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Work 10 Hours Less Each Week

Learn how to work less and make more in three easy steps.

Harry Welby-Cooke

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Stressed entrepreneur

John D Rockefeller, a man who commanded incredible amounts of money, once said:  “Those who have leisure time to spend pursuing their passions and dreams experience the real wealth in life.”

Knowing how to spend time is a more valuable skill than knowing how to make, manage, invest and spend money. It is wise for entrepreneurs, who want to be truly successful, to master the use of their precious and irreplaceable time. What I have found most interesting is those who know how to manage, budget and save time – rather than letting it manage them – will always find it easier to make money.

Learning how to lop 10 hours off a typical work week without sacrificing any income may take practice, but it’s easier and faster to accomplish than most people think with these three steps.

Step One: Fire Extraneous Customers

The first rule of any time management system is to utilise the time we are allotted most wisely. As the saying goes; Time is money.  The thief to be most wary of is the one who steals our time.

So the rather controversial first step is to eliminate wasted time on customers who tie up sales representatives with inconsequential sales, steal your valuable time with constant complaining and waste your accountant’s time chasing them for payment.  You need to either get rid of them or transform them into customers who proactively feed the bottom line. While this approach may sound radical, it makes practical sense to only focus on customers who respond with profitable transactions.

Firing customers may involve deleting dead-end leads from the client database. Or it may mean sending customers or clients to a business that more appropriately matches their price demands. Or you could adjust the magnets that are attracting those unwanted customers in the first place. Examples of this are discounts, freebies or products in the business that are not related to the core business model. Concentrate solely on products and services that produce the most profit and cull the dead weight ones that don’t contribute their share to the bottom line. You could spin those lines off as stand-alone businesses and sell them to another entrepreneur or upgrade to premium versions that offer higher profit margins. Profit is always the goal and is the most important barometer of success.

Step Two: Double the Conversion Rates of Transactions

Money is a fabulous timesaver and those who know how to make money more efficiently can leverage it to carve out more time for themselves. The key to increasing profits is to convert unprofitable interactions into profitable ones. This is a foolproof formula for saving more hours each day without compromising productivity or earnings.

It does not have to take slow years to make the money needed to free up an extra 10 hours a week. Bear in mind that the road may be long, but those with a faster stride arrive at the desired destination much quicker. Most people crawl toward retirement. Innovative entrepreneurs sprint there in record time.

If you invest in a mutual fund or pension plan and it may take decades to get enough of a nest egg to make it possible to semi-retire and take 10 hours off each week to play golf or spend time with family. However, increasing profits in a business can be done in a matter of days or weeks.

To prepare for your profit-boosting initiative, gather accounting data and metrics to get a clear picture of where your profits come from, how many contacts are made with customers each month and how many customers make actual purchases. An easy way to harvest such information is by using software connected to point-of-sale terminals or cash registers.

Next, launch a marketing and advertising push to generate new customer leads, to encourage existing customers to buy more and to promote the most profitable products or services.

Part of this effort should involve a new way of looking at the business model. Most entrepreneurs see the future of their companies in terms of products and services that fill a particular market need or niche. Find the right merchandise and the customers will come. Build the best resort and it will be booked a year in advance. Invent a better mousetrap and make millions. Another way to view the marketplace of opportunity is to reverse that point of view. Instead of looking for the ideal items to sell, invest in purchasing the loyalty of the perfect customer. Rather than chasing market share, chase “wallet share” or more profitable customer-based transactions. No matter what a business sells, it’s ultimately the customers and how many times they spend money that generates the profits.

Invest in attracting and retaining good customers and the rest will take care of itself automatically. Instead of reinventing the wheel, find out who is buying wheels and make them your steady customers. Then sell them a premium wheel with a wider profit margin. Finally, ask clients to bring in their friends so that you can sell them a set of wheels too.

Once an expanding customer base is established, use incentives such as superior customer service, in-house financing, exclusive product lines and preferential customer perks to inspire clients to double the number of their monthly transactions.

Try up-selling customers to premium products. Cross-sell them to accessories or add-on features. Even down-sell to them by offering a more economical version of the product they can’t yet afford so that they don’t take their business to a competitor. At the same time, continually make a choreographed effort to generate fresh leads for potential new customers.

