Doing a Time Audit Saved Me from my Business
- Posted by Peter McHugh
- On June 18, 2019
My assumption is that we all start our own business in a field that we either know really well or absolutely love. The best scenario is a balanced blend of the two. But once the new car smell fades and responsibilities grow and change, the light of your love and passion for your work will begin to dim and fizzle, sometimes severely.
This will happen when you just assume that in order to be successful, you need to be busy. It’s exactly what I had thought originally. I remember thinking, “If I can just get enough clients so that I can tell everyone that we’re really busy, then my friends and family will be impressed.”
Straight up, there are two things that are very wrong with this mindset. Number one, your friends and family’s opinions are not at all any sort of reflection or meter for the worthiness of your business, and number two “being busy” is not tied to success.
Breaking the Busy Myth
When we were “busy” just as I had asked for, I noticed my patience would wear thin, my energy levels dipped, and my body felt the physical and mental symptoms of constant stress. My work became something that I was falling out of love with. I kept telling myself that I love being a creative person. And I knew that I love taking photos, making videos, and designing and launching projects, but I just couldn’t stomach tomorrow’s To-Do list.
The Busyness of Business
I grew with my business, just as we all do. In the beginning, I only had to do the tasks that I loved to do — ya, know, the creative stuff. But as we got busier and grew, my role expanded because the business chores expanded, too. These chores were usually dropped in my lap and would take hours of time and energy away from the creative duties that I would still have to complete afterward.
Burning the candle at both ends led straight to a tipping point where I had a serious sit down with Rhi to talk about what “the point of this all was.” It was hard. I was putting my own “baby” on trial as if it had purposefully slighted me.
The truth is, I just never stopped to actually figure out, track, and choose the tasks that were assigned to me. I just did what was in front of me and did it enough to feel “busy;” as if that was the goal. With that in mind, it was no wonder that I felt overwhelmed with tasks that didn’t bring me joy or necessarily help the business move forward effectively.
We decided that it was time to do a basic SWOT Analysis to gauge the general health of our business. This led us to create a time audit questionnaire to find out what will create more energy, what will deflate us, where we excel, and where we fall short.
The name of the game for your business is to be as efficient as possible. If you’re the one gumming up the tracks, then step aside and get help from someone who excels at that particular task.
I started by physically writing on a sheet of paper the daily work I had completed. The trick to doing this successfully requires writing down every. single. task. No matter how long it does or doesn’t (so you think!) take.
Why? Because for some reason, we tend to only track time if it represents a significant expenditure. In other words, we won’t record 2-minute emails or phone calls– but if we did, we would see that these tasks “not worth tracking” amount to 15, 20, maybe even 30 minutes of our day. That adds up.
Evaluate Your Efforts
Looking at your total time expenditure, break out your week’s worth of tasks into categories as follows:
- Tasks that could be completed through technology [thinking automation]
- Tasks that can be outsourced to contractors
- Tasks that can be better planned and batched together
Within these lists identify the tasks that you:
- Love to do
- Hate to do
- Spend zero time on
- Spend too much time on
- Frequently procrastinate about (and consider why that is. Hint: see #2).
Envision Some Strategic Support
Although you may not be at a point in your business that you can outsource tasks quite yet, it’s a good idea to have a roadmap for when you do get to a point where you can hire outside help. You’ll never be ready for help if you don’t have any ideas as to what they would do for you…this is a great place to start!
Cherry Picking is Key
As far as technology is concerned, there are an infinite amount of free websites and applications that can help you solve problems and be more organized. The key to using apps and automation is to choose the programs that you’re going to actually use. It’s easy to get caught up in signing up for subscriptions and memberships just to forget about them. Make sure that you’ve made good use of any trial subscriptions and commit to using the software before you decide whether it will be part of your business.
We use software to make bookkeeping simpler and project/team management more efficient because we found those to be our most time-consuming tasks.
Oh My, Organize!
Next, create a plan of action to re-organize all of these tasks. It’ll take some work to get organized, but you NEED to make these changes in order for you to maintain sanity and to allow your business to grow.
When organizing your schedule, make sure to batch similar tasks into the same time blocks. For example — we have set times that we check our email and social accounts each day. Rather than being at the whim of notifications or your email inbox – check these accounts on your terms.
This concept may take some getting used to, but it helps if you just give your clients, co-workers, and team members a heads up and let them know, “Hey, I’m checking my email at 10 am and 4 pm and I’ll be sure to respond accordingly.” Establishing this kind of schedule will tremendously reduce getting derailed by random messages and will reduce your daily stress.
Here’s a quick video from Tim Ferriss further explaining the concept of batching.
Finally, we want to leave you with our time audit questionnaire to help you complete your own. Fill out this Questionnaire and get your answers emailed to you so you can start to outline your plan of action:
The Time Audit Takeaway
Ultimately, how did doing a time audit save me from my business? Plainly stated, I was able to filter out tasks that drained my energy and created stress. I found wonderful team members to assign these tasks to, and I started using programs to automate tasks that I didn’t enjoy or became a waste of my time.
Taking the time and organizing my day to day routine opened up a whole newfound perspective on my business and it gave me more energy that helped me be a better business owner and creative entrepreneur.
Now, I can honestly tell you that I absolutely love my “job” in my business and I stay excited to crack into my task list every day!
It doesn’t take long to get organized, and doing so will save a lot of time and energy…so what are you waiting for?
You’ve got this!