Time Money

You have the same 24 hours in a day as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the president. There are always limits of time and money, and skilled use of limited assets is one of the key jobs of any CEO.

You’re the CEO of your own life, and perhaps more – maybe a family, company, startup, etc.  Thinking like a CEO can help you create more time.

Our Top 5 Ways to Create More Time

for you TL;DR people (Too long, didn’t read.. ), here’s the summary:

  1. Leverage Video & Media
  2. Leverage Templates
  3. Automation & Bots
  4. Delegate more
  5. Optimize for Time

1. Make More Time by Leveraging Video & Media

Video is incredibly powerful as a communication device, but a hidden benefit it’s a massive time multiplier. A single video that takes you an hour can be viewed millions of times, and video is so information-dense you can pack in tone, visual and sound cues, body language. You’re probably an expert in something, and video is the perfect way to showcase that expertise… if you’re a real estate agent, shows around a house while you talk to us. The videos can be fancy and highly produced, but don’t have to be – what’s most important is the message. We’ve done split-tests comparing simple webcam videos with a not-great looking older balding dude who outperformed the slick professional model. Why? He was the real expert, and that’s what people want. Obviously you want to look and sound professional (tip: the one place to spend money is on a good mic though, $60 for a blue snowball or good broadcast-quality mic will make a huge difference).

Learn from movie stars & pro athletes: they earn millions because of “service asymmetry” – and you can too.

Video is also asynchronous communication – a nickel word for saying you can record the video at noon on a Saturday if that’s the only available time for you, while the recipient can watch it anytime – including when you’re most busy and don’t have time to answer.

Note this also applies to any media, but people will often watch a 5 minute video more readily than they’ll pay attention to written text for 5 minutes. Video is passive, and information-rich. That said, for some things, written text is better, especially if it includes graphics, graphs, illustrations, etc. and is written in an easy-to-scan way. Top 10 style lists like this one help, as they’re easy to jump around, and the title frames the benefit.

Anytime someone submits a help support ticket to SwiftCloud.IO, 90% of the time we create an article if it doesn’t exist already, then send them that. Why? So we only have to answer it once, while building our knowledgebase, which also helps SEO, and helps reduce time spent by humans, and gives our upcoming AI / ML (artificial / machine intelligence) plenty of canned responses for most common issues. As we roll this out, AI will be built into Swift Tasks, of course.

Take Action Challenge: Take your most common 10 conversations and convert them into videos you can easily share. Record them into 3 good takes, and use any free video editing program to mash the best parts into one good take, or hire an editor. Tip: Our talent marketplace has plenty of video editors, and of course SwiftCloud makes it easy to send big files like video. When done, upload to youtube, and have them ready to send out in a few clicks, or add them to your email signature, embed into your website FAQ section, add to your helpdesk, add to sales proposal templates – wherever they can help showcase your expertise.

TIP: With all of these, there’s up-front time-expense. If you could spend 1 hour on a task that saved you 15 minutes per week, is it worth it? Absolutely – in just 4 weeks you’re at break even. Many people see the up-front hour and push it off, creating a catch-22: You don’t have as much time and money as you’d like because you don’t have time and money to implement the time and money saving systems.

Solution: Get over the hump and start implementing time-saving-systems today. Even if you only budget 1 hour per week your results will snowball, freeing up more time & money with each system you create.

2. Create Time by Leveraging Templates

Templates can be both those you create, and those created by others.

SwiftTasks is built from the ground up to help people with often repeated tasks. In 2009, I (founder, Roger V) was a mortgage lender and Realtor®, and for every home I sold or financed, I had to repeat the same 72 steps over and over again (it was actually more or less than 72 but you get the idea…).

By using checklists, whiteboards, and pipeline management, it was easy to create a system whereby a lot of the work was on auto-pilot. Nearly every business that has any complexity has some sort of fly-wheel, that once you get spinning, is increasingly easy to keep moving and it kicks out money.

Project Management Software TemplatesTemplates can also be created by others, whether they’re checklists, actual templates (i.e. website design templates), or templates you create, a template is just really a basic set of media and criteria for when to apply it.

In SwiftTasks, simply click the Templates button to load a template, and it will load all subtasks, and soon can load expected time / calendar -events and file-attachments, including electronic signature docs.

Take Action Challenge: Templates are a key part of the next step, Automation. What parts of your business or job can be template-ized? For any projects coming up, can you leverage off-the-shelf templates instead of reinventing the wheel (i.e. landing pages for sales offers, website design templates)? What questions have you answered multiple times that you could pair to media in the above?

3. Create Time via Automation & Robotics

Everyone knows about marketing automation these days, but true robotics is about…

  1. Simplification, from tiny directions into broad strokes. Reducing hundreds of tiny commands to a single direction…
  2. Ideally, an outcome vs. process directions such as “drive me to Porto’s Bakery”, vs. turn-by-turn directions.
  3. and eventually, prediction of likely desires based on unstated patterns.

All of this is about inputs, outputs, and linking steps together. Inputs often include money, assets (i.e. server FTP info in the case of websites, or notes from you about what design style you like), and the output is some specific deliverable – a website, a happy customer, etc.

