Oftentimes I hear business owners speak about the extreme number of hours they work as though it were a badge of honor. Although a strong work ethic is something to be admired, are business owners really making the best use of their time? Chances are, you’re wasting a significant amount of time each week. I want to use today’s entry to discuss exactly how much time is being wasted and how you can change their maximum efficiency schedule.
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According to a Harvard Business School survey, 94% of service professionals work 50+ hours per week. This doesn’t include the additional 20 – 25 hours that they spend monitoring their emails and taking phone calls outside the office each week. That’s already a crazy amount of time devoted to work, but it gets worse when we look at entrepreneurs.
The New York Enterprise Report conducted a survey that found small business owners work twice as much as regular employees. Additionally, 39% of respondents to a Gallup poll said they worked more than 60 hours per week. Does this sound like you?
Bank of the West surveyed business owners to determine what they perceived as the biggest challenges of business ownership.
A whopping 40 percent of business owners viewed avoiding burnout as the greatest challenge they would face. Similarly, 43 percent were concerned about always being on the job. The largest concern cited by 52% of business owners is the uncertainty of owning a business. Friends, burnout is a genuine concern. Always being on the job can have severe consequences. Let’s take a closer look at things.
RescueTime studied 185 million hours of working time in 2019. What they found was eye-opening, to say the least. The anonymized data they collected found that workers average a paltry 2 hours and 48 minutes of productive device time per day. We check our emails and IMs every 6 minutes. Similarly, 21percent of work hours are being wasted on entertainment, news, and social media.
This lack of productivity leads to 26 percent of work being done outside of the typical work hours. The American worker averages 1 hour of work outside of normal working hours on 89 days per year. 50 percent of that takes place on the weekends. According to the study, this harms your sleep, stress levels, and even the ability to communicate, collaborate, and complete tasks.
Further data from the IZA Institute of Labor Economics indicates that we all have “peak performance” times. Over a five-year study, the institute analyzed half a million students’ exams at 9:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. They found that the average student’s peak performance was at 1:30 p.m. But what about working adults?
As you can see in the timeline above, working adults tend to be the most productive early in their day. Different fields have different times of productivity. For example, individuals who work in support roles usually have their most productive time just before 8:30 a.m. Meanwhile, workers in the field of design are generally at their peak around 9:40 each morning.
I want to offer a bit of a challenge to the typical way of thinking that we, as business owners, have. You see, I get to work with business owners of many varieties across many different industry fields. These entrepreneurs range in the number of people they employ, from zero to dozens. Because of this, I get to see what works. I get to test each strategy in my own life.
One thing that I often get grief for from my close friends and family is that I do not work on weekends. No matter what, I take that time for family and myself. Work will still be there on Monday. So, let’s take a look at a few principles that can help you change your schedule for maximum efficiency and your own well-being.
Wherever you are, be there. If you want to work 70 hours per week, then do that. But make sure that you have determined when you will work each week and follow through with it. I’ve already stated that I don’t work on weekends. But in addition to my weekends, I have other times throughout the year that I don’t work. Each year, Miss Emily and I sit down and map out when we are taking vacations, when I am hunting, fishing, or camping, and when we will be working in our garden.
It isn’t fair to your team if you’re sitting in the office and thinking about home. Likewise, it isn’t fair to your family if you’re home but thinking about work. So, decide when you’re working, when you’re not, and stick to it.
Once you’ve determined when you’re working and not working, block out those times and dates. Let everyone know that you will be unavailable during these times, and they should not try to contact you. So, take the calendar and block out your vacation dates. Maybe you set aside a specific time for you and your significant other to have a meal together each week. If that’s the case, go ahead and block out those times for the entire year as well.
If you’re thinking, “Justin, I don’t plan that far ahead,” I’ve already heard that and any other excuse under the sun. Let me tell you; I’ve been to the deathbeds of a few different business owners. There are never any clients or business proposals by their sides. Do you know who is there? Their family. So, try it out. Decide when you’re going to work and when you aren’t, then block it off in your schedule and let everyone know.
