It’s 8:30 pm. Nicole has just arrived home from work.
Nicole owns a services business and she started at the office at 7:00 am this morning. Because it’s a school night, Nicole’s partner has already put the kids down for the night.
Her day consisted of two meetings, writing 15 emails, taking 24 phone calls, and troubleshooting a variety of issues, including recovering two disgruntled customers, once loyal repeat customers, threatening to take their business elsewhere.
Nicole has worked six weekends in a row, and the last family holiday was two years ago.
She hasn’t been to the gym in a week, and Nicole is sure that her friends are about to write her off after she piked on drinks, at the last minute, for the fourth time.
She has to submit her quarterly BAS in a couple of days. She is weeks behind in her bookwork so she is trying to make it up after hours. She now has three hours of capturing invoices to look forward to before she can truly call it a day, go to bed, and start this cycle of madness all over again tomorrow.
Nicole learns the following about how she spends her time in a week:
- A third of her work day goes to dealing with email queries from customers and her team.
- A third of her workweek is given over to attending meetings with her team. Nicole initiates 80 per cent of these team meetings.
- Nicole spends at least three hours a day on the weekends catching up on bookwork tasks. In the week that Nicole kept a time diary, she spent more time dealing with email than she did enjoying personal time with her partner, kids and friends. While she spent heaps of time meeting with her team, she did not enjoy facetime with any of her most loyal repeat customers in the week that she kept a time diary. The diary also reveals that Nicole pulled out of a barbecue on the weekend so she could issue invoices. Why? Well, the week that Nicole kept a time diary was the same week she was preparing her quarterly BAS, and she was way behind on her bookwork.
Nicole’s experience is not uncommon.
In the beginning, her business was tiny and Nicole could very easily do it all. But in the last two years, her business has quadrupled in size, yet Nicole still tries to run her business like she did when she started. Because she tries to do it all, the day-to-day tasks blind her to the big picture, which she, as the business owner, should be focused on.
Nicole has made the same fundamental mistake that many overworked, time-poor small business owners make: confusing productivity with effectiveness.
The number of phone calls you make, the number of emails you send, and the length of the meetings you attend are not indicators of how effective you are as an entrepreneur.
A hamster running on a hamster wheel is certainly being productive, but effective? No. The hamster is running, but going nowhere.
Nicole is certainly keeping very busy, but by trying to do it all she is spreading herself too thin and sacrificing her personal life on the altar of her business.
But all is not lost for Nicole.
To get her life back she needs to know how and where she spends her time, prioritise high-yield activities, eliminate or automate low-yield tasks, delegate the tasks she doesn’t have the time or expertise to complete, and very importantly, teach her team and her customers how to do without her.