Start by identifying the time wasters
According to a variety of workplace surveys, the biggest time wasters include email, meetings and visiting personal sites online.
Office chit-chat round the proverbial water cooler is also seen as a colossal waste of time. This is not exactly a revelation.
Before you can identify what activities are adding value to your business, your personal life and, more importantly, what activities are not, you need to know how you actually spends your time.
Keep a Time Diary for One Week
A time diary is like a food diary. Evidence has shown that people who keep food diaries are better able to lose weight and keep it off if they know what foods they eat and in what quantities.
By keeping a time diary, you can see what tasks you perform daily and the duration of those tasks.
Keep a time diary for a week to ten days. There are mobile applications that allow users to record tasks and the duration of those tasks using either their smartphones or tablet computers. But if you are looking for a low tech option, an analogue time diary using a pen and paper works just as well.
Analyse the Time Diary and Categorise Tasks
By analysing your time diary, you can get some insight into what tasks are eating up your day and if the outcomes of those tasks actually warrant the time allocated to them.
How much time do you give over to answering emails and what types of emails do you receive? How many meetings do you attend, with whom and who initiates these meetings? How much time do you spend on bookwork tasks such as capturing data to your accounting system? Besides work tasks, you also need to account for your personal time.
Prioritise Tasks Using the 80/20 Rule
What tasks are worthy of your time? The Pareto Principle, or 80/20 Rule, was popularised by Timothy Ferriss in his book “The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich.”
Ferriss, a serial entrepreneur, claimed in his book that he was able to reduce his workweek from 80 hours to just four, while increasing his income tenfold by using the Pareto Principle, an economic theorem, which states that 20 per cent of the inputs produce 80 per cent of the outcomes.
The 80/20 Rule helps you identify the tasks that are worthy of your time. These are the tasks you should prioritise because they yield the most benefit to you personally and professionally.
The 80/20 Rule Made Easy
Consider the clothes: what percentage of your wardrobe do you wear regularly? Most people wear 20 per cent of their wardrobe 80 per cent of the time, and 80 per cent of their wardrobe just 20 per cent of the time.
Much of your wardrobe is just taking up space and in no way adding value to your life. Applying the 80/20 Rule to your clothes, you could safely eliminate most of the clothes in your closet without affecting your sartorial success.
For example, answering customer queries is a time-consuming, low-yield task, while creating a FAQ document is a high-yield task that pays dividends in time that you might allocate to other high-yield tasks like planning for the future. Making time for forward- planning, you might then scale up your business as it grows and more likely avoid burnout.
But for many business owners, getting a jump on forward-planning seems a lofty aspiration when they’re so far behind with her bookkeeping that they often have to make decisions about their businesses relying on incomplete data or financial information that is weeks, sometimes months out of date.
Forward-planning aside, the books can be such a mess that they often run into cash flow problems because they have no idea what revenue is coming in and when to expect it. It is this lack of insight into cash flow that often spells trouble for business owners.