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Are you running your business or is it running you?

Just another day spent working in the business instead of running it like a CEO.  Although the day started with hope and good intentions, by the end of the day it was clear that today wasn’t really any different than any other work day.  Most small business owners find themselves in this situation, stuck on a runaway train – unable to adapt to changing conditions in the marketplace, unable to get off the train until it runs out of track.  Not a pretty picture, but does it have to stay this way?  What have others discovered that has enabled them to break free and become the master of their own destiny? 

Working on your business

The key to breaking out of the rut so that you can actually steer your business is that you must spend time working on your business instead of just in it.  Likely this is a huge shift from the way your time is currently spent in your business.  The difference between working on a business as opposed to in it is enormous.  Working in a business means your time is consumed performing the routine.  Working on a business means your time is spent running the business like a CEO.

Shift in thinking, then in action

The shift that must take place in order for you to go from working in your business like an employee to running it like a CEO is one that first takes place in your mind.  You must begin thinking about your business differently.  Begin approaching your business from a strategic perspective: What can you do this week that will have the biggest long-term impact on your business?  Focus your time around the things in your business that have the greatest long-term rewards.

Making time

One of the tools that I’ve used repeatedly to allow me to achieve leverage and growth is a time log.  When I first started keeping a time log years ago, I recorded everything manually on a piece of paper, since then I’ve experimented with tracking everything directly into an Excel spreadsheet as well as using time tracking software. Each of those methods served the purpose and the important thing is not so much which method you use to track your time, but rather that you’re able to do so in a consistent way.

This is what the process looks like in action for me. I record each thing that I do all day at work, including the start and end time for each project. At the end of the day I take a couple of minutes and scan my time log to see how much time was spent on each activity. On a weekly basis I review my entries by category to get a bigger view of where my time was allocated. I’ve found that doing this for a month is long enough to make sure that my normal routine is captured. The problem that I’ve encountered with time tracking for shorter periods of time is that if I’m only tracking my time for a single day or a single week, I tend to allocate my time differently than my normal routine.

After doing this exercise for a month, I always gain powerful insights into how I can change the way I’m using my time to achieve more leverage in my business and in my life.  You can do this more frequently if you want, but usually doing this one month per year is sufficient to gain significant leverage in how your time is spent in your business. 

You can check out the time tracking software and mobile app that I like or download a time tracking template from the MIMP Business Development Tools page.  The real importance is not in the exact method of tracking time, but rather in the insights gained from doing it.

Time Goals

Once you see exactly where your time is going, you’re empowered to invest your time more effectively.  It becomes easy to see if the best way to move the needle is to invest more hours or to invest the same amount of hours differently.  I like to categorize my use of time (client work, networking, business development, project management, financial, administrative, etc.) and then determine what percentage of my time is spent in each category.  The next step is to set goals – once I see how much of my time is spent in each category, I can set myself a goal of increasing / decreasing time per category.  By breaking down exactly how much of my time is spent in each category and what my goal is for each category, I’m able to focus on what changes need to be implemented in order to reach those goals.

There is something very powerful about seeing exactly where your time is going.  When you see exactly how your time is consumed, you are in a position to make changes that are guaranteed to free up time in your schedule.  This is what will allow you to begin spending more time working on your business without just having to put in longer hours.  This is about working smarter, not harder.

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