I run a mastermind called Build Live Give Club and see first hand the struggles busy business owners face with maximizing their time. Time is the number one asset for all business owners and there are so many theories out there on how to get more time in your day, it can become confusing and overwhelming.
I am a self-confessed productivity junkie, spending 20+ years looking to improve my daily habits. I will not bore you with all the details, however, I have read and listened to every expert on the planet, I was trained at one of the best companies in the world and I was a productivity facilitator for FranklinCovey – the no1 productivity training company in the world.
What I am going to take you through will not work for everyone. Yes, it works for me, but you and I may be very different in our preferences and styles. My ask of you is to read through the following content and pick one habit which will have a positive impact on your saving time.
Habit One – Meditation
I listen to 2+ hours of podcasts a day (2x speed) and so often I hear successful people say meditation is an essential part of their daily routine. I was skeptical, but it has made a massive difference to my life.
The first thing I do when I get up every morning is finding a quiet corner in my office and meditate. I use the Headspace app.
At first, every part of me wanted to check email, chat and social media. This habit sets me up for success every day.
My business partner was struggling with a new baby and a growing startup. This one habit gave him an enormous benefit.
Habit Two – Daily reflection
I have completed the 7 habits for highly effective people program on 3 occasions. Each time I tweak my personal mission statement, clarify my values and set my goals for the next 5 years. This is well in good, however, if I don’t review them on a regular basis I can drift from what is most important to me. Maybe you have experienced this before yourself.
To help me stay aligned and living my values, I created a daily reflection. This is an outline of what I have in mine – this is personal and will not be the same for everyone.
- Life goals
- Mission statement
- Lifelong friends
- Bucket list
- Picture of success
- 5-year goals
- 12-week goals
- Ideal week
- Favourite books
- Favourite quotes
- Personality profile
I don’t read it word for word every day. The key point is the better you know yourself and easy it is to help others.
A club member was living a double life. Saying to me they wanted to do XYZ and their behaviors were very different. By implementing the daily reflection it became top of mind and their behaviors reflected the change.
Habit Three – Projects
Many business owners I work with are ‘ideas’ people. They are brilliant at coming up with great ideas. Many of them are ex-corporate people who love the freedom of running their own business and not be limited by global directives.
With this freedom comes great responsibility. You have the freedom to come up with great ideas, however, your capacity to implement them is potentially less. You don’t have the big team and many of the hats are worn by you.
To help prioritize we help club members to come up with 3-5 key projects which will deliver significant value to their clients/customers. My clearly articulating these projects you are saying no to other fewer priorities.
So each morning I allocate 90 minutes to working on projects. I do it in the morning as this is when I am at my best, others do it at night.
I have a list of deliverables (no more than 5 at any one time) which I spend 25 minutes solid working on, with a 5-minute break. I do this three times every working day. It is blocked out in my diary and I don’t have anything else on.
Stephen Covey called this the ‘big rocks’ in life. I make sure I am doing the highest priorities first which will help me deliver my plan. All the small rocks can wait to later in the day or my Virtual Assistant (VA) can solve them.
A club member was constantly changing their priorities each week and they had high staff turnover as they were burning them out. We implemented the 5 deliverables per team member and got them to jointly prioritize the order. This resulted in their webinar getting launched with 4 new paid clients.
Habit Four – Ideas app
As discussed in the last section, ideas are what business owners are normally best at. So how do you manage the constant flow of ideas with getting the right actions down as projects?
I have implemented a simple process which works well for me – as I have too many ideas I would never be able to implement them all. This is probably why I love running the Build Live Give Club as I can help owners come up with great ideas.
But I still need to run my own business, so this is how I handle it. When I come up with an idea I fill in an ideas app – a template I use in a platform called Podio.
The trick is to review the idea in 90 days time – automated task set up so I can’t forget it. If it is still a great idea in 90 days it goes into the project and deliverables process mentioned above. About 20% of the ideas see the light of day.
An idea really comes when you expect it, however with this habit you systematically get to review it. The whole team uses the same process for whilst we are disciplined in implementing, we are still encouraging creative ideas.
The same club mentioned above in projects used this habit to reduce staff turnover as the goal posts were not changing each day.
Habit Five – Daily tasks
As mentioned before, there will always be tasks you need to do. A task for me is something which takes no longer than 5 minutes to complete. Here are some tips which have helped me improve the quality of completing tasks
- All tasks are in one master task list. I use voice, Siri and last resort typing to get all my tasks into my electronic task manager called Podio. I struggled for years removing yellow sticky pads all over my office, car etc.. you get the picture. All also have my VA take the needed content from an email and put it on my task list. I can never forget to do something!