API “Bridges” can help, such as Zapier.com, IFTTT (If This Then That), and other systems, which help one system port to another. Naturally, we’re biased, and are building SwiftCloud out based on real client needs, and the biggest value is delivered when clients use multiple apps of ours together, such as tying the Swift Calendar Self Scheduling tool to a marketing automation campaign that immediately requests, say, new-client-paperwork electronic signatures and also reminds the client of their appointment.

This is also the inevitable future, but parts of it are already available now and any business looking for an edge has already adopted AI/ML. As SwiftCloud products grow, we are folding SwiftCloud.AI machine intelligence about narrowly focused tasks, such as which template to respond with for a service request. These systems aren’t as “brittle” as hard-logic 1990’s – era technology, or even 2000’s-era “fuzzy logic” systems; these are trained like a dog, and learn through reinforcement.

To put these into play, there’s a simple loop one must create, which is feedback. Feedback could include customer satisfaction surveys such as Swift Marketing’s RAVE system wherein customer feedback can be looped back as a signal for customer service systems to gradually optimize on. Eventually, these systems surpass humans, never need a break or day off, and free up the humans to moving up the chain on higher-value tasks.

Take Action Challenge: What’s the most repetitive portion of your company or position? How do you know when this job is done correctly i.e. is there a signal, rating, loan approval, home offer = accepted, etc. that is confirmation of correct / incorrect or complete / incomplete? This may be vendor info, customer ratings, etc. – and this can help with automation.

4. Create More Time via Delegation

Delegation is easy conceptually, but what’s less obvious is systems for success.

Delegation can look like hiring conventional employees, offshore outsourced workers, hiring temp-to-perm positions or finding key vendors to work with.

SwiftTasks can really help with delegation by tracking task status in a project hierarchy. Every task automatically allows unlimited levels of subtasks, any of which can be assigned. The assigned worker (or client, or boss, vendors, etc.) can collaborate, and this makes it easy to manage status and deliverables by making best practices very easy.

One example of best practices is differentiating project / tasks status of “Complete Pending Verification” and truly complete i.e. “Closed Successful”. Often, there’s a loop in the the middle between notes / revisions before finally being marked as complete.

For small tasks, Fiverr.com is great for pre-packaged pre-defined simple-to-delegate tasks. For larger projects, sites like Freelancer, Upwork (a merge of Odesk and Elance) can help, and of course, our own talent marketplace available inside SwiftTasks can help. For local help, Craigslist and TaskRabbit can help, or even conventional job boards, posting on Facebook, and asking friends. Whatever you use, SwiftTasks can help you manage your teams of favorite workers and thus create systems to manage messages and status and deliverables.

Tip: Don’t risk huge tasks on unproven workers. Best practices are to start small – start with a fingernail, then a finger, then a hand, then an arm before you risk “open heart surgery”, if you’ll excuse the metaphor. Talent isn’t enough – you need to be sure of work ethic, moral ethics and cultural fit.

For conventional jobs, SwiftStaff.com can help with application tracking so it’s easy to sort and rank candidates, and then onboard them with SwiftAcademy training framework.

5. Optimize for Time

Thousands of great articles have been written about time management, but one of the most important key starting places is knowing where exactly your time is going.

This can look like installing a browser time tracker even just for yourself, which will tally up for example total time on facebook and youtube.

Getting to zero isn’t necessarily a requirement, and I maintain that facebook has become the “smoking break” of our generation – people need a few minutes of downtime between tasks to clear focus and move to the next. How much you need, well, that’s up to you.

Awareness creates action, and action creates results.

Step 1 is tracking your time, to get a sense for how you might batch tasks, automate tasks via the above

If you have a conventional job (i.e. wherein you sell your time for money and get paid on a time basis, not a results basis (i.e. like a commission-only sales rep or business owner)), optimizing for time can help you move up in your career, and if nothing else, keep some of your sanity by freeing up some time so you have more control over high-stress demanding times vs. slower portions of your week.

For business owners, building a culture that values time and output takes careful work and curation.

David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is a landmark study and book and workflow. In the project management field, extensive studies are done about exciting topics like how much time is spent by people going to the bathroom, or mentally switching gears to some other task, non-work-related time on social media while they should be working, and more. In short, it’s a lot – in some cases, workers are estimated as having as few as 8 hours per _week_ of fully engaged fully productive time.

This of course, varies by employee, and what’s going on with them – but all of these systems start with awareness, then applying conventional systems to optimize for time.

Here’s a fun challenge and way to keep track: use SwiftClock time billing software. For the moment, it’s free, and an easy way to track what you did or are doing with your time. It’s designed to bill clients, or track employee attendance, but can easily be used for any time tracking. For agencies, simply compare the total hours billed to clients vs. time logged to you for a sense of billable hours ratios.

#6 Bonus: Say no more often.

This one is on productivity articles all the time, and to be always comes off as a bit trite. In the real world there are repercussions to saying no.

And there’s the trick: focusing on what’s most important and what you truly want or need. “No” can show up as “not me but…” or “not now”. To-do lists should always have a “soon, but not today” category, and if something keeps never quite making it to the “today” list, then is it really a priority? Can you just say no? Sometimes it requires a deadline, or getting clear about increasing cost (in time, not just money). Example: Paying bills is easy to say no, but it’ll result in trashed credit and additional fees if you don’t pay, so at some point, batching them or setting up autopay force priority.

Back to you – what your favorite tips and tricks?

Let us know below.