It isn’t surprising that people complain about never having enough time in their life. The average person spends 38 hours every week watching TV. - 38 hours!
Come on. Is watching your favorite story line or series box set, really moving you toward your goal? If you’re studying to be an actor, or actress, then perhaps it is, but if not it's probably 38 hours of potential time you can free up to do what really matters. That one thing that could potentially transform your life, and shape you, into who you want to be.
In order to make that change though, we need to know what we’re spending our time on at the moment. For the rest of this post, we’ll focus on it from a business perspective, but you can use the principles and apply them to any part of your life.
For every task you do in your day, keep a notepad beside you, & make a note of it. List every task, and the total amount of time you spend on it. Don’t round it up to the nearest hour, get specific to how many minutes you spend on it. List each task as you do it, as we’ll come back to that later. That could be anything from making tea, updating your social media status, socializing at the water cooler, or even doing the work you’re paid to do. If you run a bigger business, get your whole team to do the same, then collate the results in a table.
I use a system that I discovered from a company called Shirlaws, for identifying how our time is spent.
After a month of carefully recording your time, take 3 highlighter pens, & mark each task as follows:
Red Pen - All tasks related to the business selling or servicing the customer, this includes marketing.
Blue Pen - All support activities, this includes any function the business needs to do, that aren’t directly connected to the customer. Includes finance, HR, Recruitment, etc.
Black Pen - Finally for all tasks that relate to strategic activities. These are any activity that move the business toward your goal. If the goal is increasing sales, the strategic activity would be developing new sales channels, rather than performing the actual sales task. Likewise, if you’re building a website to increase sales, this would be part of your support or infrastructure rather than a strategic activity. It’s what some people term, ‘Working ON the business, rather than IN the business’.
You’ll do this activity periodically, but you should ideally encourage your team to always be mindful of their activities, and highlight where they may be spending too much time on tasks that don’t relate to their own focus within the team. By repeatedly doing this, it builds a habit for everyone in the business to question WHY they’re performing a certain task, rather than blindly just doing it. If it doesn’t help them achieve their own assigned goal within the business, why are they doing it.
When you’ve done that across your team, you can collate your findings. At this point, you’ll probably want to look at adjusting your team roles, according to how much time each spends on activities that aren’t related to their part of achieving the vision.
If you read my previous blog post we talked about setting a vision for the business, and breaking it down into achievable chunks, taking a five year vision, and transforming it into daily goals. If you haven’t done that already you might want to do that now, in order to gain the most benefit from this blog.
Each member of your team will play their own part in achieving the vision. For example if your target is to increase sales, you might think that a finance department doesn’t get involved there, but perhaps people in your finance team will look at improving their own process, reducing the time taken to process invoices for example, so to create a more powerful & professional image to the client - thus generate more sales that way.
There will of course be sub-goals that encompass all areas of your business that help you achieve your vision. It’s at this time, we allocate roles according to our findings in the Red, Blue & Black role analysis exercise.
A strategically focused vision will have many paths which all lead to the same five year vision. It’s the ‘Black time’ that’s focused on setting up these paths, then putting ‘red time’ focus on delivering them, and ‘blue time’ focus on supporting the delivery of them.
If it’s your role to run the business, or perhaps run a department of the business, your time should be primarily spent in the Black time, developing strategies for your team to improve their performance, and move the whole team toward the shared vision for the business.
Coming back to my earlier point where we listed activities according to when we performed them. - It’s important we focus on one activity until it’s complete. Multi tasking regardless of the myth about gender is a complete myth. You may be able to do it, but it’s scientifically proven, that you won’t do everything as well as, or as quickly as you could if you’d done those tasks individually and in isolation, taking each one from the start through to its completion.
In multiple trials, investigations founds it took an average three times longer to complete a block of tasks than if the tasks were focused on, working on a single task through to completion. That’s because it takes time for the brain to focus on something new, in effect you have 'transition time' and ‘task time’. The more tasks you add, the more transition time you introduce to the process.
Around 80% of your time should be focused on your primary color. That might mean if your main role is to make sales to new customers, then 80% of your time will be on the ‘Red time’. Likewise, if your primary job is to process invoices in the finance department, then you shouldn’t have to be updating new customers about when their order will arrive.
The same can be said for our personal life. If a task isn’t taking you toward your goal, then get someone else to do it. Why are you spending all of your spare time cutting the grass, if your goal is to find somewhere to live. Find someone else to do it, whose own goal is to cut grass, and perhaps they’ll know of the perfect house for you, but if not you’ll have freed up most of your time to focus on your own goal - The goal that will take you leaps forward.
We hope you’ve received some value from this article, and some information that you can use to move forward toward your vision.
If you’re confident that selling your business is the way to go, or perhaps you’re undecided, it’s important to consider the significant amount of effort and resource you’ll need to make it happen. It’s a full time job. - The time investment alone is enough to put anyone off. So imagine for just a minute, that you didn’t need to do all of this work. What if this could be done over the next 3 - 5 years (by someone else). Everything we’ve listed in this article, is what you’d need to do, if you were selling through a business broker, or direct to a buyer.
Unlike other private equity firms, our focus is on growing businesses at the smaller end of the market. We’ve worked in, and grown our own businesses in the exact same fields you work today. We’ve spent years coaching and supporting small businesses just like yours, developing their teams, and helping them to grow, but now, we’d like to help you.
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