time with everything switched off.
And if you have a family, then spend that time with your family. Spend three or four days just all the time with them. As I said briefly in the last show, this idea of it’s about the quality of time you spend at work and the quantity of time you spend at home. And this idea of taking downtime will make sure that the quality of your time at work is maximized because you can focus easily.
You’ve rested and your brain is fresh. And also, you know that at some point in the near future, you will be spending a large quantity of time either looking after yourself or spending time with your family because you’ve blocked it out and booked it in.
I said the show was going to be in two parts. And that was the first part, which is all about how you deal with your time. How you even make more time as it were effectively with all those different techniques. And there’s something in there for everybody I think. So do let me know how you get on with those ideas and if anything particularly works.
Or let me know in the comments if you have any techniques or ideas that work for you that are different to what I have said, because everybody I think will find that valuable. Because everybody’s world is different and not everything works for everybody. The second part of the show is really is about valuing your time, assigning a value to your time.
And I know this is almost like the Brian Tracy show, but he really does make a lot of sense, this guy. One of the other things that he says is in terms of valuing your time and assigning a value to your time, is that if you want to earn $25 per hour in whatever work you do, find the things that you don’t need to do that you can pay someone else to do for less than $25 an hour.
Because that leaves you time to concentrate more on the things you can do and earn $25 an hour for. A little bit complicated, but that’s just another way of saying outsource mechanics or delegate tasks. But he assigns a monetary value to it and it really is a great perspective because it’s true.
If you look at every task that you do and you assign a monetary value to it, you can say we charge a client this much money for this work. So if I spend eight hours a day doing that work, we are making the maximum amount for my time. But if you say, “I spend one hour a day doing that work, $25 an hour worth of work.
I spend maybe three hours doing paperwork, and two hours doing something else,” and then so on and so on; well, if you’re spending all that time doing all those other tasks, one, nobody’s out there generating that maximum revenue. And you’re absolutely not and neither is anybody else.
Whereas, if you were out there eight hours a day, if you could get the work, eight hours a day at $25 an hour, then you should be making enough money to pay somebody less than that to do those other tasks. Now a lot of people say, “Oh, I’ll do that. I’ll pay somebody when I’m successful, when I’ve made it.”
Well, you will find yourself in a very limiting loop if you do that. You will find yourself doing the paperwork instead of doing the work. You’ll find yourself doing the mechanics instead of doing the core. And so start small by all means, but look for an opportunity to do this.
Start with something silly like maybe it’s not actually work-related. Usually it is. Usually it’s something like pay a part-time bookkeeper which is a great way to get started. Or pay someone to do some of your admin work part-time. Batch it up. Make notes about the systems and processes that need to be followed to do that thing. Maybe it’s just invoicing clients. Invoicing clients is really important.
Well, a lot of small businesses do it. A lot of small services businesses don’t invoice their clients in a timely manner because they’re too busy doing the core business. But the invoicing needs doing for cash flow. So give somebody a few dollars a week to do your paperwork for you, to do your invoicing. To print out the invoices, stick them in an envelope and stick them in the post. Or PDF them up and e-mail them.
If you want more free time, then look at tasks like dry cleaning or laundry or gardening. There are services that will do all those things for you for a very reasonable fee. But Pete and I are great proponents of outsourcing in all ways. But I do think this idea of however much per hour you want to earn, $25 or more or less, if you’re not doing the work because you’re doing work that has less value, you can’t do the work to earn the money you want to earn.
It’s that simple. So think that one through. Once you’ve got that one, then we can flip that on its head. As we say, if you’re in a service industry, then you charge for your time. And in the 7 Levers, we say one of the easiest ways to increase your profit is to put your prices up. But a lot of people have a problem with valuing their time or putting a value on their time.
And so in the context of the previous point, if what you do or what you can do, your specialist knowledge, will save someone some time, then work out how much time potentially and what that time might be worth to that person. Make sure that you judge appropriately.
So if you provide a service to people who should be earning $25 per hour and you save them an hour, you can charge them anything up to $25 for the work that you do because you’re giving them back the ability to earn that $25. That really is the idea behind consulting by the way. Consulting is the ultimate high-priced or high-value service.
Pete and I charge a lot of money per hour for our consulting. But in one hour, we can tell you things that can save you days or even weeks of research or trial and error. And sometimes, even years of experience we bring in to answer these questions. So investing in us as consultants saves you a lot of time and also, it saves you lost opportunity.
Because if you’re not doing those things, if you’re not doing those $25 or more activities because you’re busy researching and going through exercises trial and error, etcetera, etcetera; if you’re doing the other things, then you’re not running your business.
As consultants, we can save you a huge amount of time and give you back all those opportunities that you would lose by focusing on these other tasks. So we can charge a lot of money per hour for our time. So when you market your services to people, be sure to keep that in mind.
This is, as we say, the ‘what we will do for you’ bit of the sales pitch because by saving that person time, you’re giving them back the opportunity to earn money. Just keep that in mind. So, those are two perspectives about valuing your time. Both in making yourself more effective in your use of time, which is a slightly different take on time management because we can’t manage time, we can only manage how we use it.
The first part was about being more effective with your time and second of all, was in genuinely valuing your time. Whether it’s from how much you delegate out and what return you get on that and therefore return on investment or how much you charge if you’re a service-based individual or a service based business.
How much you charge for your time and your services based upon how much time you’re saving people. So hopefully, that was another thought-provoking episode for you. As I said, please do leave us comments in either on PreneurMedia.tv where all the show notes will be. All the links to things I’ve talked about and the transcripts and of video and replays are all available on PreneurMedia.tv for every episode of PreneurCast.
And also, and we certainly would like you to, go to iTunes and leave us a comment and a rating if you like the show on iTunes. We would very much appreciate it. We do enjoy your feedback. So that’s it for this episode. In next week’s episode, continuing this idea of foundational ideas to carry on and start your year with, I’m going to talk about investing in yourself and your team. See you in the next episode.
http://davidseah.com/productivity-tools/- David Seah’s site about productivity
Brian Tracy on Amazon – Brian Tracy has written a huge number of books on the subject of time management and productivity
Previous PreneurCast Episodes:
Episode 026 – Outsourcing
Episode 044 – Outsourcing: Core vs Mechanics
Episode 052 – The 7 Levers of Business Redux
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