148 - How to Cut Your Wasted Time

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Confession: I'm going to talk about how to cut your wasted time in this post. As in, how you can STOP WASTING SO MUCH STINKING TIME. But I'm not great with some parts of this. I'll share exactly which ones, but I hope I'll give you some other perspectives on wasted time as well.

Last year (2018) I declared that it was the Year of the Emma Empire. I wanted to use the things I've learned over the years about marketing, email lists, and everything else to launch a fiction pen name and do amazing things.

Happily, I reached my goal of having a $5k month of book sales by December 2018. (It was actually $6k in November!!) January isn't over yet, but I'm on track to blow my goal of $10k in a month of book sales out of the water already.

Yes, I plan to talk more about this whole journey with you! (And yes, I'm grinning like an idiot and doing all the happy dances and completely disbelieving that I'm doing this.)

But for now, I want to focus in on how thinking about time helped me accomplish these goals. And it's probably not what you think!

HOW TO CUT WASTED TIME

Many people think first of time-tracking apps and the like when they think about how to identify and cut wasted time. For me, I start with a more big-picture view. It relates in some ways to another post and podcast episode where I talk about How to Cut Down on Your Business Expenses.

When it comes to waste, it starts with ROI.

People compare time and money, saying your time IS money. So think of it that way! Consider your time as an investment. Where are you investing AND seeing a return? Those places are where you want to continue investing and perhaps invest MORE time.

As for cutting down on time, it's the flip side of that question. Where are you investing time and seeing NOTHING in return?

Remember that the return doesn't just mean money. It could be that you have joy. Or more time. Here are the questions I posed in the post on cutting your business expenses with a few tweaks.

Ask these questions about each recurring investment of your time:
  • Does it bring in money?
  • Does it save me time or make more time?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Can I do without it?
  • Does the amount of time spent bring forth a comparable result?

These questions can help you determine the ROI for some of your activities. Because we aren't always the best judges of our time, I'll link to some great apps and ideas that members of my community suggested.

WHERE TO SPEND YOUR TIME

When I went to the 20Booksto50k writing conference in Vegas last fall, I kept hearing one thing again and again: double down on where you are finding success. I don't think that's the exact wording and it wasn't a theme of the conference, but it's what I heard and what I needed to hear.

For my Emma Empire, I had planned to switch genres and launch a new pen name in early 2019. But seeing my income rise and then explode, I kept hearing that I needed to stick with what was working and keep my focus there. At LEAST for a little longer. In essence, I need to earn the stability and the time to shift my focus without a loss of my current trajectory.

When you have something that's working well, double down. Drop what you need to drop to make that a priority. Stop chasing the butterflies and shiny objects. Stick with what works.

That is very simplistic advice, but I know I need to remind myself of this. I know that it works. On a large and small scale.

Thinking about this convinced me to keep writing sweet romance and not switch to YA spy novels. (Though I'm writing those in my "spare" time.) But in an even more focused way, when I realized that my billionaire books were outselling my beach novels, I shelved the other books (even ones I'd outlined) to double down on the series that was working well.

And THAT'S how I'm breaking my goals into the new year.

TOOLS TO IDENTIFY AND CUT WASTED TIME

I confessed in the beginning that apps and the like are really not my thing. I know they are useful, but I can't make myself use them. Maybe I'll try in 2019. We'll see.

But my community shared a few things that helped them focus their time.

Roland Denzel from Eat Move Live 352 recommends this app, which helps you identify where you are spending time on your computer. He pays for the upgrade, which does fancy things like sends warnings when he has been doing time-wasting things and will allow him to block certain things to stay on task.

Sarah Merchant from Work a Day Services uses this app to track how many hours she spends on tasks for herself and her clients. This one has a free and paid version as well.

Community member Melody Hansen utilizes this for personal and client work to plug in where she spends her time. It helps break it down by category and sends you a report at the end of the month showing what you did where.

Suzy Oakley likes F.lux, which is not a time-tracking app, but one that dims your computer screen based on the light you're in. She sets it to alert her and change the screen color when it's time to go to bed.

When it comes to tracking time and expenses, Catherine Turner from Path to the Bestseller List uses Fresh Books to track her time, both billable and non-billable.

A non-app option I want to recommend is Amy Lynn Andrews' book, Tell Your Time. I have this bad boy for years and though it's been a while since I've read it, I love the practical and uplifting way Andrews handles this! The subtitle is How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free. That about sums it up. :)

BREAKING DOWN THE STEPS

When it comes to cutting your wasted time, it's a pretty simple process. Now you need to DO IT.

  • Identify where you are actually spending time
  • Identify the ROI of where you are spending your time (remember ROI is more than just income!)
  • Cut out, adjust, schedule, delete, or whatever action you need to focus on the tasks that have ROI

Sure, that SOUNDS simple. Now how about actually DOING the work?

I'll say that this process hurts. It hurt me several times last year to set aside things like this podcast. (Which I might do again this year at some point.) I cut out A LOT of things. Some I missed. Some I didn't. Some I should cut and just am not doing it. This process doesn't always feel good.

And, depending on your goals, you don't have to be so cutthroat. Maybe you have some areas where you just chill and those matter to your mental or emotional health or happiness, but might look like a waste on a time-tracker. My goals last year were laser focused and so were my cuts. If you aren't trying to reach a really tough goal, you can have a little more room for flex.

Do you have particular apps or time-tracking tools to help you cut wasted time?

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