Here’s an example based on a goal of wanting to work 10 hours less without sacrificing productivity or profits. For the purpose of our example, we will assume that the business is open 40 hours per week or approximately 160 hours per month.

To gain 10 hours off each week without losing money, it is necessary to reap 40 hour’s worth of extra profits per month.  One week is 25 percent of a 4-week month. So to gain 10 hours per week it is necessary to increase conversion rates – in other words sales and profits – by 25 percent.

Do it by attracting more customers, by making an extra quarter of profit margin on each rand or by lowering overheads by 25 percent.  Get rid of customers who are wasting 25 percent of employee time.  Cut out discount coupons and unnecessary giveaways and institute in-house financing to capture extra sales and interest rate revenues. There are numerous ways to gain that extra 25 percent and to free up an extra 10 hours per week.

Step Three: Run Your Businesses on Auto-Pilot

Now the business owner has enviable options. One possibility is to close down the business for 10 hours each week, take time off and settle for making the same amount of money per month that was generated before boosting profits by 25 percent.

Another alternative is to leverage that newfound success for progressive changes and forward momentum. You can maintain the same hours of operation, capture the extra 25 percent in profits and then wisely reinvest those profits in greater timesaving initiatives.

By working smarter – not harder – through organized systems, cutting edge technology, innovative advertising and dynamic employee training, you can prepare to put the business into the hands of capable others – which is the next step toward personal freedom. If somebody else is running the store – without any loss of productivity – it is possible for you to literally play golf all day without loss of income.

Harry Welby-Cooke is the Master Licensee for ActionCOACH South Africa. He is also the President of COMENSA (Coaches and Mentors Association of South Africa). ActionCOACH is the world’s largest executive and business coaching company with operations in 39 countries. It is also on the list of the top 100 franchises globally. As a highly successful Business and Executive coach, Harry is a master of teaching business owners how to turn their businesses around and accelerate their growth. Email him at harrywelbycooke@actioncoach.com or call 0861 226 224

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Work Life Balance

Managing Your Schedule Like A Boss: Tips The Experts Never Tell You

Time management is at the top of the short list of reasons why some people succeed and most don’t.

John Rampton

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Lou Gerstner, the former CEO of IBM, once said, “Never let anyone own your schedule.”

I don’t know about you, but I love that quote. It’s so simple, yet true. After all being deliberate with your time is one of the best ways to have a happy life in the business world. Of course, try as hard as you can, that’s not always the reality. Life is kind of known for throwing a monkey wrench into your plans every now and then.

But, it’s still possible to manage your schedule like a boss by following these can’t-beat tips.

Create a routine

Next up you need to create, and stick, to a routine.

Start by blocking times for specific activities, such as checking emails, exercise and spending time with your family. You can then convert your calendar into a series of blocks for you to place activities in the prepared spaces. If something isn’t planned and placed into a block, don’t do it.

Keep in mind that your routine will probably change throughout the year. But, it’s better to have a plan that changes than no plan at all. For example, if you’re launching a start-up, then you should block times for activities like customer discovery, coding and hiring. Next year you may have to block out times for marketing, growing your business and customer service.

Related: Fighting Sleep Is A Losing Management Strategy. Let Your Employees Take Naps

Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week

“This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going,” write Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival on Entrepreneur.

“You’ll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.”

Add time buffers to manage your schedule

Have you missed a couple of deadlines because you jumped from project to project? It’s probably because your didn’t add time buffers. A buffer is something like this:

You just landed a new client for your freelance business. They assign you a deadline to complete the task. Instead of entering their exact deadline, your put your own deadline that’s 24-48 earlier. Those hours are the buffer.

Why’s that such a big deal? When you have a buffer, and something happens that you can’t control, you still have those 24-48 hours to meet the deadline.

Schedule your calendar like a to-do-list

If you have things on your schedule that have to be done, I personally like scheduling out time on my calendar for them. Much like a meeting, they have a set and scheduled time for this task to be accomplished.

For some people like myself, this includes blocking out time for working out, eating, walks and other important activities in my life. If I don’t make time for them, other things will always get in the way. I find that when I block out those times on my schedule, I’m much more proactive as well as I feel better about myself.

