I was talking to some acquaintances this past weekend and we got on the subject of how we value time. I realized that my value of my time was much higher in dollar terms than the other people present and that a big part of that difference was due to being a solopreneur. The conversation revolved around various trade-offs we could make where we spend time to gain money (e.g. fixing up something you want to get rid of in order to sell it rather than just donate it) or spend money to gain time (e.g. driving instead of taking public transportation).
As a solopreneur, your personal and professional life are more closely linked than they are for a lot of other professionals. Work and home life can easily bleed into each other to a detrimental degree. Your decisions about time and money are interrelated.
My litmus test for any time and money question is to weigh it against how that time would pay off if invested in my business. If I save $5 by taking public transportation, but spend an extra 2 hours doing it then that’s not worth my time (environmental impacts aside). I can make way more than $5 by investing 2 hours in my business even if I’m doing long-term activities.
As a solopreneur, activities that cost time have to be done very conscientiously. Your time budget is at least as important as your money budget. You make money by spending your time correctly. Your time, even though you’re not punching a clock, is not free. There is an opportunity cost to every minute you spend both in financial terms and in terms of other activities you give up to do that activity. Guard your time like the most valuable asset it is.
Here are some tips to help you guard your time:
- End your appointments at the stated time. It’s your job to watch the clock, so make sure you start closing up the conversation early enough so that you can finish on time.
- Set limits on tasks that tend to expand – for example, give yourself 20 minutes to clear your inbox. Even if you don’t make your deadline, you’ll have an idea of how long this job takes.
- Use a timesheet. I do this myself, and it really helps me stay on top of how long I spend doing things.
- Create checklists and procedures for tasks you repeat. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
- Don’t do anything free just because it’s free in dollar terms. Make sure the activity is worth the time it takes.
Above all, placing a high value on your time should be a guiding principle in your business activities.