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When a team of management consultants are brought in to optimize a company’s results one of the tools they often use is “Day in the Life Of” (DILO) studies. These studies are conducted with managers to determine what percent of their time is spent in value added versus non value added activities. These studies are usually conducted with enough management team members to have a representative sample that represents what’s going on in the company.

When I conducted my first set of studies I was shocked to find an average of only 24% of my client’s management time was spent productively. However, after conducting and reviewing hundreds of these studies for dozens of companies I realized that, in aggregate, the management of most companies spend less than 25% of their time in value added activities.

Having said that, in almost every company there were people who spent their time productively. Over the years I’ve determined some consistent differences in what they didn’t do versus what they did.

  1. They had little to say about what others were or weren’t doing so spent little time commiserating with their peers.
  2. They didn’t feel like victims – the empowered themselves to cut through the organizational malaise.
  3. They didn’t let someone else’s objectives get in the way of them completing what they needed to do each day.

As an entrepreneur and new business owner, your time is one of your business’s most valuable assets. If early in the life of your business you figure out how to optimize your time you’ll improve the chance of your business’ success immeasurably.

Here are three methods of increasing your effectiveness:

  1. Set the goals you want to achieve by the end of the year, then break them down into weekly increments, and every week measure where you are against that weekly goal. If you look at it every week you’ll know where you are and will be more apt to step it up when you need to. It’s so easy to get lost in the minutiae of running a business that you forget to see where you are against the big picture.
  2. At the end of every day write down what you accomplished and what you plan to accomplish the next day. This is short-interval management, the consultant’s secret to success. If at the end of each day you look at what you accomplished and insure you’re on track to achieve your goals for the week you have a higher probability of success than if you get lost in daily activities.
  3. Have a routine for closing down at the end of the day that includes preparing for tomorrow. Decide where you’re going to keep each of your business materials and supplies. This is essential, particularly in the early days of your start-up. It’s easy to lose a half an hour looking for your stapler, scissors, printer ink, or whatever. It’s even worse on the other end. Coming into a mess can stop you from being focused on what you really need to accomplish that day and waste valuable time getting started.

How would you score if a management consultant observed you and categorized the time you spent today as value added or non-value added?  Would you score better than the average? It’s your business. Decide to you’ll spend your time productively.

In my book, $1,000 Start-Ups there’s a “Day in the Life of” section for 60 businesses that spells out how entrepreneurs in that business spend their time.