Becoming Invaluable

Founding a business can become all consuming. Early on, entrepreneurship is marked by packed schedules, late nights, and long weeks. All the time spent isn’t created equal. We can get swept into putting out fires or responding to pressing needs, but it’s worth slowing down to figure out where time is best spent.

Understanding Value

Imagine I offered you a Macbook Pro, one of apples leading computers, for just $1,000. Assuming it’s not stolen, that is a great deal. A $2,000 dollar computer for half off. What a bargain.

Now, imagine I offered you that same computer for $10,000. Would you buy it?

Of course not, that’s absurd. I just mentioned that it is worth $2,000. To buy a $2,000 computer for $10,000 would be spending 5x more than it’s worth. Ultimately, this is a lesson of Cost vs. Value.

Simple Exercise

  1. For 2 minutes, write down the tasks you perform in an average day. You can write these on sticky notes, index cards, or just a sheet of paper.
  2. For 2 minutes, review your calendar. As you see meetings or large blocks of time, reflect on what you did during that time and add tasks you may have missed.
  3. Now, on a whiteboard or new piece of paper, draw 4 columns.
  4. At the top of each column, place headings ($10/hr, $100/hr, $1,000/hr, $10,000/hr).
  5. For each sticky note, place them in a column that reflects how much it would cost someone else to perform that task. For example, scheduling meetings is a task often performed by virtual assistants for less than $10/hr.

What you’ll likely find is that most tasks fit within the $10/hr column. Most entreprenuers and founders find that 75% of their time is spent on tasks they could pay someone else to do for $10/hr.

Consolidate $10 Tasks

While reviewing Column 1, your $10 tasks, there are three immediate actions that will increase your value.

  • Stop. What would happened if you didn’t do this anymore?
  • Delegate. Who else could own this responsibility?
  • Automate. Could you find technology that handles these tasks?

Optimize $100 Tasks

Column 2, the $100 tasks, are typically the services you sell. They can usually be simplified or enshrined in process to ease their execution.

• Simplify. Can you achieve the same value with less effort?

• Delegate. Can a less skilled team member perform the task with similar results?

• Productize. Could you build technology that makes these more consistent.

Plan $1,000 Tasks

$1,000 Tasks are usually a result of time spent building a process or improving performance. Other tasks that qualify include problem identification, team training, investments in company culture, or goal setting. Even just a few hours spent onboarding, training, and reducing team member churn can return thousands of dollars.

  • Schedule. Set aside consistent time to improve processes.
  • Plan. Develop a ritual around how this time is spent and what success looks like.

Pursue $10,000 Tasks

Tasks that are valued over $10,000 are not usually screaming for attention. The behaviors and rituals are easily discarded in favor of more urgent alternatives. Unfortunately, few things are as important to the overall health and growth of the organization.

These tasks include new product/service creation, creative problem solving, strategic decision making, and leadership meetings where time is spent ‘on the business’ rather than ‘inside the business’.

This time should be pursued, institutionalized, and protected.

  • Pursue. Active search for time to make it happen.
  • Institutionalize. Assign key members and mandate regular participation.
  • Protect. Reduce distractions and conflicts.

Continual Improvement

The work of moving upstream is never done. Whether weekly, monthly, or quarterly it’s important to constantly reevaluate where your time is best spent. As you grow and improve, the value of your time should be increasing as well.