So here’s how the usual business person’s time-planning goes: Mark out peak ‘work’ periods through the year, mark out important work events, business trips, conferences and then take what’s left and mark out some holidays and ‘free time’.
I work the other way around. After some valuable lessons learned at Strategic Coach, I’ve gotten around to flipping this process completely.
I now mark all my free-days and holidays first, and then look at how many days I have left for business. The unquestionable benefits: my focus and motivation levels at work are through the roof. I have quality time and energy for my family, and I have newfound confidence from setting and smashing all my personal goals.
I do all of that by using a time management method called the Entrepreneurial Time Management System, a trademarked time management system developed by Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach.
How this works is I divide my time into Focus Days, Buffer Days and Free Days.
Focus Days are ‘money-making’ days. These are days that are dedicated entirely to client or introducer meetings, and other tasks that are directly tied into revenue generation.
Buffer Days are days for team coordination, any administrative or support tasks that need attending to – these are days when I’m just checking things off my to-do list. Free Days are set aside for quality family time, personal goals, health and fitness goals, and downtime.
Towards the end of a year, I sit down and mark these Focus, Buffer and Free days on a calendar so I have an overview of what my next year is going to look like.
Free Days get marked first – weekends and vacation times. This usually follows a family discussion on any holidays we have planned and want to take and needs us to align calendars so that the kids, my wife and myself can take our big holiday breaks together.
I also take into account spontaneity – short, spur-of-the-moment holidays, last-minute family events, a friends’ wedding – the little things that you can’t always plan for.
The Need to Implement This System
The truth is, I’ve been at the other end of the spectrum – I’ve worked those 14 and 18-hour days, and I’ve been through weeks where I haven’t really seen my kids because my working hours were longer than the hours in their day from breakfast to bedtime.
And I can tell you from that experience, that no matter how much so-called ‘success’ those long hours translate to, it’s not a great feeling when you keep missing out on the things that you value the most. And family is definitely top of my most-valued list.
So for me, plugging in the Entrepreneurial Time Management System meant marking over 196 Free Days in a year, including weekends. These 196 days are purely dedicated to family-time, vacations, personal goals, and time for everything that fulfills me and drives me to do better as a whole person.
How did that affect business?
It meant that I had about 169 days left for business. I then look at my financial goals for the year, my team’s financial goals, and together we build a plan to make every one of those working days count.
No directionless days – every day has a plan, it’s laser-focused, and has a goal attached to it. This completely transformed the way my team and I used our time.
As a result of this time management, and other concepts like working out our ‘Largest Check’ (more on that another time), we went from 82 new clients a year to just seven new clients a year, and our profit margins went up.
That’s the power of free time. I think it’s slightly underestimated when people are told it’s just a refresher, or a break to come back stronger. For entrepreneurs, free time helps to draw those boundaries that are so hard to draw when you’ve got a never-ending list of things to do, and it all just keeps piling on.
Free time is, in fact, a motivator to help make the most out of your time at work. It creates room for focus and gives you a reason not to be working – which, bear in mind, is vital to a sustainable business effort, especially as you’re nurturing and growing your empire.
For an entrepreneur whose business becomes the core of their very being, I can’t think of a more powerful tool than maximizing free time to instill that ‘work-life balance’ that you will hungrily crave at some point if you don’t already.
How many free days are you marking for 2020?