In the previous article, I described how the “I don’t know where it all goes” fallacy regarding money kills the majority of the small businesses, and how to easily prevent it.
In this article, I’ll tackle the same excuse, but in regard to time. It is as fatal as not knowing where your money goes to. Or even more.
You see, being careless with your money is the after-effect of being careless with your time.
You didn’t prioritize going over your financial records, thus you ended up in a financial mess.
You didn’t prioritize your hiring process; thus, you wasted thousands of dollars hiring the wrong person.
You didn’t prioritize a background check on your business partner or contractor; thus, they ran away with a huge amount of your money.
You didn’t prioritize your marriage; thus, your wife went away from you – with 50% of your wealth.
99% of all the financial struggles come from being careless about how you spend your time.
How you use your time is crucial in business, and in life. Time is the ultimate field-leveling factor. Everyone has 24 hours a day, no matter how poor or rich, educated or uneducated you are.
You may have a great product, idea, customer service, tools, processes in your business, but if you are prone to waste your time, your competition will get ahead of you sooner rather than later.
Tracking Your Time
Paraphrasing Peter Drucker, you cannot manage your time if you don’t measure it. You can be very strict about it and jot down your every activity every few minutes, or you can have just a rough idea thanks to capturing your activities every few hours. But you need to measure!
Pick the middle ground. Being too strict can hamper you, if you spend too much time tracking every trivia. Being too relaxed can hamper you, if it gives you just the illusion of tracking your time, but in reality you give yourself slack. That’s even more dangerous than blindly wasting your time – you waste your time, but you have no awareness about that. You lie to yourself that you are on top of your time management.
In the short term, I recommend tracking every minute of your time and every activity.
For two weeks, write down every single task and action you perform, both in your business and your life. Processing emails, visiting a toilet, issuing invoices, preparing and drinking a morning coffee, meetings with your team and customers, filling the tax papers, lifting your kids to the school, scrolling on your mobile through social media, posting on your business’s social media, having a breakfast, preparing a contract – write down everything!
It will give you a snapshot of your life. If you do this exercise for the first time, it is very enlightening. First of all, you finally realize “where it all goes.” Secondly, you get a rough idea of how much time you spend on different aspects of your life. I was shocked to discover that everyday common activities, like dressing up, preparing meals, and eating them, cleaning, washing, showering, and physiological needs were consuming two hours of my time each day.
Also, the simple act of tracking your time will mobilize you not to waste your time. Just the awareness I need to jot down that I played a computer game or watched TV made me avoid those activities. And if you can avoid or limit them for a couple of weeks, you are giving yourself the living proof you can do this.
When I tracked every minute of my time for the first time, I logged in only 4.5 hours of gaming – because I felt guilty about it 😀
I downsized my gaming from 10-20 hours a week to 4.5 hours in two weeks. I proved to myself I could do it. After that first time-tracking exercise, I quit gaming cold turkey and haven’t gone back to it since 2012.
Of course, I found new time-wasters for myself, like watching a series on Netflix or Prime. On the other hand, those never rooted as deeply in my daily habits, as did gaming, which I practiced since I was 12 years old.
After the first two weeks, feel free to switch to a different measurement mechanism. Block time in your calendar, track it in a Google sheet, leverage apps on your mobile and your computer – whatever will give you the degree of control over your time you desire, and some track record.
But it needs to be the system you use consistently, like the Profit First system, for managing your cash flow.