Time – it's the one thing you can't buy more of. Once it's gone, it's impossible to get back. By the time you finish reading this sentence, you'll have less time in your day than when you started.
Time is sobering in this regard. But it's also the great equalizer.
We all have the same number of hours in a day and the same number of days in a year. As a business owner, your goal should be to make better use of your time than the competition does with theirs. By being more resourceful, you gain an instant advantage – one that can't be bought or retroactively claimed.
The 10-hour mission
This isn't an article about clearing your schedule so that you only have to work one day per week. That's not realistic. Instead, we want to focus on something much more manageable. The objective is to trim the fat on your daily schedule to save two hours per day.
If you can save two hours per day, that comes out to 10 hours per week. Assuming you work 50 weeks a year, that's a grand total of 500 hours per year – 13 complete workweeks (an entire fiscal quarter!).
What would you do with an extra 500 hours per year? This time could be reallocated to more important business tasks, or pocketed and used to pursue a hobby, connect with your family, invest in relationships, or improve your health and well-being. The options are endless.
It all starts with eliminating two wasted hours per day, which is far easier than most business owners realize.
Don't think you have two wasted hours in your day? Think again. There are numerous tasks, habits and processes that can be optimized, delegated, deleted or restructured. While it could require a little more time on the front end, the time savings compound on the back end.
Here are six opportunities to save time.
1. Use task batching.
You might think you're skilled at multitasking, but you would be one of the very few exceptions to the rule. The human brain isn't designed to efficiently oscillate between tasks. In fact, research shows that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after an interruption. This is where task batching can help.
Task batching is the process of grouping similar tasks together and knocking them out consecutively. This cuts down on interruptions and prevents your mind from shifting back and forth.
You can use task batching in various ways. Some people like to use one day for meetings, one day for accounting, one day for creative work, etc. Other people segment their days by dedicating one-hour blocks to things like email, blogging or cold calling.
2. Outsource content creation.
Most content marketers take one to two hours to write a 500-word blog post. If you consider that current best practices call for publishing at least one 1,500- to 2,000-word blog post every week or two, this means content creation takes the average marketer a minimum of three hours per week.
Let's face it: If you don't have a background in copywriting, you might not be the most efficient or skilled writer. You might be able to hammer out a pretty decent blog post every now and then, but it takes way too much time. This is time that could be saved if you're willing to outsource content creation.
Remember that time is money. If you know your time is worth $175 per hour, why are you hesitant to hire a copywriter who charges you $100 an hour? Take the emotion out of it. We're talking about simple math.
3. Reconfigure your smartphone.
Sorry to be a downer, but your smartphone is a timesuck. As useful as it can be, it robs you more than it helps you. Recognizing this is the first step. (Go into your phone's settings and look at your screen time statistics.) The next step is to reconfigure your smartphone so that it's less distracting.
This article by Coach Tony is one of the best resources around. His in-depth guide walks you through 45 different steps you can take to essentially disable distractions, neutralize inefficiencies and enhance productivity.
4. Kill meetings.
Would you believe that the average business executive spends 23 hours per week in meetings? That means you could be spending upward of four hours in meetings every single day.
What if you could reduce your meetings by one hour per day? That would free up five hours of your week right off the bat. Look for the meetings that add the least value and cancel them for two weeks. If you discover that you miss them, you can always integrate them back into your schedule. However, it's likely that your business will go on without missing a beat.
5. Use templates.
Stop wasting time on repetitive tasks. Create templates for anything you do multiple times per week. This includes emails, phone calls, social media posts, content creation and accounting tasks. Being able to copy and paste a template will speed up your workflow and minimize wasted time on low-value tasks.
6. Start work an hour earlier.
It doesn't matter if you're a self-proclaimed morning person or not – by showing up to the office (or logging in to the virtual office) an hour before other people begin trickling in, you give yourself a better shot at being productive.
Any alone time you have in the office has the potential to be twice as productive as time you have with others around. There's nobody to ask you questions, interrupt your flow or sidetrack you with distractions. It's time where you can dig in and get stuff done.
Have personal responsibilities that prevent you from showing up an hour early? Try waking up earlier and getting in this hour of productivity prior to going into the office. You could use this time to brainstorm creative ideas, invest in strategic planning, take a continuing education course, or anything else that improves yourself and/or the business.
Wait – aren’t we supposed to be talking about ways to spend less time working? Well, yes. But the objective here is to make better use of your time so you can leave the office earlier in the afternoon or evening. More distraction-free work time will help you achieve this goal.
Adding it all up
Not every one of these strategies is going to work for you. It's about finding the ones that will save you the most time and focusing on eliminating or optimizing until your schedule is as efficient as possible.
Once you've freed up two hours per day, or 10 hours per week, you must protect this time at all costs. If you're going to reallocate it to other business tasks, make sure you're rigorously vetting these tasks to ensure you're being as efficient as possible. If you use this newfound flexibility to be with your family, start exercising or pursue a hobby, be smart about how you follow through. (Does it make more sense to leave the office two hours early each day? Or should you work normal hours and take Fridays off?)
No two situations are the same. The first step is to strip away the wasted time and free up your schedule. The second step is to dutifully manage this extra time. Be smart and purposeful!