- I have a maximum of 5 planned tasks I need to complete each day. I go in each morning and prioritize these. Having lots of red outstanding tasks is draining. Be honest with yourself and save a lot of mental anguish
- I use repeating tasks. When I complete a successful task for the 1st time I make a call as to whether I create a repeating task. Again I am reducing the reliance on remembering to do something. All I have to do is go to my task list each day – Simple. I use this for all my team and have them list all repeating tasks in one place. Makes it easy when training someone new into that role
- I regularly review my tasks using these criteria – Eliminate, delegate, automate and DO.
One club member mentioned the enjoyment of completing a day whilst the feeling of overwhelm. They were able to reduce the hours of work and spend more time with their family as they were not chained to ticking off the never-ending list of tasks to do.
Habit Six – Automated workflows
Automated workflows sound scary, but believe me, it isn’t. We all have a way of doing a better group of tasks. Take writing a blog as an example. You need to do drafts, edit it, illustrate, publish and syndicate as an example. For some of my club members, this is open to chance and happens in multiple systems using multiple platforms – no wonder it breaks.
So how we get around this is creating an automated workflow. This is an example of a blog.
When the status changes from idea to draft, the editor automatically tasks to edit the content. No email, no manually creating a task – it is all automated. They cannot miss it.
One club member was able to improve the effectiveness of their VA by implementing this workflow. They realized they often missed steps in the process and forget to tell the VA to do something.
Habit Seven – Sales
In the book, Ready Fire Aim by Michael Masterson highlights the number one role for a business owner sub $1m in revenue is selling.
My definition of selling is moving a client from their current position to a better position as easily as possible.
Often when I start working with a club member they have low sales. I ask them to tell me the actual time they spend selling each week and they realize it is not enough. They are often spending time on marketing tactics which are replacing the time to sell.
I block in a specific time in my default calendar (more on this to come) to sell.
I could write a whole blog post on the topic of selling given my eighteen years at one of the best sales companies in the world, but this is not the point of this blog.
Here are some key points to remember:
- Role play sales call with your coach/mentor or peer to improve your skills
- Use a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) for follow-up
- Have set triage questions you ask each time
- Use a VA for pre and post-call actions
- Use video post call to create a point of difference
A club member 3x their sales and started paying herself a salary by closing more deals. All the excuses and self-doubt was replaced by a process which delivered. Too often I see people winging their sales process.
Habit Eight – Default week
By now you get the sense of having a sequence to your daily habits and you taking control of your time rather than reacting to someone else’s schedule.
When I left corporate I threw routine out the window and after wasting close to 6 months working on other people’s agendas, I set up a default week.
This is a simple exercise and helps to embed all the good habits so you are doing them 1st.
I work with my club members to map out on a piece of paper (low tech 1st!) each day they want to work and put in the following categories.
- The major roles in your life. For me, it is Husband, father, son, business owner, health, and finance. I block time in with my specific focus based on my daily reflection goals mentioned earlier.
- My team. Work in progress (WIP). Development and standups
- The key partners and suppliers I am working with
- Projects and deliverables
- Task time
- Sales time
- Build Live Give club calls
- Travel time and buffer time
I don’t put tasks into my calendar – they live on my task list as mentioned before. I schedule a block of time.
I use appointment core for people to find free time to meet with me. I have Tuesdays and Wednesdays available only. My VA inserts the correct travel and buffer time so there are no clashes. I can not tell you the time it saves and the productivity gained.
Every club member who has implemented the default week see a spike in implementation.
Habit Nine – Email
When facilitating the Franklin Covey course 5 Choices I learned email is the new smoking – completely addictive. We all have a version of this modern addiction. If you send an email at any time of the day, just check how long it takes for someone to open it. I will not get on my soap box as it will not add value, what I will do is show you how I dealt with it. Ps, this also can apply to messaging apps like slack as well!!
- I do not do any incoming email. My VA does it all. She checks it every 15 minutes
- I have all notification and alerts turned off
- She either completes the action or tasks me to do it which I get in Podio
- I have a label for reading emails which are not time specific. I check this once a day – normally at the gym
- I have created filters to either delete emails or put them into the correct label – like TO READ
This is an example of my inbox whilst I was writing this. All the emails had been triaged. I can not quantify the time this provides me to create content.
Habit Ten – Tools
I am a self-confessed tech tool junkie. I had 500+ apps on my iPhone at one stage and I have used and tested 1000s of tools over my career. I have come to realize there will always be something better to try and you need to cull and cull hard. This is my list of essential tools after wasting too much time in getting here!
