Episode 13 – How to Be More Productive, Track Your Time, and Avoid the Mistakes I Made in My First Year

Episode Transcript

It's important to me to still be working a full 8 hour day. I'm sure it's a mindset block because I don't have to, and I think I have to, because everyone else has to suffer through it so I have no right to only work 5 full hours.

I did a survey of some of my online entrepreneur friends of how long a real "full work day" is when they're working on their business. The answer was 5-6 hours (excluding some people who I think were just trying to start a conversation by proudly claiming 50 hour workweeks). So that's something to think about as you're making your own transition to self-employment.

In one of my first years of having a business, I had a coach stop my in my tracks when I claimed I was exhausted after working 12 hour days.

This was back in year 1, where I had just left my day job, and I had no boundaries at all. I woke up, took my 3 foot commute to work at my desk, and then immediately started "working" on things that I know now, 3 years later, were not helpful or productive. I can admit now that I spent a lot of time and money on things that didn't matter because I was, well, probably where you are right now.

Convinced that you don't know enough, that you still have a lot to learn, you need to save up $2,000 for the next big course that you couldn't afford last year (and if you're honest, gave you quite a bit of sticker shock).

So anyway, I'm working on all these things, trying to offer everything to everyone, and having a call with a business coach, complaining about 12 hour days because I knew that I was going to sleep at like 2 am every night and all of my waking moments were going into my business.

She said she would like to see a log of what I'm working on for those supposed 12 hours, and also mentioned that just because I have a lot of time doesn't mean I need to spread my work throughout ALL of the time I have.

Now, I do want to highlight that for those of you who are still working a day job and dream of the day when you've replaced your income.

You may not completely replace your income by the time you know in your gut that you're ready to quit. So just prepare yourself, because for most of us in the creative, wellness, mindset-loving fields are actually NOT as attached to money as we think. Right now, as you are, you're actually quite capable of scaling your business without putting more money into it. You'll see. I'm just giving you a warning. 

Another note, before I move on ...

You're working a day job. You're commuting. You keep questioning your life decisions every day. The truth is that You're already used to the lifestyle you have. You're used to working for hours every day, and taking care of other people for the rest of the hours in the day, and then getting sleep in whatever "spare" hours might be magically left at the end. Unless you've been really careful about that, purposefully. But mayn of us haven't. So what that coach was pointing out to me was that I basically filled in all of my spare hours in the day with work hours on this new job, working for myself.

I'll be honest, I didn't like that. But this is a little sneak peek for those of you who think that making enough money to replace your day job income will fix everything. Suddenly you'll have those 8 hours workdays back and passive income coming in and... well, it never really works out that way. You'll find more things to stress about if you're a stress case. You'll find more things to create if you're super creative and have multiple interests.

I learned that we humans are really good at filling up all of our time, no matter how little or how much of it we think we have.

And even Rochelle, one of the most efficient people like EVER, if I do say so myself, has found a way to waste time even though I work for myself, from home, with no kids.

Sometimes it can FEEL like a 12 hour day but it really isn't. You can get up at 7am, sit down at your desk at home at 8am, and get really distracted and not really accomplish that much even in the most ideal conditions, unless you keep yourself accountable.

When my coach asked me to prove how long I was actually working, was somewhat insulted but also grateful to be put in my place.

I'm sorry to say I never did prove her wrong. I didn't do the time log during my contract with her.

I'll admit I also didn't make a lot of progress that year with my business, and eventually learned, retroactively, that she was totally right about my productivity levels.


Nowadays, whenever I'm working, I always have a timer running.

I have categories for every chunk of work I do regularly. I'll read you my categories in a second if you want to start tracking this stuff for yourself, which I recommend.

I even have a category called "putzing around" when I start to drift off into Facebook and I know, deep down, that I am not really working or networking or any of those things I pretend I'm doing.

I try to stay as honest with myself as I can. I do this stuff for a living, and I advise people on this very thing -- the productivity and systems and efficiency and making a profit. 

Sometimes the thing you're doing really is just browsing and putzing around, so you need a category for that. Sometimes I'll run the timer and be like "okay, category, Facebook Group networking!" because I have a system I've been using for years that works, right?

But then after a while I'll look at my timer, and 7 minutes have gone by and I just have to say "Rochelle you lie. That was browsing and putzing around." And I'll change the category and start over.


Having a timer running helps me focus.

It's like attending a scrum or pomodoro session and feeling like you just beat a level in Mario Brothers when you get to the end of the current time block. Except in this case, it's you and the dozens of things in your business that you never get done and have been haunting you for months. If you have a focused span of time where your only intention is to get that ONE thing done, you actually get it done. It's 

The downside?

