Is your business afflicted with Time Poverty?

What’s worse, not having enough money or not having enough time?

My friend John Stevenson recently shared a great post he’d written on Time Poverty. *As a side note, if you’re not subscribed to his weekly Sunday Snippets, you should be. He writes some of the most impactful articles I’ve seen – you can learn more from his site at Client Kudos (scroll to the bottom to sign up for the snippets…).

As John points out, Time Poverty is impacting almost everyone these days. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s simply not having enough time to do everything we need to do. John writes about this from a personal development perspective with some great ideas but this issue has an even larger impact on business owners. Not only do business owners have to deal with all of the personal impacts of time poverty, but the issue also ends up greatly impacting the overall health of the business (which further contributes to the problem).

How can a business owner address time poverty?

A big part of being a business owner is taking on the accountability for all aspects of the business – which can be challenging even if you’re a solopreneur, and downright overwhelming once you have a team around you. You’re fighting the tyranny of the urgent… reacting to all of the fires, complaints and issues that come up every day and you’re probably acting like a hero – singlehandedly stepping in to save the day.

The good news is that as a business owner you have much bigger opportunities for freeing up your time than you might have just on your own. Here are 3 big things you should be addressing now to help address your time poverty in your business.

Change your mindset

One of the things that makes an entrepreneur successful is their willingness and ability to work hard. I have several clients that I’ve worked with who focus on being the first one in to work and the last one to leave… every day. And while that kind of work ethic is admirable, and likely necessary early on, eventually it becomes a major liability for the health of the business.

As the business owner you have responsibilities that no one else in the business has (or can have). No one else can determine the long term strategic plan for your business. No one else can make the biggest decisions. No one else can successfully lead the team through the big challenges and celebrate the successes.

But if you’re too busy with the day to day details, then those big picture things either don’t get done, or they end up being rushed, forced or poorly addressed. And if that happens repeatedly the end result is a downward spiral for the business and likely burnout and exhaustion for the owner.

To be at your best you need to be well rested, refreshed and have plenty of time to think things through. There will always be times of crisis where you have to pull out all the stops to make something happen – but that should be the rare exception rather than the rule.

How do you make that happen? The first thing you need to do is change your mindset. You have to stop believing that you are the only person who can do the critical things in the business. That you have to be involved in every decision, every customer interaction, every deal that happens. You need to start believing, and acting on the belief, that when you hire the right people they will step up and do the important things as well, or hopefully better, than you can.

It can be a big leap but without it you’ll never be able to scale your business… or enjoy a real vacation for that matter!

Delegating outcomes versus Delegating tasks…

Once you’ve adapted the mindset that you are not your business, then you need to actually start making that happen by passing a lot of your work off to other people. But beware of the trap of Deciding versus Delegating. Author Mike Michalowicz makes this excellent point in his book Clockwork. Once you start accepting that you can’t do it all, you’re going to start asking others to take on more work.

You’re going to start delegating. But you need to make sure you’re not just delegating tasks. You need to delegate the outcomes. If you’re not clear on the difference, think about it as the difference between having your head of sales create the reports that show how well sales are going (or not) versus holding that head of sales accountable for the actual results that the business needs.

Your head of sales needs to own the sales results – and when those results aren’t where they need to be, that person has the responsibility and the ability to make whatever changes are needed to be successful. It’s on them to come up with new tactics, hire new people, bring on new systems… whatever it takes.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be involved in those decisions, or that you can’t override things if you don’t agree with what’s going on. You’re not abdicating your ultimate responsibilities, but you do need to hire the right people and give them the room they need to get things done. They may have some failures along the way, and that’s okay… that’s how we learn – but the key is that you must let them have those failures.

Simplify and Narrow your Focus

Beyond letting go and getting your team to step up and take ownership of key activities, the other big thing you can do to free up your time is to find ways to simplify your business.

Most entrepreneurs are afflicted with Shiny Object Syndrome – a sometimes overwhelming desire to chase after the new ideas. And while this trait, in moderation, can be a great source of growth and innovation, it often leads to a lot of complexity within a business.

Additionally, business owners, especially early on in the business, have a hard time saying ‘no’ to clients and new opportunities – mainly because they don’t want to miss out on revenue. Again this can be healthy in early stages of a business, but over time it will leave you with a lot of one-off products or services that are difficult to maintain.

Which means that if you’ve been in business more than a couple of years you likely have opportunities to streamline your business. Do you have things that you offer that aren’t a lot of revenue but are a lot of work and hassle to deliver or maintain? Or do you have customers who are more trouble than they’re worth?

There’s a pretty good chance that your business follows some aspect of the 80/20 rule – specifically that 80% of your profits come from about 20% of your products or your customers. That may not be literally true for your business, but experience and studies have shown that it’s likely directionally true (maybe it’s 70/30…). What that means is that you have a big chunk of the work that you do that doesn’t make a big impact on the bottom line – what could you do to eliminate or simplify that work?

In the short run, cutting things out of the business might impact your revenues, but by cutting the stuff that’s overly complex it will likely improve your profits and in the long run it will definitely make it much easier to scale the business.

And by doing less or simplifying, you’ll also free up a lot of your time (and your team’s time). That’s time that can be better spent on more important things… or just on recharging.

What do you think? Are you currently a business owner who’s struggling with time poverty? Do you have open blocks in your schedule just so you can think and learn new ideas? Or are your days booked out back to back to back and you leave at the end of the day feeling exhausted and drained?

We’d love to hear your thoughts – leave us a comment below.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach