Time is money. Are you making the most of it?
October 24, 2018 / Productivity / Greg Atkinson
Between eating, sleeping, taking care of the family and the house, and miscellaneous chores like recycling and paying taxes, there are precious few hours in the day when you can dedicate to work – the kind of work that makes money. In this post, we’ll discuss why the old adage is true (truer than ever, in fact), and provide tips to help you improve your time management.
Here’s why time is money:
1) Taking more time than necessary to do one thing means you won’t get to the next thing
This point is especially pertinent for freelancers and business owners, but even salaried employees should be aware.
As a freelancer, you’re generally quoting your client a certain amount of hours upfront for each project. This means that if you take more time than you quoted for to complete the project, you’re losing money. You’re eating into your own time – time you could be spending on another client’s paying project. So, the slower you work and the longer you procrastinate, the more of a hit your bank account takes.
For business owners, you should be tracking both your own time, and your employees’ time. If people are waiting for you to issue new instructions or feedback, you’re creating a bottleneck. And the longer your company spends on a project, the longer it’ll be before you receive payment from client. With regards to employees, research shows that the average person is only productive for 2 hours 53 minutes of their 8 hour workday. This means that you’re almost certainly paying for people to socialise, watch cat videos, and other non-productive activities during company hours.
As an employee, you might think that the longer time you take to do something, the better for you. After all, you’re not charging by the hour, and there’s always more work to do when you’re done with something. However, this is a very short-sighted view. If you manage to complete tasks quickly, you’ll likely be given more work. And what better way to stand out and be first in line for a raise or promotion than by showing exceptional output?
2) Your brain gets distracted by unfinished tasks, which impacts your current task
The Zeigarnik effect is a very interesting psychological phenomenon that causes your brain to obsess over something that’s incomplete. For example, if you get called away to a meeting while you’re halfway through compiling a report, you may find that you keep losing concentration during the meeting, because your brain constantly drifts back to your half-done report. This means that you’re not operating at peak efficiency during your current task, causing you to take longer, and make more mistakes.
The more things you have on your plate, the more distracted you’re likely to be. So, counterintuitively, the more items you complete on your To Do list, and the more quickly you do them, the more time and energy you’ll have to dedicate to other things.
3) If you’re working when you should be resting, your productivity will suffer
While it might seem like putting your head down and slogging away for hours on end is the answer to getting more work done, this actually isn’t true. In fact, rest periods (whether it’s a 15 minute break, stopping for lunch, taking a nap, or getting a good night’s sleep) are critical for your performance. Tired people make more mistakes (which means redoing tasks repeatedly), have a harder time learning new information, struggle to remember information, have lower levels of creativity, and make worse decisions. So, if you’ve procrastinated all day and are suddenly burning the midnight oil, know that the final product will likely be a pale imitation of what you could have produced, with better time management.
Now, that we’ve ascertained why good time management is so important, let’s look at the top 5 tips for making the most of your time:
a) Schedule dedicated work time
Uninterrupted work time is one of the best favours you can do for yourself. It takes your brain up to 23 minutes to get back in the zone every time you’re interrupted mid-task. This means that every time you stop what you’re doing to take a call, answer the door, or reply to a text, you’re wasting hours of your work day in the liminal zone of ‘What was I doing again?’ To ensure you get things done, you should make a habit of scheduling a dedicated, uninterrupted period of time to work.
The Pomodoro method is a great tool for time management. It makes you work non-stop for an extended period, then take a short break. This allows you to take advantage of your ultradian rhythm (your natural energy cycle), to work from when you’re fresh to when you’re fatigued, then rest. Working in cycles means you get plenty done, while never driving yourself to exhaustion.
For routine and repetitive tasks – templatise. For example, if you find yourself sending out regular reminders to clients asking for something, keep the bulk of the email as a template. The introductory niceties, details of the project, and closing paragraph can stay exactly the same. You only need to change the date and/or the specific information requested. As a business owner, providing templates for your staff also cuts down on the possibility of mistakes or inappropriate content, and lets them get on with more important tasks. Additionally, it helps to strengthen your CI or corporate identity (more on the importance of CIs in this post).
You can replicate the benefits of using templates in other forums by setting up auto reminders or auto payments. If you regularly pay a supplier a set amount, you can set this up as an auto debit on your credit card, for example, instead of hoofing it to the bank to deposit a cheque every other week.
c) Get better equipment
Many people and companies, especially if you’re just starting out, try to get by on minimally viable equipment. You might be content to work from an outdated machine, or decide not to invest in a certain suite of software. While you should always be careful to stay within your budget (tips on how to do so here), you should invest in the best equipment you can afford.
Whatever line of work you’re in, having fast, good, reliable tools ensures that you’re making the most of your time. The time you’re waiting for your machine to start up, the time you’re figuring out workarounds because you don’t have the right software, the time you’re spending in traffic to borrow something from a colleague – all time wasted. For more info on tools that help you manage your time better, check out this post.
d) Limit social media time
Perhaps one of the biggest time vampires of the modern work day is social media. Mindless scrolling through other people’s breakfasts, other people’s pets, and other people’s holidays is not only a tremendous waste of time, it’s also a cause of depression. While actual, meaningful interaction with people you care about (like calling up a nearby Kalido contact for a spontaneous lunch date) is good, prolonged and isolated mindless scrolling is bad.
Research shows that the average Millenial is spending almost 6 hours per day on social media. Gen X clocks in at 7 hours a day. And Baby Boomers at 4 hours. Collectively, that’s 17 hours every day we’re throwing away!
To help you keep track of how much time you’re spending on social media, apps and new features like the Screen Time function on iOS12 can show you exactly how much time you’re wasting, so you can impose restrictions on yourself.
e) Minimise unproductive travelling time
Traffic, like death and taxes, seems to be unavoidable. But there are ways to minimise unproductive travelling time (more on productive travelling time in a bit).
If you’re driving, consider leaving home 15-30 mins earlier in the morning, and 15-30 mins later in the afternoon. By making a minor adjustment and staggering your departure time away from peak traffic, you might be surprised at how much better the roads are. You might also want to check out a traffic map or download a navigation app before you set out. You might have been taking the same route for years, but a slight adjustment to your usual roads could help you avoid the worst congestion.
If you’re taking public transport, you can turn your commute into productive travelling time. Again, instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media or staring off into the space above a fellow passenger’s head, you can use the time to work, or learn something new. Use the Notes function on your phone to store some ideas, or draft a report, or even just to plan your grocery shopping. Answer some emails. Or look into some podcasts and audiobooks. These are often entertaining and informative, and you could learn a new skill without taking up any of your valuable work day or evening downtime.
Of course, one of the best ways of avoiding unproductive travel time is simply to travel less. Find a client or collaborator nearby on Kalido, and you could pretty much walk to your next business meeting.
Now that you know why good time management is crucial to your bottom line, take a critical assessment of your work habits, and see if you can make any positive changes. After all, making more of your time could directly translate into making more money.