I recently set out to better understand how I’m spending my time. As a CEO of a growing software company with a young family at home, I wanted to see if there was any way to get more out of my time. Most people don’t realize this but time is our most precious and valuable resource. As a matter of fact, most people treat time as if it’s completely worthless but the reality is time is the only resource you can’t make more of it.
Our team is growing at BrightGauge (we still have open positions in Marketing, Development and Customer Support) and my role within the company is changing. This year my mission is to spend more time on Marketing and driving more opportunities for our Sales Team because that’s where I can make the biggest impact.
So like any other data driven person, I decided to start with the data and see where my time was being spent. This was an exercise that took 6 weeks and after completing it I came out more aware of my time, more confident in how I was spending it and with a few lessons along the way.
Tracking My Time
I was going to find an app or some way to automate the time tracking aspect but I decided to go old school and do it manually. To help I built a time tracking Google Sheet (download here) and each week printed it out and carried it around in my pocket. The sheet has the days of the week across the top and 15 min time blocks long the side. I started the sheet at 4AM and ended it at 10PM because I’m rarely up before 4AM or after 10PM.
I decided to just jump into it the first week and make up the categories as I went along. As you can see from the screenshot below I was detailing what I was doing each 15min block.
After week one I realized that I needed to come up with standard labels so I could quickly and easily fill this out on the move and not have to think too much.
1) Just start, don’t try to get fancy and automate everything, start tracking
2) You don’t have to be perfect with how you track it, just start
3) The categories will start emerging themselves
Categories For My Time
As I reviewed the time from the first week, I realized that I had too many categories so I slimmed it down for the next week. Before I updated the categories I started with the main buckets I wanted to track which were:
1) Personal – The time I spent on me and myself only, no one else
2) Family – My time with the people that I love most, my family
3) Work – The time I spent working professionally
After week two I realized that work was too big of a bucket. Since I was already in the time tracking mode, why not break it down a little further between what I call “Productive Work” and “Admin Work”. As a Co-Founder and CEO, I have my hands in a lot of different things but I wanted to see how much time I had in these two buckets of work. Therefore I decided to update and simplify the categories and came up with this final list:
1) Don’t worry about the specific categories at first, just start tracking
2) Review the first few days/weeks to see the buckets of time spent
3) Slim down the categories to simple ones you can easily remember
4) Include buckets of time you are interested in improving
Making Adjustments During the Experiment
Throughout the 6 weeks I became so aware of what I was spending my time on. Subconsciously in the back of my mind I would find myself getting distracted and thinking “do you really want to put down admin time for this block or can we refocus and make it a productive work block”. All of a sudden it made me so aware of the impact my time could have. The days where I had a lot of Work Time I walked away feeling so productive.
This experiment also removed a lot of guilt that I used to have when I thought I wasn’t spending enough family time. Because I had the time tracked I knew that if I was short one day on Family time because of a breakfast meeting or an evening event, I could make up for it later. And one week I even left the office at 1:30pm to go watch my daughter play tennis because I knew I had already put in a solid week and had another day to get more stuff done.
The Data over 6 Weeks
Below is a breakdown of the average time spent in each category for the entire exercise.
When I removed the time I spend sleeping the breakdown comes to 50% Work, 30% Family and 20% Personal which to me is a very balanced life. However, as I look ahead, I definitely want to continue tweaking my work time because I still spend too much time doing admin work.
Biggest Takeaways From This Exercise
1) You can accomplish a ton in 40 to 45 hours of work – The whole myth of having to work 80+ hours per week to grow your business is just that, a myth. I finished each week knowing I put in a solid week worth of work. At the beginning of this exercise I was doing 50 hours worth of work but by the end I was down to 44 and the output was the same if not greater and I felt much more productive.
2) I’m blessed to have so much Family Time – We have structured our business in a way that allows us and everyone else on the team to have a balanced life. I’m very blessed that this business allows me to spend 4 to 5 hours every day with my wife and kids. My kids are 5 and 3 and one day they’ll be “too cool” to hang out with Dad so I’m lucky I can spend as much time as I do with them.
3) Awareness breeds Change – After reviewing my first week or two I saw how much time I was spending on Administrative tasks that should either be handed off or automated. I took the time to make the changes to my daily work schedule allowing me to focus more on the two things I have the most passion for (a) Marketing and (b) driving more opportunities for our Sales Team.
4) Sleeping 7+ Hours Makes a Difference – I used to be proud that I could live on 5 to 6 hours sleep each night but the reality is that’s not good for your long term health. I started to notice that the days where I got more sleep I was significantly more productive. Now I’m making a conscience effort to get 7+ hours each night (read more here) and my ultimate goal is to get to 8 hours per night.