Vail Daily column: How we spend our time
Ryan Summerlin July 16, 2014
“I would rather earn 1 percent of 100 people’s efforts than 100 percent of my own efforts,” — John D. Rockefeller.
“ … For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” — Matthew 5:45.
In the most widely read personal finance book of all time, Robert Kiyosaki points out that we must do more than simply trade our time for money. We each only get 24 hours a day, no matter how little sleep we actually need. In spite of the clear limitation of time, many of us insist on acting like our time is best spent in a variety of activities that will bear little to no fruit in the long term.
Among the five most oft-repeated regrets of the dying, the regret of “I wish I didn’t work so hard” resonates the most with me. The traditional American job will require somewhere between 40-65 dedicated hours of work a week. The average American will spend nearly 1,800 hours a year working — among the highest work rates in the world. We are among the “hardest” working, and yet consistently find many in a state of dissatisfaction. In general, the average American is “satisfied” with life, although post recession, only 30 percent of our population now cites some optimism and high levels of happiness.
At first glance, 30 percent of the population citing happiness seems pretty good. But wait a second here — we have to remember that we are the wealthiest country in the world as well, with the average household having around $102,000 in net worth. I know that money doesn’t buy happiness, but shouldn’t we expect that the presence of resources helps to at least grease the wheels of happiness?
In a few short searches for information, one possible reason for our lack of societal happiness becomes clear — we are time impoverished. The cycle that many Americans find themselves engaged in is not unlike the high interest payday loan cycles that plague the financial stability of so many. We find ourselves behind, and in an effort to alleviate the immediate stresses, we force our attention and resources on one pressing issue. In doing so, other issues accumulate. Although our primary stressor may have been relieved, we now find ourselves in the exact same spot from which we began. The cycle can only be repeated so many times before we find ourselves completely drained of our time, energy and other resources.
In my work as a banker I see this cycle happening all too often among small business owners. Entrepreneurs are often successful because they are willing to work harder at something in which they have developed a particular skill set. Financial success results from this hard work, but over time, too many business owners still retain all of the responsibility for the decisions and operations of a growing business. Though an owner may have a staff of 20 people, he still finds that more than 60 hours a week can be required to make the business run the way he wants. Over a longer period of time, if changes are not made, the staff of 20 doesn’t receive the training necessary to be successors of the owner, and the business may fail as a result of the lack of skill equity in the organization.
With these problems in mind, let’s point out a few easy changes that can not only help your ability to improve your work, but also achieve your personal finance and time goals as well.
Call it the Colorado way, but we are an independent group of people out here. We like to make decisions. We like to be in control. We don’t apologize for who we are. The unfortunate side of this is that we often don’t ask for help from our friends and peers. Sometimes it can be an issue of pride, and sometimes it is an issue of fear or embarrassment. Just like no life is lived without affecting another life, no business can operate without affecting other businesses. Whether you are networking for yourself or your business, knowing and engaging a variety of people can help you down the road. If you are the very best at what you do, spending two to six hours a month meeting with other professionals can only increase the likelihood of success for you and your personal goals. Most of us are not the very best at anything, so networking helps out even more. Build relationships in the community so that others can speak about you and your work on your behalf.
It might be time for you to examine the people in your personal life or in your business that can help do your work for you. I know a general contractor who has a special ability — he can sell anything to anyone, and he is among the best negotiators I have ever met. A few years ago, he realized that too much of his time was being spent on the jobsite. He trained his employees to do the work he needed them to do. He found a man that he could trust to be an onsite project manager. Now, my friend just goes from job to job, putting in bids and talking to clients. Find out what you do best, and give the rest of the work to people that are willing to do it for you.
Before deciding to bring on more help to handle a piece of your operation, take note of whether or not the needed help can be more efficiently offered by someone on the outside. A great example of efficient outsourcing is your payroll — you can do it, but if your hours are better spent doing something else, maybe you should hire someone else to take care of it. It might free you up to focus on your revenue generating activities.
Regardless of what you do, focus on ways to improve your time leverage. In personal life as well as in business, your 24 hours a day can be a great deal more effective if you rely on more than just yourself.
Ben Gochberg is a commercial lender and business finance consultant. He plays, lives, works and is trying to do a little good in Eagle County. He can be reached for business inquiries or free consultation at 970-471-3546.