Just like money, you spend time.
The further you travel on your entrepreneurial journey, the more valuable your time becomes. What are you buying with it? What’s your return?
What are you buying with that meeting? How will that book move your company forward? Which email response will pay you?
Michael Flynn, author of “Master the Key: A Story to Free Your Potential, Find Meaning and Live Life on Purpose,” shared some statistics with me on my podcast this week:
Gallup, the big research organization, recently released a study that revealed that 85% of employees are actively disengaged at work. Actively disengaged is the key phrase. They’re cognizant of the fact that they’re checked out. That’s costing businesses $7 trillion a year globally. Here in the U.S. the number is 70% of actively disengaged workers costing companies $500 billion. I want to stay in the U.S. for a second because also in the U.S. there’s 150 million give or take worker bees out there, right? 40% of that 150 million are pursuing a side hustle that they’re quote unquote “more passionate” about than their day job.
Most people go to work. They fill time. They punch out. They go home. And they never accomplish much. Unfortunately, the same is true for most entrepreneurs, even though there’s far more on the line.
In “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief”, I wrote about the importance of measuring your Return On Time (ROT). Here’s how to set up your day to maximize your time investment, and how to avoid the time bandits that usually stop us from taking action:
Set up two “work windows” in your daily calendar. Call one window “Focus time” and one window “Ship time”. Block an hour for each.
The specific hour isn’t important at first, because it will take some practice to master this technique anyway. But “Focus time” will usually happen in the morning, before the distractions show up. And “Ship time” will usually happen later, when you can get “in the zone”. I’ll give you a tool to help with that in a moment.
During your Focus time, your job is to create: write new blog posts, plan video scripts, chart out marketing campaigns, build new spreadsheets. These are primarily creative tasks, but that doesn’t mean you have to create art. Get things out of your head. Clear the logjam. Create.
My focus time is 4am. I write, because writing forces my brain to slow down. I type slower than I think, so I have to slow my thinking down to one word at a time. I have to pay careful attention to my language. It’s Tai Chi for my head. I’m able to keep the Focus window open for two hours when I’m at my best.
During your Ship time, your job is to complete the tasks that will move your business forward. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to identify your priorities. Then ACT: complete one thing at a time.
My Ship time occurs immediately after exercise. To maximize your productivity during the Ship window, you should take the time to get into Flow State first. Here’s my free guide on achieving and maintaining Flow State, which some people would describe as “in the zone”. Taking the hour before your Ship window to get into Flow State will multiply the results you get from the Ship window. As Abraham Lincoln wrote:
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Start ticking the items off your “Urgent and Important” list first, and then move to your “Important” list next.
At the end of the day, record what you completed, and how well you performed in your Focus and Ship windows. Like a professional athlete, entrepreneurs must review the game tape if they want to improve.
The Time Bandits, And How To Stop Them
Small Talk – get a door that closes. We think it’s our duty to be available to our staff at all times. But really, it’s our duty to train them not to need us. And if you’re not doing your work as CEO, they’ll be the first to suffer. Do everyone a favor and close your door.
If you really need to, make a little sign that says “Can’t talk – Text Me” and hang it from the knob.
Email – Todd Herman told me “There’s nothing in your inbox that will move your business forward. The only thing in there are people asking you to do something for them.”
I set up my laptop to block notifications by default; to start without the Mail, Slack or iMessage icons in the Dock. There are no little red circles demanding attention in the morning. I turn those on later, when Focus time is over.
You don’t need to set up an auto-reminder that you check email twice per day. Those are annoying. Everyone is busy. No one expects an immediate reply to an email. Answer them between your productivity windows.
Calls and Texts – Someone else should be answering your phone. Forward your phone to someone else during your productivity windows.
Don’t give out your cell phone number to anyone except family. And don’t open message apps like Slack before your Focus window in the morning.
Social Media – hire someone else to manage it for you. Yes, your company needs to be on social media. But no, it shouldn’t be you. Here’s who manages all social channels for Two-Brain.
Fatigue – If you’re tired, or burned out, or distracted, you won’t get anything done.
Making many decisions creates fatigue. Stress creates fatigue. Lack of fitness creates fatigue. Eating sugar, being dehydrated, losing sleep – these create fatigue.
Instead of fighting through three hours of distraction and half-assed effort, you’ll actually get more done if you take a 15-minute nap or exercise for half an hour. You’ll come back sharp and actually accomplish something that moves your business forward.
Guilt – As a CEO, your primary role is to think. And the larger your business grows, the more time you have to spend thinking.
That can mean more time behind closed doors; more time hiking or cycling or meditating to get into Flow State. And since these things appear to be recreational, it’s easy for your family or staff to think you’re “off”.
It’s important to explain these principles (and your responsibilities) to the staff around you. Remember: they have no context on leadership. They probably think you’re a millionaire who leaves at 3pm to ride a bike for fun, leaving them to do the work. Tell them what you’re doing, and how it benefits them. But don’t let the feeling that “they need to see me working hard!” distract you from doing the work that actually helps the team.
Remember: you’re not judged by how many hours you put in. Your success will not be determined by your martyrdom. You have to produce.