In today’s world, everyone wants to feel like they have more time. We’re constantly bombarded with the message that we don’t have enough time. Whether it’s true or not, anything repeated often enough is believed.
It is a stressful way to live, believing you don’t have enough time to do what’s important.
As much as I’d like to magically create more hours in the day for you with the power of your numbers, I can’t. I’ve tried.
But what you can do is track how you’re spending your time and make sure that aligns with your goals, your natural rhythm, your zone of genius, and your financial and personal best interests.
Read on for a few ideas on how to do just that.
1. Unproductive rabbit holes
There’s the obvious: if you’re tracking your time and you realise you’ve lost an hour today scrolling social media (not posting for your business, not engaging for your business, but just mindless scrolling), you realise it and you can put safeguards in place to help not fall down that rabbit hole next time.
Awareness is the first step in changing anything.
2. Timing, not just time spent
However, it’s not about squeezing every ounce of productivity out of ourselves. Down time is important. I know that when I don’t get enough down time, I get quite grouchy. More broadly, we hear that downtime enhances our creativity, our ability to problem-solve, our health, and much more.
The magical thing I’ve learned from tracking my time is that when my daily down time is matters more than how much I have. Half an hour just before bed is a magical recipe for me. If I end up binging Netflix for two hours in the mid-afternoon, but skip my pre-bedtime downtime, I am likely to get grouchy anyway. I only know that because I’ve tracked my time, looked back at it, and matched it to my mood.
You might find that there are certain times of the day, week, or month that are better for you to:
- Meet others
- Do admin
- Do chores around the house
Aligning the timing of your tasks to your natural rhythm means everything flows more easily.
3. How long is the ideal time for you to do that thing at a go?
You could also find that you work best when you’re at a single task for just 30 minutes before switching, and so you can schedule accordingly, and possibly get a pomodoro timer to help you.
Or you might see that you really prefer a long, uninterrupted 3-hour block.
Undoubtedly, it’ll depend on the task.
You could find that you prefer to do your main bread and butter task for 3 solid hours at a go, whilst you get fed up with admin after 30 minutes. Once you know that, you can schedule accordingly.
You may prefer to put all your meetings together on the same day of the week, leaving the rest of the week for creative, deep thought.
Or you may find you thrive better when you get a bit of human contact each day, so you schedule one or two meetings every day.
Keeping track of your experience will help you find what works best for you. When you schedule according to what works best for you, you’re better able to maximise your productivity, making the most of your time.
4. How long should it take?
Another useful way to use your time tracking numbers is to simply get a solid idea of how long things actually take. Then you can schedule them in realistically.
When we put too much on our to-do list, and make too little progress, day after day, this is a recipe for overwhelm, being harsh with ourselves, and potentially a downward spiral.
You can plan accordingly if you know, for example:
- Making and posting a reel will usually take you 1 hour.
- Writing your email newsletter usually takes 2 hours.
- Your most popular service package for clients usually takes you 100 hours to deliver.
- Packing 10 orders usually takes an hour.
- Posting orders takes another hour, regardless of how many there are.
- Going to a meeting in person in the nearest city centre takes you 2 hours’ travel time plus the time of the meeting.
Plus, you now know better how to price your products and services.
So now you look at your to-do list with an in-person meeting in the city centre, and you realise that’s half the day accounted for. You can avoid adding too much to the rest of today’s to-do list, which stops the overwhelm, which makes you feel like you have more time.
5. Know when to outsource
Outsourcing may make much more sense financially – how do you tell when that’s the case?
Look at the time you spend on the task and compare it to the money you could bring in doing fee-earning work during that time instead.
For example, let’s say you get a quote for £650 per month for making content for your social media.
You know you’re currently spending 30 hours a month (1.5 hours per business day) on social media content creation, posting, and engagement.
You reckon the package you’re looking at will save you about three-fourths of that time. (You’ll still need to do your own engagement, do some initial setup work with your social media manager, and sign off on the content before it goes live.)
So, you’ll be saving three-fourths of 30 hours, which is 0.75 x 30 hours = 22.5 hours per month.
You’ll be paying £650 for this.
£650 22.5 hours £28.89/hour.
If your hourly rate is £29 or more, then you’re financially better off outsourcing your social media.
You can also be better off qualitatively because now it’s being done by someone who enjoys it, has the time, brain space, and inclination to create a strategy for it, and more.
5b. What if you don’t bill hourly?
Then you go back to your time tracking to find your hourly rate. This will be your total sales income divided by the total number of hours you did client work.
You never need to publish this, but it’s an important number to know. You use this to make sure you’re pricing your packages correctly.
Remember to check that this number is where you need it to be by running it through the hourly rate calculator.
So, to summarise, we covered using time tracking to help you:
- Avoid unproductive rabbit holes
- Aligning the timing of your tasks with your natural rhythm
- Scheduling tasks in blocks of time that suit you
- Know how long each task tends to take (which helps with both scheduling and pricing)
- Know when to outsource tasks
- Calculate your hourly rate if you aren’t billing hourly
If you’re ready to start tracking your time, I suggest finding an app that works for you. You can do it on spreadsheets, which is how I started, but well-built apps are generally less prone to breaking, will work across multiple devices, and are able to give you back your information in a variety of helpful graphs and charts.
Do you already track your time? Have you spotted any ways this helps you ease your load that I didn’t mention? Leave a comment and help others!
Hi, I'm Sara-Jayne Slocombe, and my mission is to help UK-based businesses run better. Everything I do is aimed at giving you the confidence to run your business using the power of your numbers.
If you loved this, be sure to sign up to my newsletter for more: