With all the competing business objectives and the complicated web of businesses I have created for myself, the one thing I can control is how much time I spend on each part of my business. I have been doing this with a time budget for a few months now and it has given me some clarity and focus.
Personal Reserve of Productive Hours for a Time Budget
I have a personal reserve of about 40-50 hours per week, which is what I have discovered to be both the enjoyable and sustainable workload for me.
When I make a time budget of what I want to achieve, it adds up to about 60 hours a week. I can recognize that this is not sustainable, and either reduce my list, or find a way to work smarter so that my involvement in some of these responsibilities is reduced.
Consultant for Gardenware.com.au
This will involve helping Nathalie with sales strategy to maintain and grow the profitability of GardenWare and to assist her to leverage her time better to be able to dedicate more time to her content strategy.
- 5 hours/wk
Develop Themes and Plugins for Wooassist
The idea is we will offer free themes and plugins to the Woocommerce store owners and then charge for support if they need additional help.
This is challenging at present because, although I have designed and developed a lot of sites myself, I am new to creating themes and plugins that other people will use where there are a lot more use cases that need to be considered.
I have also done most of the design and code myself and managed the projects a lot closer whereas for this venture to be sustainable, it needs to be scalable, so I am handing over a lot of the work I would normally do myself, to others (that are much better at it than me).
- 7.5 hours/wk
Blog 2 Articles a Week
This is not a huge feat if I stick to topics I know well and don’t get too caught up in the marketability of my blog posts. Sure, write for an audience, but I have decided to treat the audience like a close friend that I am writing a letter to. In fact it would probably help for each blog post to write Dear ……….. at the beginning of the post.
- 5 hours/wk
This is not my favorite job; I would much prefer to build useful themes and plugins for people to use and develop systems so that the customers we do get have an amazing experience and tell their friends how good we are. But in these early days, I need to experiment with a large range of marketing channels to get those first customers.
- 5 hours/wk
Responsibilities to IOTA Designer Planters
These take me about 10 hours per week. This is unavoidable as it’s not enough hours to hire someone else to do it. I would need to hire someone for 15-20 hours and then I would still need to spend 5-6 hours managing them, so I would only gain 5-6 hours net for a big chunk of my profit.
- 10 hours/wk
Managing My Team and Miscellaneous Tasks
I have a goal to limit myself to an hour in the morning on this, but it will pop up during the day as well.
- 10 hours/wk
And finally, I am a lifelong student and try to allocate about 10 hours a week to personal training. Most of this time feels almost like recreation as it’s reading and listening to business books and podcasts, which I love. ¬¬¬
- 12.5 hours/wk
That adds up to 55 hours, which is on the high side, but like I said only 45 hours will feel like work.
How to Stay Accountable to This Plan?
I have a friend whom I have an accountability session with fortnightly. We both wanted business coaches and found we were well qualified to coach each other, so we have been doing this for about 6 months now.
Recording the hours is something I have tried and failed a few times. Recording my hours in an excel spreadsheet at the end of the day just didn’t stick, and great apps like Rescue Time aren’t able to differentiate correctly between these responsibilities of mine.
The Time Budget Answer for Me was Kanbanflow.com
I found this app after hearing a lot about the benefits of using a pomodoro timer. Kanbanflow is very similar to Trello but has a Pomodoro timer built in. BTW, using the Pomodoro timer has been a complete game changer for my efficiency and effectiveness.
While it was easier to think of these tasks in terms of weekly, monthly was a better way to record them. I set up a Kanban board Called Nick’s Time Budget with columns for each month. I then created cards for each of the categories I had committed to and, to the best of my ability, did all my work for the month in Pomodoro sprints. Any time it wasn’t appropriate to use the timer, or I just plain forgot, it is very easy to update the time manually.
Interestingly, half way through the month, I was able to review the Kanban board and recognize where I needed to spend some more time to meet my objectives and where I had done too much or was on track. Just having the board there had a self-correcting effect on me.
I have since created a board for January with the objectives mentioned above.
I have made a few additions in the settings to this board that are working really well for me.
- I have added an estimated time which you can see on the other side of the / eg. IOTA has a budget of 40 hours per month and as of the 12th January I have spent 10 hrs 32 mins.
- I have allocated which day of the week I will focus on which task. So far this has been surprisingly enjoyable, as I wake up inspired knowing what I will be doing that day. I don’t always stick to it, but having it there provides a nice framework.
- I have started to add sub-tasks. You can see the check boxes. I will have to keep an eye on this, because it will become a mess if I have more than three incomplete sub-tasks per card, but so far so good.
Failing at Focus. Oh Well, Embrace it.
I hear a lot about focus on doing one thing and doing it well. I fail at this; I get too bored on one thing and I’m still not sure which basket to put all my eggs in. This may change as I get older and mature, or as one particular area of my businesses becomes noticeably more profitable and enjoyable than the others.
In the meantime, I have decided to accept my multitude of business interests and become really efficient and effective at handling all these in a way that prevents myself from being overwhelmed.
The answer for me has been a time budget. What do you do to keep you on track and accountable for where you spend your efforts?