Use batching and time-blocking

In my early days of freelancing I multitasked like it was going out of style. I eventually realised that doing more than one thing at a time is ineffective and stressful. I was stressed beyond endurance because, as research now shows, the human brain isn’t capable of multitasking.

Related: 5 Time-Management Tools for Small Businesses to Improve Productivity

A study conducted by Microsoft Research, shows that switching from task to task is less productive than staying on the same task, or the same types of tasks, over a block of time. That’s why batching is so awesome.

Batching is basically where you find similar tasks and then lump them all together to make a task-batch. You then sit down, set a timer, and focus only on those similar tasks. For example, setting aside 6 am to 7 am to check emails and then 8 am to 10 am to write blog posts.

Another strategy that you should try is using time-blocks. When you have outside meetings, block two and a half days per week for those meetings. Only attend those outside meetings during those time-blocks. To make blocking more effective, color-code your calendar so that you can visually glance at your calendar.

Chandler Bolt wrote a great book, The Productive Person, that you should read if you want to learn more about time-blocking.

Optimise time for different meeting types

To be honest, 30-minute meetings and 10-minute calls are ideal. A 10-minute phone call with a prospective client is more than enough for me to know what their needs are and if we click. Better yet, Google Hangout or Skype can be used to see the person instead of just hearing them.

If you have a remote team, you can host a virtual meeting via Zoom,RingCentral Business, Zoho Meeting, Join.me or GoToMeeting.

Here are some suggestions on the types of meetings that you might want to book and schedule:

  • 45-minute meeting that’s outside of the office. Allow 15 minutes for travel and 30 minutes for the meeting over coffee.
  • 30-minute weekly staff meeting.
  • 30-minute meeting in the office to get to know colleagues or catch up.
  • 15-minute daily standup if you’re a start-up or leading an engineering team.
  • 10-minute phone call to offer someone advice.

Related: Forget Time Management: Why You Should Practice Choice Management Instead

Whatever meetings you decide to hold a meeting, you should group them into blocks. If you think that a particular meeting needs more or less time, then you can adjust the block accordingly.

Still, just remember that it’s impossible to get everything done. “Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results,” say Mathews, Debolt, and Percival.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Work Life Balance

How To Optimise Your Productivity After Quitting Your Job

You’ve done it. You’re your own boss. All the time in the world. Now the problem is – you’re used to 10 hours of your day being allocated elsewhere – there’s almost too much time now. So much time… and so many ways to waste it.

Jordan Stephanou

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The idea of having control of our own time is bliss. In many ways, nothing could be better than the idea of “freedom”, of having “full control” of one’s life. The reality is that it can be incredible, however it can also be life’s biggest trap. If there is no strategy to optimize this available time, it will turn into one major procrastination session.

If your time is not carefully managed, your entrepreneurial journey could become months of regret and self-loathing because of wasted opportunity. On the flip side, Peter Thiel has been paraphrased in saying that one of the beauties of an entrepreneurial life, is that if someone were to put a gun to your head and demand that you achieve 10 years worth of goals in 6 months, it would be possible. If time is used extremely effectively, anything is possible. That, in my view, is something to get excited about, and is reason enough to want to put tangible methods in place.

Note that many of these methods were inspired by Tim Ferriss and the many world class performers he has interviewed on his podcast. I have since experimented with recommendations and have found that the below have worked best for me.

1. Organise meetings

This may sound counterintuitive, because meetings are commonly considered (at least in the corporate world) to be the ultimate waste of time. The reason for that perception is that there is usually so much work to be done, and corporate meetings classically aren’t necessary for all the attendees, and do not result in a definitive next step.

Related: 10 Things You Must Do Before Quitting Your Job To Start Your Company

My argument for organising meetings is to conjure momentum when none exists early on in the process. If you are sitting with a blank calendar and a blank agenda, by arranging meetings with potential clients, partners, employees or investors, this will create a sense of scarcity; a simulated “due date” that will force you to do the appropriate work to be ready for said meeting, and could put you on an exciting unforeseen path post-meeting.

These meetings also get people on the same page as you; to buy into your vision and to get them excited by what excites you in your entrepreneurial journey – you never know what doors can open from connecting with the right people at the right time.

I read a quote recently that said “great opportunities never have ‘Great Opportunity’ in the subject line”.

