If you took a close look at the tasks you perform each day, how many would really be things you should be spending your time on? Not many is my guess. Read on to find out why.
It’s really easy to get caught up in doing stuff that seems like it’s real work.
But it’s not.
We’ve all found ourselves doing tasks that apparently no one else can do. Except someone else could do them.
‘Management stuff’ I like to call it, but that’s not what it is at all. To be honest it’s a waste of your time and it covers up the real issues you could be addressing in your business.
Where you spend your time indicates priorities to your team
In my blog, How Do You Find Enough Hours In The Day?on where CEOs spend their time, I alluded to the fact that where you spend your time indicates to your team the importance of different priorities.
If you have a sales problem, allocate more time and energy to sales. If you have a marketing and lead flow problem, allocate more time spent, and energy given, to marketing and lead generation issues. Just because you’re busy for eight or ten hours per day in your business doesn’t mean you’re productive. When I challenge some business owners on where they’re spending their time they argue with me until they’re blue in the face denying there’s an issue.
The truth is, we could all be better at how we allocate and use our time.
The killer waste of time for me in most advisory offices is email. Especially for the owners of the business.
Tom Cochran wrote about the cost of email in his 2013 Harvard Business Review article Email Is Not Free.
“My job description does not include managing email flow. Yours probably doesn’t, either. But it’s increasingly a big partof the work we do. In fact, in a single week last fall, I received 511 emails and sent 284. Almost 160 emails a day is ridiculous. Even if I was efficient and processed each email in 30 seconds, it would still take almost an hour and a half.”
Most advisers I know probably have numbers that are within a reasonable range either side of Tom’s figures. That is, some will answer a few more emails and some a few less.
Ask yourself some questions and try to answer honestly:
- How much time do you spend on reading, deleting, or responding to email? And I want you to count the time after-hours or on weekends too, responding from your smartphone.
- What percentage of your emails absolutely have to be responded to by you? (not as many as you first thought is the answer you’re looking for).
- What’s your hourly rate?
- What is a rough cost of the time you spend daily or weekly on email?
- If someone on a much lower hourly rate handled most of your email, what might you
- Save in hard cash?, or
- Free up in time where you could engage in higher value tasks? (i.e. more productive work, or more free time with yourself or your family)
I’ve told my email story before, because it was a game changer in improving my quality of life and improving my business. I’ll share it again in case you missed it and it’s application to you and your life.
I run a relatively small firm. I’m the only consultant/adviser in FP Advance. I used to pride myself on my do-it-all productivity, using technology. I’d work on a consulting job all day and try to handle email on the way home. I reckon on average I had 45 minutes per day of emails (i.e. probably less than you).
No problem right?
However, if I was unable to do my email after a days consult, because I had another commitment to go straight to, or I was simply knackered, then the next day I’d have an hour and a half of emails to deal with.
Now that is a problem.
If I miss two days, then I had to spend most of Friday answering emails.
My solution was to hire a Virtual Assistant who handles emails for me. I still get the same amount of email traffic, but she sorts it, deletes it, and answers lots of it. Every few days I have a call with her to hear about some of the important stuff that’s come in, but didn’t need to be forwarded to me directly. And of course there are a few emails that only I can deal with that she forwards to me. What a time saver.
The cost to you
What is the compound effect of all your wasted time spent handling email?
Let’s start with the lost free time.
Even if you never intended to replace email with a more productive business use of your time, you could take a lot of extra time off each day, week and month. That’s got huge value to you, although it’s not counted or measured anywhere.
The extra free time might actually lead to better quality thinking and generate an idea that pays you back big time. That’s not counted or measured either.
Alternatively, you could get rid of the low value email task and start spending more quality time on the big issues in your business:
- Hiring, training and developing your team
- Improving the client service experience
- Streamlining and simplifying processes
There’s a million more high value things you might choose to list here. These four were just the biggies I see all firms struggling with.
What is the opportunity cost of not spending more time on these issues?
It’s unquantifiable, but I suspect also massive.
Cochran goes on to say:
“To me, email is the most abused method of communication in every office environment. And the widespread perception that it has no incremental cost is chronically damaging workplace efficiency. The challenge we are facing isn’t an aversion to technology, but change. There is an entrenched level of comfort with email, making it habitual and a communications crutch.”
How are you spending your most expensive and limited resource; your time?
Maybe it’s time to take a closer look.
Let me know how you go.
If you’re looking for some great reading around the issue of improving your productivity and output I strongly recommend two books by Cal Newport:
Deep Work, an exploration of how knowledge workers (that’s us), can benefit hugely from eliminating shallow work and engaging in deep work.
Digital Minimalism,shows us how to pair back digital distractions and live better with less technology.
I enjoyed them both immensely!