The most valuable use of my time

August 16, 2007 by Jared Goralnick

Since I’ve actually been on top of things lately when it comes to work, I’ve thought a lot about what’s the best use of my time. I have no trouble finding “things to do,” but when I don’t have a critical deadline looming there are many options…and paying bills or processing digital camera pictures isn’t the answer. Heck, I’ve already cleared my inbox. So what next?

My list is likely to be very different than yours, as it comes from the perspective of the technology company businessowner. Still, as I put out later in this article, you ought to know at least what your #1 is. Here’s my list:

  1. Get billable work for employees to do
  2. Make a tangible step toward your product ideas
  3. Do something billable
  4. Build reputation or strategize to help with 1,2, or 3
  5. If you’re not doing 1-4, find someone or a technology to perform this task in the future

The point of this list is that my business needs to make money, but I shouldn’t be one of the primary revenue-producers. Rainmaker? For now. Worker-bee? No, thank you (this isn’t laziness–it’s just not good business-sense to put in all the hours and still find time to grow and have work for others. Many business owners are guilty of this, but we don’t have to be). Numbers 2, 4 and, to some extent, 5, relate to things that will help the future of the business. The point is that I should be finding as many ways as possible to either work on the business or do something I most enjoy rather than be concerned with the ordinary operations. And whenever I find myself doing something that is not a good use of my time, I should find a way for someone or something else to do it for me–that’s just good economics.

I think the problem for many businessowners is that they don’t want to be doing the things that they should be doing. Many of us started as technicians or practitioners and never made the leap to strategists and delegators (I recognize that delegator is not a word, but I mean it as someone who delegates more than someone who manages. Delegating can imply completely letting go of the task, managing implies holding on to the responsibility). I did mention that doing something you enjoy is important…but whenever possible the something you enjoy should be a high-level item as opposed to something with a short shelf-life, like solving a client problem. For me, my something I enjoy is in line with my business growth–developing a product (and I don’t mean the coding, I mean the furthering of the product, whatever that might mean).

My list is probably not for most people. But being in a position where you can make a list like this is very important. Getting to this point was the real accomplishment for me–I have dozens of projects I could be working on right now, but I’m not thinking about them–I’m instead doing what I feel is the best use of my time.

So that’s my challenge for you from this post–find the best possible use of your work time. And find a way to make more room for it.

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