On average, how much of your time is spent working in your business doing the day to day tactical work involved in producing, delivering or selling your product or service?
For most business owners, when we first meet them, the answer is usually: ALL of it.
That’s a problem. Because as a business owner, the best return on the investment of your time comes from focusing your attention on planning, tracking, and managing results that improve and expand the way your business functions.
At EMyth, this work, the work that gets you closer to not having to do the tactical day-to-day work any more, the strategic time you spend understanding and developing the potential of the business, is referred to as “working On the business”.
If you are like most of my clients, the idea of doing this work and reaping the benefits is exciting. Finding the time to do so...well, let’s just say that can be a challenge. Running a business is full of busy-ness, and it’s not as if there’s a stack of time hiding somewhere patiently waiting for you to locate it.
Truth is, it’s not about finding time, you actually have to make the time.
You might be familiar with the adage “if you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always got.” And I’ll hazard a guess that you know, as I do, that it’s never as simple as picking a “just change that” card out of a hat and doing something differently.
Become a Detective in Your Business
As an EMyth coach, I encourage my clients to approach every issue with curiosity. Investigate. Make it your mission to discover what is already happening, how things are already being done.
Why? Because everything (every procedure, every action, every choice everyone makes in deciding what they do, or don’t do, throughout the day) you’ve already got in place is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re already getting.
Becoming an observer puts you in position to gain a clear, dispassionate understanding of the inner workings of your business, which is the first step.
So, what does that have to do with finding time to do the high-level strategic work “On” your business? At EMyth we suggest that before you look at your business, you first look at yourself.
The way to find and make the time you need to do the work that matters is to get completely real about how you currently spend your time. ‘Real’ as in observing yourself like a detective or a fly on the wall, moment by moment. ‘Real’ as in taking a look at where you are versus where you want to be.
Get Real By Writing Down What’s Really True
- Choose a day to write down everything you do from the time you begin your workday until you are finished for the day. Keep a running record of your experiences.
- Replace any idea you may have that you are good at multitasking (there’s no such thing) with recognizing “serial tasker” tendences: slip-sliding or jumping from one activity to the next without a plan.
- Make the commitment to take yourself off autopilot.
- Observe your actions with the attention to detail it takes to learn to drive a stick shift, before the feel of it all is internalized and gets so comfortable that changing gears (like reacting to one thing after another throughout your day) becomes automatic.
- Sharpen your attention. Notice every time you “shift gears” and make a brief note.
- Write the time you start each task, a brief description of the activity, and what time you finished. This will allow you to calculate the duration of each task or activity later. (Note: once you’ve written the start time of your day, you only need to write down the time you catch yourself starting to do something else. The stop of one is the start of the next.)
Now, Take a Step Back
At the end of the day, review each of the activities, each task and its duration, and ask yourself these questions:
- How much time did you spend working On the business (the visionary, strategic work) versus In it (the day-to-day tactical work)?
- Which tasks could someone else be doing, and how much would it cost you to hire or outsource them?
- Is it possible you could train someone on your team to take over this task? If so, what would you need to do to make that happen?
Also, check in with yourself: how far into your day were you able to keep the notations up? How long are you generally able to stay focused on a particular task before you are interrupted or sidetracked? Are you more likely to be distracted by customer or employee issues, or your own multitasking?
What did you learn about the nature of the interruptions that take you off track?
If you want to do the necessary strategic work for your business, you need to carve out uninterrupted blocks of time. That work, that time, is honestly the only way to propel your business forward toward the picture in your mind of what it needs to be.
Getting real about how you currently spend your time is a first step. The next is deciding exactly how you want to invest the time you’ve “found” in the things that make a real difference in your business.
To get started finding the time you need for planning, preparing, and thinking about how you really want your business to work, download The EMyth Time Log here.
What do you think? How do you make time to do the important work On your business? How do you stay on task? Let us know in the comments below.