In the hustle and bustle of the world, time is often the most overlooked resource. Yet, it is the one thing that, once spent, can never be regained. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, aptly said, “We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.” This sentiment rings true today, perhaps even more so in our fast-paced digital age.
The Trade of Time, Talent, and Treasure
At the core of every business decision is a trade-off. Entrepreneurs and business leaders constantly juggle time, talent, and treasure. While we meticulously guard our financial assets and often generously share our skills, we frequently undervalue our time. This undervaluation can lead to missed opportunities, burnout, and a lack of focus on what truly matters.
I have mentored and coached numerous entrepreneurs and leaders over the past decade. I have observed that I can tell when an entrepreneur has a real business – when they value their time. If they do not, it is merely a lackluster (aka shitty) hobby.
Consider this: if one sells bikes, they would not just give them away for free. Similarly, as a leader, your most valuable resource is time. Guard it fiercely and never give it away without due consideration. I am not referring to time invested that has a path to paying dividends, regardless of how one defines that return.
Scaling and Maximizing Returns
Scaling a business is not just about increasing profits. It is about leveraging resources to their maximum potential to achieve the desired returns. It is about doing the most meaningful work for the person in question.
For some, this might mean financial growth in the form of compensation or net income. For organizations like the National MS Society, it could mean inching closer to finding a cure for a debilitating disease. The principle remains the same: utilize resources effectively to achieve the most significant impact.
James Clear, the author of “Atomic Habits,” offers a thought-provoking perspective on this. He states, “The most invisible form of wasted time is doing a good job on an unimportant task.” This underscores the importance of discernment in business. It is not just about doing things right but doing the right things. As Clear also points out, “It’s easier to notice when you lose money than when you lose time. Be sure you’re making the trade you want.”
Buying Back Your Time
So where does one start? I have regularly recommended Dan Martell’s book “Buy Back Your Time.” It emphasizes the importance of reclaiming our most precious resource. By streamlining processes, delegating tasks, and focusing on high-impact activities, business leaders can effectively “buy back” their time. This leads to a more efficient business operation and allows for personal growth, relaxation, and the pursuit of other passions.
Martell’s approach to buying back time involves performing a time audit, a practice every entrepreneur should adopt. The “Buyback Loop” he proposes comprises three steps:
- Continually audit how you’re spending your time to surface low-value tasks.
- Transfer those tasks to someone better suited to perform them.
- Dedicate the surplus capacity you’ve created to higher-value tasks.
Starting with the lowest-value tasks is of paramount importance. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of adding senior hires too early. These seasoned professionals often take on high-value strategic priorities, inadvertently leaving the founder even more mired in administrative drudgery. In other words, it’s a great way to build a job you hate.
Accounting for Your Time: Why It Matters
For solo entrepreneurs, accounting for your time is more than just a matter of financial prudence. It’s about understanding where you can scale, where you can make life more enjoyable, and where you can find a balance between work and personal fulfillment. While the immediate thought might be about Return on Investment (ROI), it’s essential to consider the Return on Heart (ROH). This metric goes beyond dollars and cents, focusing on personal satisfaction, happiness, and overall well-being. By understanding the value of your time, you can make decisions that not only benefit your business but also enrich your life.
In other words, if you dislike accounting for your time working in the business, you are going to loathe the business consuming your life until you burnout, quit, or, likely, both.
Time, as they say, is money. But in the world of business, time is more than just a financial metric. It’s a measure of potential, of opportunity, and of life itself. As we navigate the complexities of growing a business, let us remember to value our time, focus on what truly matters, and strive to make the most of every moment.