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  • Lindsay

ROI on Time

In the business world people frequently talk in terms of money. What’s my budget, can I afford this and what return am I likely to get? But it surprises me how few people put the same emphasis on their time. Using your time more wisely could actually help you to become more profitable.

In my marketing book “How to Write an Effective Marketing Plan” I talk a great deal about the return on investment of time. People often tell me that they don’t have time to plan. But you shouldn’t really think like that when running a business. What you should consider instead is what you want to achieve and then you should work out exactly how you’re going to achieve it, making sure that every second used and every pound spent somehow goes towards reaching those goals. Because if you’re spending time on things that don’t move the business forward, what return are you ever going to see?

Finding the Time

I once worked for an amazing MD who closed the doors at 5pm sharp every night and you had to be out of the office not a second later. You had to have a really good excuse if you wanted to stay late. He said if we couldn’t do our work and meet our deadlines in the forty hours per week we were paid for, then there was something wrong and we’d have to discuss it with him. It certainly limited chit chat during the day. We all focused far more and we were an incredibly motivated team. We used those eight hours each day to the best effect as we knew we had to get all our tasks done that day no later than 5pm, and there was no way around it.

This was a hugely positive experience for me. He was a really inspiring boss and this was a refreshing approach that we all appreciated. I had been used to working long hours in all of my previous roles, but this role gave me some life back. I was still just as good at my job and I was still getting lots done, but this approach (as he had so cleverly identified) made all of us more aware of how we spent our time.

Rather than doing more hours to fit more in, isn’t it better to work fewer hours but be far cannier about the tasks you’re doing?

I’m going to say it. It’s cheesy but it’s true: work smarter not harder. There is always a way to make time, but you have to allow yourself the chance to take a step back and be honest. If you don’t stop to catch your breath then you’ll never have to opportunity to grow. You’ll keep running on that hamster wheel, perhaps achieving something, but it will unlikely be your full potential.

So take a step back and look at what you’re doing. What tasks could you omit? What could you delegate out, either to other team members or an outsourced resource like a Virtual Assistant?

Then you need to make the big decisions. What is it you actually want to achieve? It’s the start of a new year, so let’s get specific. What would you like the turnover of your company to be by the end of this year? What do you want things to look like in December? Write down exact goals and then start planning how you’re going to achieve them.

In my book I recommend that people spend a relevant amount of time planning that is aligned with their objectives. If you want to grow your business to a £50K turnover then you don’t need to spend anywhere near as much time planning as if you want to grow it to £50M. If you’re a small business, in half a day you could probably come up with a really good plan of action that will get you on the road to success. Any more, and you might be overthinking it. You need to say to yourself: if I spent 4 hours planning to achieve £10,000 more turnover, isn’t that worth it? Or even 8 hours planning to reach that. I’d say that’s a return on investment.

Time is a hugely important asset but one that is so often taken for granted. Imagine every second was a pound coin. If you wouldn’t fritter money away and you keep an eye on your budget, why can’t you do the same for the hours in the day? Start identifying where you’re wasting it and be smarter about how you use it.

By thinking about the return on investment you expect on your time, you’re more likely to see results. Now that’s good business sense.

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