3 Ways To Better Time Management for Entrepreneurs
Is time on your side?
Whether you work for someone else or have your own business: everything comes down to time.
Time is money. Time is freedom. Time is life.
So, do you have a handle on how you spend your time? Maybe you feel like it's something that's hard to stop and pay attention to. I get it - I've been there - and I'm finding better ways.
Today, let's look at how we can better manage time, and get a better career / business / life in the process.
Getting Strategic About Time
The first thing to realize about time management is how embracing it, being strategic about it, can have huge impact on your life. Having more time and using it more wisely can save you money, it can save your energy, it can preserve time with your family.
I never considered these benefits until I read Laura Vanderkam's book "168 Hours."
168 hours are the number of hours in a week. This energetic read is a must if you've never stopped to think about how big a factor time is when it comes to work and happiness.
As you may know, I'm a huge fan of Dave Ramsey, the financial guru. Reading his books were eye-opening and taught me how to be more creative and strategic about money.
Laura's book did exactly the same for me - but her stories taught me to be more creative about time.
Among the insights this book gave me:
- I have a lot more time than I think. (I tracked it for a week and realized my Facebook checking was out-of-control, yo.)
- I appreciated my time more. I saw firsthand through my own experiment of tracking that there's an abundance of time in my life if I'm intentional about how I spend it.
- Spend your time on the things that matter, and don't feel guilt about spending money on things that help you preserve time and life moments that are more valuable. (Laura gives the example of outsourcing laundry and not feeling guilty that she doesn't do everything around the house! Her time is better spent being present with her family than doing the wash, and she's able to afford it - so why not?)
For me, this was the beginning of being a better time manager. Here are two more things that I'm currently doing that are making a huge impact for me and quality of life.
Kicking Guilt to the Curb and Embracing a Creative Approach
Confession: I'm a terrible meal planner right now. I've had years where I've been better, and both my husband and I cook (thankfully), but the past few months, dinner has been the daily question / stress / time and/or money drain. Not to mention, usually unhealthy. Maybe you can relate?
I read "168 Hours" in 2014 but it's taken years to even consider embracing Laura's suggestion of outsourcing some things in my life to have more control of my time. Her words were echoing in the back of my head when I recently looked at the state of our lives.
My husband Gus and I both work full-time. Gus is taking classes on the side too. Our time can be a very precious commodity some days - especially during the week. But since I've always tried to be frugal (hence: Dave Ramsey), practical, and intentional - I have to keep trying to cook all the time, plan healthy meals, and go shopping for all those groceries... right?
Well, maybe not. When I was willing to put aside all the guilt and the societal expectations I placed on myself about meal planning, I realized several key things:
- The Process Timesuck: Making regular meals was taking significant time away from my business and life at the grocery store, during cooking, and during clean-up
- Bad Food, Expensive Choices: Not having a plan was leading us to unhealthy choices and eating out a lot more
- Stress: We were feeling constantly stress and guilt over not having a plan, but feeling too drained and busy to create one
So, as much as I felt weird about it: Gus and I decided to do something CREATIVE for a week. We ordered a week's worth of ready made, fresh paleo dinners from a local restaurant to solve our dinner question for one week. They came with 5 meals for 2, a salad, and a dessert. I felt like we were indulging in a huge luxury and it was all I could do to say - let's just try it.
And what happened?
It was AWESOME.
- Stress lifted from our lives and minds almost instantly once we had a fully packed fridge for the week!
- We felt free to focus on our work and classwork with clear minds.
- I ate so much better and felt physically better. I had no excuse to eat out or eat poorly with so many great, appealing, and healthy options in the fridge. Right now, paleo chocolate chip cookies are calling my name from the other room.
- The food lasted us longer than a week! We froze a meal for the following week and I enjoyed some leftovers for lunches to boot.
- We got more time back with each other, because we weren't having to spend a ton of time on clean-up or making another grocery run.
- We probably spent about the same money or less on food, especially since it's cut down on our eating out significantly and we were able to stretch the meals so well.
Going forward, we're going to do this kind of thing every other week - which should work well for us and help us manage a very busy season in our lives a little better. Who knows if we'll always do it - but I'm grateful for the option now, and that I wasn't afraid to give it a go.
From this experience, I learned how important it is to live your own life on your own terms. I know this concept of ordering meals isn't something everyone would do or can do financially, but it's silly that I let all the burden of what everyone else does / can do / can't do keep me from making a great decision for our family.
I really wish I'd taken this leap about meal planning a year or two ago! If there's something you want to be more creative about in your life (or with time) but are worried what others might think or expect... I'd tell you to try it. You could be surprised how well an outside-the-box solution could really help. And why do solutions have to be one size fits all??
Working Smarter Not Harder with Toggl
I mentioned that when I read "168 Hours" I did a time-tracking exercise. That was pretty informal - pencil and paper.
Today, I want to tell you about Toggl and how it's transforming the work I do. Toggl is a free time tracking app you can access from your desktop and/or phone. It's a tool that's really helped me tackle time management and I'm sharing it just cause it's great - this isn't a sponsored post.
I'm using Toggl right now to track all my business time and tasks.
Toggl allows you track individual tasks by:
- Project (with Client)
- Tags of your choosing
And it'll run reports for you of how your time is being spent and you can analyze different amounts of time by using tags. So for example, I might set up "Sending Logo Directions to client" under a specific project, with a specific client, but then tag it with: Logo development, Client communication, Design.
This gives me opportunities in the future to track how I spend my time doing all of the following:
- Working on the project
- Working with that client
- Working on logo development
- Doing client communication
- Creating design
I'm even using it right NOW to track writing this weekly post. When you read to the very end, I'll include a screenshot of the final time it took to write, prep, and schedule this one.
Now what can this help me (or you) do? Amazing things! How about: making more money, finding more time for personal life, making more strategic business and life decisions?
Right now, I've been estimating my time on just about everything. And the thing about winging it is that I'm probably wrong, and I'm probably underestimating.
If I'm underestimating how long creative projects take me, I may be underquoting new proposals. And I may be over-booking myself - a lesson I'd only learn in the turmoil that would come up later.
If I spot delegatable tasks that are taking me way more time than I thought, I might be convinced and have real metrics that tell me the time is right to hire a virtual assistant.
If I realize I'm spending time on things that don't yield profit or meaningful results, I'll probably re-evaluate them and choose to focus on different things in my business or my life.
So by clicking a little "Go" and "Stop" button during my day, I can theoretically get paid more, find better work/life balance, create more efficient systems, and strategically plan my business (and my life) better. That's a pretty good deal to me.
What do you think? What might this allow you to learn and change?
Your Time is Now
To recap, we talked about tackling time a number of different ways today. Here's some of the resources/ideas I shared that have worked for me.
- Book: "168 Hours" by Laura Vanderkam
- Don't feel guilty about outsourcing or approaching your time differently - it's not a luxury if you can afford it and it helps you save in other important places
- Check out Toggl and/or consider starting to track your time and let me know what you learn from the exercise!
And that's it for me. As you see in this screenshot from Toggl below, I'm out in 1:36:46 minutes!