- Meeting planning = Time buddy
- Passwords = Lastpass
- Habit tracker = Way of life app
- Focus = Timer
- Podcasting = Downcast app (2x speed a key)
- Notes = Writing pad
- Content = Flipboard
- Replacement text = Text expander and keyboard shortcuts iphone
- Voice to text = Siri
- Image capture = Turboscan
- Phone = Iphone and favourites
- Voice to task = Say it mail it
- Task = Podio
- Video conference = Zoom
- Screen recording = Screenflow
- Training = Reflector 2
- Video play = My speed or native 2x
- Email address = Silk prospector
- Bookmarks = Chrome
- Currency conversion = Currency converter
Habit Eleven – Shareholders
Some of you reading this post have a business partner. Others who don’t potentially have a life partner. I have both. I will list the habits I do to keep both happy!
- We keep a repository item of all key conversations. This is private between myself and the other person and helps to quickly avoid miss information.
- WIP. We have a structured template we use each week. We are casual in our conversations, however professional in covering the most important topics for the business
- Decisions. We have a decision register in Podio. When either partner has a key decision to sign off it is put into the register using a template. They are them discussed in the WIP. This removes the need for unnecessary misalignment on key decisions
- Year in review. We fill out a template each year. Help be realistic and set projects for the upcoming year. If you would like a copy of the template please email TEMPLATE to [email protected]
- 12-week plan. We set 5 SMART goals for the 12 weeks. Again we review these each week in our partners WIP
- Assets. We have a register of all assets – you never know when someone will come knocking on your door to purchase or invest in you
I often have the discussion with a club member about the alignment of goals. One member was having difficulties with his marriage because they were arguing over the financial commitments he had promised to deliver each month, post-corporate life. They sat down and agreed to a monthly amount into the joint bank account. It gave him a goal and it gave his wife some certainty.
Habit Twelve – People
People are your greatest asset in small business. I am amazed at how little time is spent on this. I ask each club member to add up the leadership time they have spent over the course of an average week and the result is normally horrifying. They spend a disproportionate time on email and not leadership. This is why I have left this habit to later, as you have learned ways to save time to put into this habit.
Coca-Cola put me through so many leadership training programs I have lost count. Each club call I draw on this wealth of experience. Their people practices were brilliant. I will go through the key habits you should be doing as a minimum
- Weekly WIPS with your key people
- Daily standups with your project person/VA. How can you help them clear blockages to implementation
- Monthly development meetings where you focus on one competency they are working to develop on. This is not about the day-to-day.
- Training plan. 70% of the job. 20% within the company and 10% external
- Performance management. Plans and reviews (trimester)
- Capability reviews. Annual review of performance and potential
- Monthly engagement surveys
- Immediate documented feedback on things they do well and what they could improve on
- Out of the blue calls or videos.
- Day off or night out. Reward them with this – something unexpected by deserved
Each club member is doing too much themselves and has not built a team for growth. Solopreneurship is very difficult and not something I recommend. Building a team and seeing them grow is very rewarding. Most of you reading this have to lead a great team before, but as small business people, we often forget the good habits because we are too busy looking for revenue.People are your greatest asset in small business. Click To Tweet
Habit 13 Daily progress
As part of the club, I recommend every member completes a daily progress journal. I use an electronic version on Podio – others use good old fashioned pen and paper.
It helps me to be accountable for my daily habits – I publish it to the club members.
Also, I find good to reflect and learn.
Here is my template
The take action section is a link to where I have all the IP for the club. It reminds me of the value I created for the club each day.
As I mentioned at the start, this will not suit every person. The goal is for you to take one habit and implement it into your day to help you Build a great business, Live a life you love and Give back to your community.
Paul Higgins helps ex-corporate/career people to BUILD their own business, LIVE a life they love and GIVE back to their community.
Paul is on his own journey of Build, Live and Give.
See Paul left his job as a Director of Coca-Cola due to two key reasons;
1) An inherited health condition
2) A passion to pursue something less stressful — running his own business.
You can guess what happened next!
For five years, Paul slaved away, working 60+ hours a week. The 4 businesses he built, which helped owners be productive were a big hit with clients. But every dollar he made went back in.
So not only did he have no time to spend with my family, he had no money to show for his efforts. He was not living the life he intended and had no time to give back to a cause close to him – Polycystic Kidney Disease. (PKD)
Desperate, he gave up trying to do everything myself and reached out for help through a mastermind group. That’s when his breakthrough happened.
He implements the 5 key profit drivers [have this as a link] and doubled his revenue within 6 months. Even better, he built systems so his businesses ran without him whilst traveling with his family overseas for 2 wonderful months – he started to live the life he dreamt of.
He now finds the time to help PKD Australia and is about to launch a podcast to generate awareness and research dollars for the condition.
You don’t need to waste 5 years working your fingers to the bone and doing everything yourself like Paul did.
Regardless of your industry or business model, you too can Build your own business, LIVE a life you love and GIVE back to your community.