I was meeting with a new client for the first time, and I noticed a small worn sticky note on the bottom of his monitor reminding him to “Watch Every $1.” It surprised me that this fairly young, carefree entrepreneur would choose this sentiment as a permanent reminder, but it impressed me. When you find yourself suddenly dealing with tens of thousands of dollars, and then hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even millions of dollars, it can be easy to rationalize expenditures. As you grow, however, if you still remember to watch every dollar, you can remain lean and profitable and ultimately outpace your competition.
Over the years, working more and more with clients in the chauffeured car services arena, I have seen a default to running lean, largely due to the nature of this inherently low-margin business. In contrast, however, I have seen many of these same organizations and leaders blow through time, as though it’s not worth as much as money. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As the head of my own company, my time is at a premium, and I know how easily it can slip away. The following ideas, geared to CEOs and senior leaders, are some of the ways I have been able to protect my time:
Reduce meetings to as few as possible. We have all been in meetings that could have been an email or a quick phone call. Meetings are great for talking through issues that need to be talked through. However, with the resources we have today such as Slack or Zoho Projects, much of what we used to meet about can be managed online.
When you have meetings, schedule them for early morning whenever possible. Meetings are disrupters, and it is best to get through them early in the day, so the rest of the day is yours to direct.
Stop answering your phone. I know that sounds terrible, and depending on the nature of your role within your business, that may not be an option, but your phone will likely be your largest time killer. Unscheduled phone calls are disruptive and often unnecessary. Also, now that your phone is in your hand, you are subject to multiple notifications over various networks that are begging you to look at them. One quick phone call can easily turn into an hour of unproductive time. I keep my ringer and all notification sounds on mute and my phone placed downward, so I can’t see if someone is trying to reach me. When I have a call scheduled, I turn my ringer on.
Turn off your email. When I’m working on a project, I close down my email so the constant notification pings don’t steal my focus. When I’m catching up on emails, I change my settings to “work offline” so my emails aren’t immediately sent, and I can’t receive new emails until I’ve finished my catch up. It takes great discipline to ignore new emails that come in, so why not remove the distraction?
Know your worth. If you are the CEO of a company, and you find yourself doing tasks that could be done by someone making a quarter of your salary, you are mismanaging your company’s funds and resources. When you begin working on a project, ask yourself if there’s someone else who can do it. If the answer is yes, transfer the project and free yourself up for the work only you can do. Like money, sometimes you have to spend time to earn time. Initially, you may need to spend an hour of time training someone to manage something new, but that could potentially free you up from dozens of hours of the course of the next few months, so spend that hour now to save more in the future.
If you are of value to your organization as a leader, you simply cannot afford squander your worth by carelessly discarding your time. Watch every hour.