The downside is that I wear my hours of work like a badge of honor. I'm a recovering straight A student and in my different day jobs I always tried to be the best employee and do the most work, and let's face it, in many corporate environments, the emphasis is on how to get people to do more work.

I have never logged 12 hours of work in a day. Yes, Rochelle, with her zero kids and no day job and multiple 1:1 clients and a mastermind and a podcast and unnecessary addiction to Facebook.... has NEVER worked 12 hours in one day.

You know how I know that?

I'm not saying that at no point have I ever been working at 8am, worked all day, and then finally ripped myself away from my desk at 9pm to flop into bed. Because that has happened.

I know that I've never worked a 12 hour day.

That's because I turn off the timer when i'm not working.

Stay here with me. I know that sounds simple.

But imagine you're going to your day job. Think about it. You have your desk. You have the front desk. You have your boss who seems to have lost their mind every other hour.

You get there at 8am. You go home at 5pm if you're lucky. You probably eat at your desk because you're a good employee with the usual bad habits of never leaving your desk.

You're probably not working the full 9 hour day, either.

That's because when I'm working, I clock out when I stand up. I clock out when I take a break and walk around the block. I clock out when I have to walk across my hallway, go pee, wash my hands, and come back. I don't charge my clients for that stuff. That's on me. (That's also why I charge more than what a typical administrative assistant in an office building would charge).

Today, I was at the co-working space I go to every Monday. I got there at 9:30am and it's now 4:40pm and I'm getting ready to leave. What does my timer say? 

Rochelle was here all day, but only gets credit for four hours and 30 minutes of actual work. That's because I turned it off when I was texting someone who needed me. I turned it off when I drove over to Chick Fil A, and when I went to the bathroom, and while I was unpacking my mobile office.

If time is your problem, the bad news is that you're probably working even less than you think.

If you work a 10 hour day and then you come home and feed your kids and then don't go to bed until midnight, you're not really working a 16 hour day. You're probably working a 6 hour day job and about 2 1/2 hours of entrepreneur job, if we really cut the fat. And besides that, and spent a few hours beating yourself up, trying to remember what it was you were doing, figuring out the coffee maker and what you password was.

I know, I'm treasure to have around.

The good news is you just got a lot smarter by acknowledging that this sucks. If you're like me and you enjoy getting "credit" for how long you've slaaaaaved over this project, then yeah, you're not gonna be happy. But you are going to get smarter. You're finally going to own up to that adage of "Work smarter, not harder."


Recommendations:

Start using a timer and record where all your time is going. 

I use toggl. I use the free version, but they have a paid version that comes with extra features and fancy reports and stuff. None of my clients have ever asked for reports of where their time is going, but I do it just so I can keep track of when I'm working on my own stuff and when I'm working on client stuff. That way if there's a particular month where I spent most of my time on client projects and I wonder why my business isn't growing, I have a record of where my time went.


So here are my categories:

Admin
Bookkeeping
Browsing Online (Putzing Around)
Commute
Content Planning
Contracts
Convertkit Admin
Email Content
Email Inbox
Event/Networking
Facebook Content
Freebies
Freedcamp
IG Content
Kajabi Admin
Long Term Planning
Personal Development
Podcast Planning
Podcast Production
The Studio (Program I run)
Super Sprints (Events I run)
Team
Writing/Blogging


If you're ever doubtful about what your categories should be, think about the areas of your business where you suspect you might be wasting time. And yes, I do recommend having a "putzing around" category, just to be honest with yourself.

Seeing where you're wasting time doesn't mean you're going to pressure yourself to outsource it immediately. There's going to be that weird mind loop of "I need to outsource this, but I can't afford to outsource, so I have to do it myself until I can, but I'm not making any money so I can't outsource."

That's something different. That's not really a lack of time issue but a lack of clarity and marketing plan and seeing how all the pieces are supposed to fit together.

But the AWARENESS is key, especially if you're aware of the time sucks in your business while they're happening. Like RIGHT NOW and not a year from now, when you realize "Oh, I spent 350 hours scheduling my own content and clicking my mouse last year."

I suggest you try it! Download toggl on your computer and on your phone. Set up your categories and projects so that you're making progress toward your goal, and not just clocking time for the sake of clocking time. You wouldn't want to do that for your day job, so don't do that for you dream job, okay?

After timing yourself for at least 2 weeks, decide how long you would LIKE your work day to be. 

At that point you can challenge yourself to be more efficient. Heck, send your report over to me and I can give you some tips on how to clean things up so you're not a slave to your business anymore.

If you want to get my eyes on it, I invite you to ask for help over in our online community, The Self Employed Nerd. To join us, go to TheSelfEmployedNerd.com and you'll see a link to join, there.

And that's it, for this week! Thanks for hanging with me. I'll see you next time.

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