2. Say No

You may receive a deluge of exciting propositions and projects out of nowhere that others less committed than you would like you to work on. These can be extremely tempting, but as Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks says, “The single most important distinction in life is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted”.

Derek Sivers makes this distinction by removing any middle ground – if he doesn’t feel that the opportunity is a “HELL YEAH!”, it’s simply a “no”. Another tool you could use is to rate opportunities out of 10 – but you’re not allowed to use the number 7. When in doubt, you have to either rate the opportunity as a 6 or an 8. If it’s a 6, it’s a definite “no”.

Saying no can be infinitely more difficult than saying yes. That’s why, it can be argued that nurturing the ability to decline mediocre opportunities is one the most important skills on the path to success.

organising-day3. Don’t let others set your agenda for you

You will wake up to several emails, whatsapp messages and a missed call. You are then faced with a difficult decision – to reactively respond to all before pursuing your agenda for the day; or proactively completing your agenda first and then addressing the needs of others.

The risk of the reactive approach, is that there is a high probability of getting derailed entirely by requests from other people. A seemingly short request could end up cascading into several hours of back and forth. It is quite possible that by the time this has reached completion, you have no energy left to allocate to the most important tasks for the day. You will leave feeling unfulfilled, as if the day was wasted – a routine you desperately need to avoid.

You should set your own agenda, and when the key tasks are completed, you attend to the emails and requests of others.

Related: How To Start A Side Hustle Without Quitting Your Day Job

4. Set your most important 3 tasks each day

On any given day, you may have 32 important things you want to achieve. Where does one even begin to prioritise these? Typically, we may start with the easiest of the 32 to get that “small win” feeling. The downside is that the easiest may not be the most important or urgent, and could leave you feeling in a similar position to where you started. That’s why I set the most important 3 each day.

They may take 5 minutes each or 5 hours each, but if you can consistently overcome the most important 3 tasks on a daily basis, you will not only make tangible progress in your work, but develop an unrivalled (and somewhat addictive) sense of productivity.

In addition, I recommend setting these 3 tasks at the end of each working day, so that you can get straight into them the next morning. I find that setting the next day’s objectives is a nice way to wind down the day, and reduce chances of morning procrastination the next day because your agenda will already be pre-constructed, leaving no room for excuses.

5. Find the environment that speaks to your working soul

Some people thrive in 8am-5pm busy office environments, while others can only work from night time when it feels like the world around them is asleep. Some people love absolute silence while others need the madness of boisterous conversation and loud music. There is no perfect way to work.

Related: Feel Like Quitting? These 9 Women Prove Grit Can Lead You To Massive Success

I have found that the ambience of coffee shops is conducive to a productive environment – being surrounded by people of different backgrounds and occupations leads to a complementary sense of both community and urgency, and removes any sense of loneliness. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of the right music to aid productivity.

Certain melodic lyric-less music could help create a rhythm conducive to productivity (Tim Ferriss highly recommends Gramatik as an aid to his book writing). Some people prefer music they are extremely familiar with, and even play the same song or album on repeat for hours; the familiarity could create a sense of comfort, and you won’t get distracted by the lyrics.

There is no perfect formula for productivity. There is no script, as much as others may try enforce theirs onto you. That’s why this journey is so exciting – you can use any of the methods above and do what works for you. Be productive by using your mind, not your time.

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Work Life Balance

Immerse Yourself In Purposeful Reading This Holiday Season

As the festive season draws close, and we have a bit more time on our hands, I thought I’d share details about a few of my favourite books which I encourage everyone to read.

Brian Eagar

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I am an avid reader. Maybe not as avid as Nelson Mandela was or self-made billionaires Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and many others are, but still very avid. Buffett, in fact, estimates that he spends as much as 80% of his time reading. He puts his success down to the amount of literature that he consumes, saying that reading is what makes him a more nimble and astute businessman.

Reading broadens the mind and allows for learning through others’ experiences. Through learning, we build up knowledge. By putting that knowledge into practice over time, we build wisdom. Wisdom in turn builds trust, builds relationships and attracts followers.

As the festive season draws close, and we have a bit more time on our hands, I thought I’d share details about four of my favourite books which I encourage everyone to read.

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