Do you believe in business time equals money?

If you do you are not alone but you could be shooting yourself in the foot.

Even if you don’t fully believe time equals money, as a business owner you probably act as though you do. By this I mean you probably work longer and harder than you need to. Perhaps you even pride yourself for being so busy.

Graham McGregor in New Zealand sent me some interesting information recently; it showed in 1999, a Gallup survey found that 44% of Americans feel they are workaholics. Most western countries follow similar work patterns. Yet most of us don’t earn the money we want or feel we deserve.

Although I planned this article a few weeks ago, it might surprise you to know I got off the phone only a few minutes ago with someone who told me, “I work 12 to 14 hours a day.” It sounded like they thought it was a virtue by the way they described it.

I often hear people bragging about how many hours a week they work. They see it as a way of proving how diligent, focused and dedicated they are, but I see it as a symptom of something in a business that’s heading towards the brink.

I’ll tell you why.

If you aren’t generating enough money, then it seems quite logical to work harder and put in more hours to get more money.

Many of my coaching clients say things like; “There must be an easier way to succeed than doing this,” meaning they work too hard for the returns. I believe nothing worth having is truly easy, but the solution is often counter-intuitive; work less, not more!

This requires you to forget what you have learned all through your life; that big rewards come from long hours.

Here’s an example. Simon H. decided years ago that he didn’t want an orthodox job, so he’s made his career one of seeking out deals and taking a percentage of the deal.

Apart from a period when he owned a bar, he has never worked more than a few hours a week.

Just recently he set up a deal by introducing a Korean manufacturer of tiles to a large North American distributor. This deal is putting more than $50,000 a month in his pocket; no long hours…although he has been working harder just recently to get it done…no overhead just profit.

He used his free time and an ability to sniff out opportunities to put together a very profitable deal. If he had been really busy, this opportunity might have passed him by.

To work this way you have to be confident you can do it, but more importantly you have to be creative.

The only real competitive advantage you have in business today is your ability to think creatively. This is all that separates you from your competitors. They have the same products you do, the same services, access to the same labour pool and the same money. It’s the quality of your thinking that separates you from your competitors.

It is far more effective to think hard and arrive at a great but different conclusion than to work hard on an idea that is a copy of exactly what someone else is doing. When you publicly say the same things about yourself as your competition does about themselves, you promote them as much as you promote yourself.

This means you must have time to think. If you are too busy you don’t have time to think and you won’t come up with the creative solutions you need to outshine your competition.

“Busyness” is truly the thief of creativity!

So how do you get the work done and become less busy?

The first is to set aside time off for rejuvenation. Rejuvenation Days are not a reward for good work, but are a necessary time for getting the creative juices flowing. They come before work, not after it. You need at least 4 of these a month, but preferably 8. I also believe that as an entrepreneur you need a minimum of a week off per quarter.

When do you get your best ideas? If you are like most people it isn’t at work, but probably when you are doing something that has nothing to do with work. Most people tell me they get their best ideas in the shower, or walking the dog. Some people say they get their best ideas on the golf course. It doesn’t really matter where you get your ideas; you just need the free time for them to percolate.

When you are a business owner, you can leave the business, but the business never leaves you.

It’s always there… in the back of your mind…

…and the free time allows the creative juices to flow.

Paradoxically, if you are overly busy you don’t spot what’s truly important. If you take time off, you are forced to concentrate on just the essentials and this makes you more effective not less effective.

Once you have set aside time for rejuvenation, you have to set time aside for preparation: planning, admin and delegation. These are Preparation Days and are important to set you up for performing the tasks that make you money and achieve the results in your business. I personally like to make Mondays and Fridays Preparation Days. In the summer I usually try and get away mid-day on Friday so I have a little bit more rejuvenation time.

This leaves Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as Achievement Days. These are the days where you focus on the result, creating and money making activities. These are usually the things you love to do and that you do better than anyone else.

You can only get them done if you allocate your time strategically as I’ve suggested here. If you’re swamped with less important tasks, you can never get out from underneath them.

To operate like this you need to become a very effective delegator. This means finding good people and developing processes that they can follow once they are trained.

Most people worry about adding costs when hiring people like this, but consider the impact. Yes, there is a real cost, but if they are specialists and good at what they do, they will probably work quicker than you and produce as good or perhaps an even better end result. Hiring people like this and delegating properly to them will free you up to do more of the activities that create success.