Time – and the value of my time – is my product. As a Public Relations consultant, it’s what I sell for a living. This makes it incredibly important that I use my time wisely, or I am literally pouring profit out for free.
Time management is a passion of mine, that upon reflection, I realized was ingrained in me for as long as I can reminder. I was usually the first one done with an assignment in school, the first one ready and waiting in the car for a family outing, and the quickest person in my friend group to shower and be ready to head to a social event in college. My teachers, family, and friends would often comment to the effect that I was fast and efficient. Looking back, it’s not that I felt rushed or panicked in those tasks. I didn’t miss any steps or cut corners. I just moved through each task efficiently, and over time, found ways to improve continuously upon my processes – even if it was something like my shower routine! It’s funny, I know. But it is the most critical skill that has brought me to a place where I can run a thriving business as a sole proprietor, scaling each year without needing to hire a single employee all because I continue to maximize the efficiency of my time.
How do I do it? I’ve pulled the curtain back throughout my many time management posts, and here’s a new one to add to the inventory! Take a look at my fresh reflection on the habits I’ve developed to revitalize how I use my time.
Making decisions promptly
If you feel you are a decisive person, you should recognize that this is a very valuable skill, especially in our world of abundant options. Knowing what you want, what aligns with your priorities, and what is best for you is something to lean into! And if you know this is an area of improvement for you, take heart knowing that any progress you make toward becoming more decisive is going to immensely help your time management. By nature, I am a decisive person. I’m high on the judgment scale (as high as you can go) and when given a set of options, I enjoy assessing each and efficiently and confidently arriving at a decision. In my day-to-day work, I help clients make A LOT of decisions, often taking on most of these decisions and buffering them from all but the most critical.
How I make decisions promptly is part personality and part experience (and the confidence that comes with that). But my biggest driving force to be an efficient decision-maker is because so many of these decisions don’t make a significant difference in the long term. Some do, absolutely. Many do not. I’ve learned to focus on the ones that do matter and let the others be a flip of the coin. When presented with two equally “good” options, I pick one and don’t give it further thought. Putting off a decision, no matter how small, only backlogs your list of to-do’s later. Clear that bandwidth as soon as you can by quickly making decisions and moving on!
Doing something active daily
It took me only until recently to realize I thrive in nature. I need to get outside daily whether that’s running walking, stretching, or napping outside. I am a better person when I get my daily dose of nature. Can you relate? Honestly, I think we’re all better people when we are connected to nature – some of us just need to wake up and realize this. How this ties back to time management is that I’ve realized that investing a piece of my day, even just 15 minutes, into doing something active every day – especially outdoors, makes me far more efficient with my time the other 23 hours and 45 minutes. Skipping it wouldn’t really save me time at all. I would be less efficient, less energized, and far more irritable. Find whatever works for you and whatever speaks to your soul. This will look different for each of us. But commit to doing something active every day. The rewards are countless!
Doing something just for me weekly
Exercising daily is certainly doing something for myself, but this point is more about doing something just a bit indulgent. I don’t see staying physically active as an indulgence, nor should you! What I mean here is to dedicate even just a small amount of time each week to doing something just for you. Here are some of mine: shopping or browsing a store by myself, lunch or treat out of the house (with or without others), or a little pampering like a manicure or haircut. I set a budget, both time and money, for what I will spend solely on myself that week. I don’t go over that budget, but I also don’t let it pile up to never be enjoyed. It’s all about balance. If you can’t invest an hour of time in yourself in a week, your time is being misspent somewhere else.
Switching to a value-based business model
This whole post is about time management, but the value of our time cannot be measured in seconds or minutes. When I first started my business, I typically charged by the hour or estimated projects by how much time I thought I would spend on a task. This is still the foundation for how I price my services, but much more than my literal time spent completing a project, I consider the value of that project. A lot of my work is centered on strategic communications and writing. I craft creative messaging, help tell a person’s story, and evoke emotion through the speeches and presentations I create on behalf of a client. Any one of these projects may take only a few hours to complete, but the end result is worth so much more than a few hours of my time. Clients gladly pay 10x what I would consider an industry-standard hourly rate when I price on value. If I charged for my time in minutes and hours rather than for the value of the finished work, I wouldn’t be able to scale my business year-over-year. So I run my business on a value-based model and it’s been among the smartest entrepreneurial decisions I’ve made thus far. Clients are happy with the value they receive and I’m happy with the value of my time.
Viewing every task as having a cost
We’ve each been given only so much time, and we never know how much time we have remaining. I’m sure this same sentiment is shared much more eloquently cross-stitched on a pillow somewhere, but the point is the same. Time is our most valuable resource and it’s constantly depleting. Everything that demands our time is costing us something, even if it’s just the opportunity to use that same time on something else. The better you become at associating every task with an opportunity cost, the better you’ll become at valuing your time. Take a critical look at your day. If you find that you’re spending time on things that do not bring you joy, income, or help someone else (who you want to help), it’s time to shave this off your to-do list. This is my own litmus test for when I outsource or say no to a task. This brings me to…
We all feel like our schedules are SO full, am I right? Maybe this is real, or maybe this is perceived. No matter, it can feel like when one more thing is asked of us that this house of cards will all come tumbling down. Here’s the thing. We can, and need to, say no. And we can do so without feeling guilty or needing to offer a lengthy apology. When I started viewing my time as the product that fuels my livelihood – and my life – I became unapologetically protective over where my time is spent. And unfortunately some things just don’t make the cut. Think of it like a retail shop owner who sells goods. If she let anyone walk into her shop and walk off with items without permission and without paying that would be robbery! People, even your loved ones, can be time thieves too. We have to have boundaries and say no to people who ask for our time and we wish to not give it to them. You’re the shop owner in this scenario and time is your product. Give freely where it is deserved and where you desire, in all other circumstances, know the value of your time and charge accordingly.
Leading with gratitude
The most important piece of successful time management may surprise you. It’s gratitude! Yes, leading with gratitude and viewing each piece of your schedule from an “I get to” not an “I have to” perspective is profoundly life-changing. Maybe it’s “I get to lead this new initiative at work,” rather than “I have to take on one more project on top of everything else on my plate.” Or “I have the means to make dinner for my family to keep us happy and healthy,” rather than “I have to take care of everything and everyone.” There’s a lot more we could dive into here, but the most important piece is this: if there is something on your to-do list today that you can’t find a single to feel grateful for it, it’s time to take it off your to-do list! Delegate, outsource, or simply say no.
I’ll close by saying that by no means do I have it ALL figured out. I still struggle with time management just like everyone else. What I do know for sure is that in order to be a better steward of your time, you have to take an honest reflection on how you’re using it throughout the day. Even the littlest time thieves will sabotage your schedule if you’re not careful. Knowing that time is my product and that my business model is scalable as I become more efficient with my time adds great value to my desire to be a great time manager. Never feel you should apologize for protecting your time for what you know is most important in life. Start by prioritizing where you desire to spend your time, then align the demands of your day with those priorities. And remember, every day you must choose who you cheat. Cheat what matters the least!
I hope these tips inspire some new things you may want to try. Or better yet, maybe you have your own set of tips to share? Leave a comment and let’s start a conversation!