Twenty years ago when I was starting out my career as a personal trainer and making $20 an hour, I spent my idle time doing math.
“Let’s see,” I thought on the subway ride home from downtown Toronto to my tiny apartment, “If I charge twenty dollars an hour, train forty hours a week, and work for fifty weeks a year, wow, I can make forty grand! Now if I could just charge thirty dollars an hour, I’d be rolling in dough.”
A typical working year of 2000 hours makes it easy to estimate an annual salary. You simply double your hourly rate and multiply by one thousand. Forty dollars an hour meant eighty thousand, and a whopping fifty dollars an hour got you to the promised land of a six-figure salary. That became my goal.
Years later, after my online fitness business became successful, I was able to quit my job as a personal trainer and stop trading hours for dollars. That’s when I began directing other entrepreneurs to build their businesses and I started thinking about the time-for-money trade in a different way.
Instead of focusing on increasing their hourly rate, I had my clients think about how much money they were losing when they were doing administrative work.
“You cannot make $100,000 per year doing $10-an-hour tasks, or $25-an-hour tasks, or even $45-an-hour tasks,” I’d say. “You need to put a higher value on your time and stop doing the trivial tasks that steal time spent at your most valuable activity, like selling and marketing.”
Yet time and time again my clients wasted precious hours running errands, going to the UPS store to ship packages, doing their own housework and yard work, and spending hours each week going to the grocery store. Many of them worked at home and they ended up wasting their best working hours on household chores.
I understand the temptation. You’re sitting in your home office and you should be doing the hard work of creating a sales presentation or practicing a speech. Looking for any excuse to procrastinate, you soon find yourself doing the laundry (because Billy needs his soccer uniform washed) or shoveling the front porch (in case the Fed-Ex driver shows up).
This is not what very successful people do.
“The difference between successful people and very successful people,” Warren Buffett once said, “Is that very successful people say ‘No’ to almost everything.”
As a high-performing entrepreneur or executive, you spend your time on the most valuable activities to your business. You must eliminate distractions. You must delegate busy work and trivial tasks. You must guard your Magic Time if you want to have big breakthroughs in your life.
You must place a higher value on your hourly worth, and then you must ruthlessly protect your time, delegating trivial tasks to one of your team members, or you must hire part-time help to take care of customer service or household chores as soon as you can afford it.
This is something most entrepreneurs struggle with.
Fortunately, some of this was easy for me, because I’m lazy when it comes to manual labor. Put me in front of a computer and I can create content for ten hours a day, but tell me to take out the garbage and I’ll run and hide or fake an injury. I’m not above “pulling a hamstring” when I lift the recycling bin to get out of walking it to the curb.
However, most entrepreneurs aren’t like me. They feel guilty hiring other people to cut their lawn, buy their groceries, cook their meals, do their laundry, or provide childcare.
I understand. Even though I am selectively lazy and know I must protect my magic time, I still find myself wasting time on trivial matters. There are some things I feel guilty about giving up.
One day I watched a video that changed my mindset for good. In the video, entrepreneur and online marketing coach, Eben Pagan, scolded viewers for doing their own laundry.
“That sounds a little pretentious,” I thought.
Weeks later I found myself in a dilemma that would have made Pagan give me an “I told you so” look. I was caught between a crushing deadline and a dirty pile of laundry. My choices were, Great Presentation-No Pants, or Clean Pants-Incomplete Presentation.
And so began my career as The-Presenter-Who-Wore-No-Pants.
Just kidding. Instead, I sacrificed sleep in order for the presentation to go well, and for clean pants to be worn. But that’s not a long-term strategy, and so a big lesson was learned.
If there is any trivial task sucking time and energy from your schedule, you must remove it as soon as you can.
These days it’s easy to find people willing to do your errands. From Craigslist to Task Rabbit to high-school students needing to earn a few dollars, there’s no shortage of people (even in small towns) to take over your $10-an-hour tasks. This frees up your time to focus on what you were put here on this earth to do — make a big impact in people’s lives, while still having quality time with your family.
To start this process of delegation, you must attach a dollar value to your time. Next, you’ll attach a dollar value to all of the menial tasks you do on a daily and weekly basis (that you aren’t required for you to do for your job, if you have one). Then you need to have a serious conversation with yourself about whether or not you are using your time wisely.
For example, if your give yourself an hourly value of $50, but you spend three of your best working hours on Friday afternoon mowing the lawn because you have guests coming over on the weekend, you are making a big mistake.
Likewise, if you come home from your day job fired up to make three sales calls for your side business, but you have to rake the leaves, clean the gutters, and sweep out the garage, then that opportunity is lost. You can’t put off those sales calls until 10 p.m. at night.
If you’re not sure exactly what you should and should not be doing, ask yourself these seven questions to determine your value.
1) How much is your time worth per hour?
2) What household chores are you doing on a daily/weekly basis and what is the total cost (hours spent multiplied by your hourly rate) of these chores?
3) What are you realistically willing to spend to hire someone to do these tasks for you? (And for your spouse, if applicable?)
4) Who is on your current house management team? (Housekeeper, child care, nanny, etc.)
5) Who would be on your Dream Team for house management?
6) What would each new position cost?
7) What problems would these hires solve and how many hours would that save you each week?
I understand what you might be thinking.
“Craig, I grew up in a middle-class, blue-collar neighborhood. What would my parents think of me hiring someone to cut my grass? They’d tell me to be thankful that I had a yard to mow in the first place!”
Believe me, I get it. I grew up on a farm. My parents worked from before sun-up until the sun went down, doing chores, tending gardens, canning foods, and sewing clothes.
But I’m no longer a farm boy. I’m a businessman. How I spend my time is different than how my parents spent theirs, and while it doesn’t always go over well with them, I must make the the right decisions for my life. Sometimes, when my mother would visit my apartments in Toronto or Denver, she’d scold me for wasting money on cleaning services or dog walkers.
“You can’t even get your own groceries?” she’d say after finding out I used a delivery service.
Lazy is what she’d call me.
Wise with my time is how I look at it.
This is a mindset shift you need to make.
Go through those questions. Figure out where you can save time in exchange for money so that you can grow your business, your career, and your income faster once you remove these bottlenecks from your day.
This is how very successful people think and act.