As I already pointed out, we all have peak operating times. This is the time of day when you are operating at your best and getting things done. Therefore, it only makes sense to schedule the crucial tasks when you’re most likely to complete them. Going by the peak operational times of different professions, a dentist striving to reach $30,000 in revenue per day should schedule 80% of their revenue during the first four hours every day.
Likewise, if you’re someone who does physical labor, you should schedule your highest revenue-producing tasks early in the day while your body is still strong and rested. When I owned my landscaping business, we would always lay sod first thing in the morning on a Monday or Tuesday so that we weren’t worn down from the workweek.
On the other hand, if you’re a professional within a knowledge field, you need to align your highest revenue tasks with the times that your mind is the clearest. For myself, my highest producing time slot is from about 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. During that time, I want to have the tasks that will cause the greatest mental strain. So, look at your own life. Identify your peak performance time and schedule your highest priority tasks during that time. This ensures that you’re at your best when you need to be and that you’ve scheduled for maximum efficiency.
Statistically speaking, working on a task for longer than 20 to 50 minutes can be counterproductive. Therefore, it’s important to build in breaks to optimize efficiency. Taking a little time in between tasks can help you to refocus and reset, preparing you for the next task that must be done. I always block my schedule out from 8:00 a.m to 8:30 a.m. so that I have time to get into the office and set myself up for a successful day.
When you’re creating a schedule for maximum efficiency, decide when you’re working, block out the times you aren’t, and then block out your most productive times to match your peak performance hours. Once you’ve done that, block out some discretionary times in between tasks. This will allow you to extend a task if you need to, or it enables you to reset between tasks. After you’ve done all of this, schedule a few contingency blocks. You never know when life will throw a curveball, disrupting your schedule.
At the end of the day, I want you to write out the function you did that day that doesn’t meet your desired revenue production level. Let me explain. Let’s assume that I have my calendar booked up properly. My highest productivity time is aligned with my highest revenue-producing tasks from 10 to 2 o’clock. Now, we’ll say that I need to make $1,000 per hour for my time.
As I’m driving home, I think about the day, and lo and behold, I remember checking a Facebook post on the company’s behalf. That’s not worth $1,000 per hour. Now, I’m not saying that checking the company’s social media is beneath me, but I need to ensure that I’m hyper-efficient with my time. As a business owner, you can’t get caught up doing the good things at the cost of the best things. So, think about your day and compile a list of things that didn’t make the best use of your time and revenue requirements.
At the end of the week, you can see the areas that you’ve spent time that could have been used, pulling in maximum revenue. Once you’ve compiled this list, you can begin to separate them into different job titles and areas of responsibility. This will help with the next step.
Now that you’ve identified the things that suck your time away from your control, you can relinquish them to where they belong. You might need to hire somebody to handle each of these low revenue activities, but you will have ensured that you’re able to remain focused on the tasks that are befitting of your time’s revenue requirements.
Once you’ve completed all of the steps above, you will find that you have more time. Therefore, you can refine your schedule to reflect that. You will be amazed at how much more efficient your schedule is. I see this time and again with my own clients. This is a proven method.
There you have it, friends. Time management can be difficult. But if you take each of these steps, you can make your daily schedule much more efficient, improving your time at home and work while potentially increasing revenues. Identify when you want to work, block out the times that you don’t, align your peak performance times with your highest revenue-producing activities, schedule breaks, delegate tasks that don’t generate the revenue that your time is worth, and refine your schedule to include more of the activities that do.
Friends, life is hard, but life is good. I know time management can be frustrating. But it doesn’t need to be. Follow these steps, or even reach out to us for help. This is what we do every day, folks. With a little direction, you can make scheduling for maximum efficiency, at least financially simple.
If you would like to know more about this and the other business advising services we offer, schedule a meeting. The Financially Simple team is always here to help.