How to manage your time effectively (especially when you are busy!)
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We had a really great group coaching call this week - as part of the Self-Running Agency Membership. One of the topics we discussed was how to get more efficient with your time and make sure you're focusing on the things that matter rather than constantly getting sucked into client work and stuck on the dreaded client service hamster wheel of doom. So that's what I want to dig into in today's episode of the podcast.

Time Stamp

[01:35] A story about my week and what happens when you don’t plan and block out time

[02:17] Letting external factors determine your week which leads to a feeling of being out of control

[03:00] Dividing your time against REVENUE, STRATEGY & ADMIN

[04:10] How to split your time - what happens when you get it wrong

[05:49] The ideal split of your time (for an agency owner)

[06:40] My free time recording tool to support you to move toward your ideal time split

[07:24] How to use Time blocking to effectively manage your diary

[08:00] The importance of knowing what you will do when you have strategy time in your diary

[09:11] Don’t let external factors dictate the direction of travel

[09:44] Always overestimate how long a task will take and build a buffer for all the things that might happen (that you can't plan for)

[10:00] The importance of focusing on your ‘superpowers’

[10:55] What is a task worth?  What is your notional hourly rate?

[11:47] How do I manage over-demanding clients?  Protecting your boundaries

Quotations

“Make sure you always schedule your time and know exactly what you are going to do in that time block.” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

We had a really great group coaching call this week, which is part of the self-running agency membership. Now, one of the topics we discussed was how to get more efficient with your time and make sure you're focusing on the things that really matter. The things that move the dial for your agency rather than constantly getting sucked into client work and stuck on the dreaded Client Service Hamster Wheel of Doom. So, that's why I want to dig into today's podcast episode. So, let's get on with the show.

I'm Rob Da Costa, and this is The Agency Accelerator podcast as someone who has stood in your shoes, having started growing and selling my own agency and just how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life. So, this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing mine and my guests' experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business. 

Now, before we kick things off, if you're a regular listener to the podcast and you find it valuable, then I want to ask you a favour, and that is to leave a review, especially if you listen on Apple Podcasts. All you need to do is scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says, write a review, click on the link and then leave a hopefully positive review. Now, the reason I'm asking for this is not because of my ego, but because the more reviews I get, the more the algorithm will show the podcast to people just like you. This means I can broaden my impact, which is my goal with this podcast. So a big thank you for doing that. Now, let's jump into the content.

I want to start off today's podcast with a story about my week this week. So, as I was coming to the end of last week and I was looking at this week, I thought it was a fairly clear week. I only had a few coaching sessions and I had my group coaching call, so I thought I had plenty of time to record more content for my self-running agency membership, plus, get ahead with some podcasts and so on. But what I failed to do, which is exactly what I tell my clients to do is block out time in my diary to do these specific tasks and guess what happened. People started booking additional coaching sessions and podcast interviews, and before I knew it, my week had gone from being fairly quiet to ram-packed with absolutely no time to do some of the marketing and producing more content. And what this does is it makes you go from feeling in control to being out of control because you're letting all these external factors dictate what the shape of your week is going to be like. And, of course, if your week ends up being really imbalanced, stuck back to back with calls and so on, then you don't have much as much fun.

And it can be stressful now. It's funny that they say “What's going on for your client is going on for the coach as well.” Physicians healed ourselves because one of the questions we had on the group coaching call this week was all about managing time and getting that balance right. So, I just want to share with you some of the ideas and strategies that I shared with the group that I should implement myself and you should definitely be implementing. And I want to start off by talking about pots because fundamentally, you can divide your time against three pots.

So, let me just explain what they are. So, they are revenue, strategy, and admin. 

So, revenue is all about the work that you're doing right now. Revenue is your client. Work revenue is the money that you're going to earn this month. So, that's part number one. 

Part number two is strategy. And strategy is all about how you're going to earn money in the future. So, this looks like having a plan. It looks like you’re marketing yourselves, your client retention and so on. So, that’s strategy. 

And then, number three is admin, and admin is a cost to your business. It’s everything that you do to keep your business running. So, this will include things like HR and finance and so on. 

Once you understand these three pots, then you can start to identify the various tasks that you personally will do in each of those pots, but I'm going to assume that you are an agency owner and I'm going to give you a really rough idea of how you should split your time now. Obviously, it will be different for different people, and we'll have different tasks, but this is a rough rule of thumb. So, let's before I tell you what I think the right Spitz are.

Let me just give you a couple of examples. Imagine an agency owner that spends 90% of their time in revenues, that's doing client work. They spend 5% of their time in strategy and 5% of their time in admin. What is their business going to look like? Well, they are definitely going to be lurching from feast to famine because when those client projects come to an end, they've had absolutely no time to invest in strategy. (ie. The future of their agency and where they're going to get revenue from in the future, and therefore they're going to go colliding into a space of famine.)

Now, let's take another example. This agency owner spends 50% of their time in revenue. They spend 20% of their time in strategy and they spend 30% of their time in admin. Now, this agency, if that's how they spent their time, isn't really going to grow, they're going to be having mediocre income, and they are going to be a super organised company, and they are going to have a very expensive resource spending a lot of their time in admin. 

And then, the last example I want to give you is imagine an agency owner who spends 30% of their time in revenue 60% of their time in strategy and 10% of their time in admin. Well, this kind of agency is going to go bust fairly quickly because they're not bringing in enough revenue. They're spending lots of time on the future, but they may never get to the future because they have got cash flow issues right now because they don't have enough money. 

So, getting that split right and the balance of your time is super important. And I would say a rough rule of thumb is that you should spend 65% of your time in revenues. That's doing client work 30% of your time in strategy. So, that's focusing on how you're going to get business in the future and then 5% of your time on admin, so that's getting your invoices out on time and all the other things that you need to do now as the agency owner, that's going to be a fairly good split of your time. 

You're going to be focused on revenue, so you're bringing enough money in. But you're also allocating about a day and a half a week to focus on the future of your agency. So, you're marketing your sales, your client retention, and you're just spending 5% of your time on admin, which means probably getting your invoices out and some HR stuff. And hopefully, you'll be in a position where you can hire someone or have a VA to do a lot of the admin for you. So, that is a really rough rule of fun. 

Now, I do have a free time template that you can use where you record your time for two weeks against these pots. And then, it tells you how your current split is, and then you can work out where you stand today and how close or how far off that is from your ideal split. And then, you can start to put in some plans and strategies to move from A to B. 

So, I will put a link in the show notes to that all if you want to grab a copy of it and do the exercise for yourself, which I would highly recommend. This is an exercise that I do with some of my private clients to work out how they're spending their time today and then to look at how ideally they would spend their time and then map what they need to change in order to get from A to B. 

Once you've worked this out, you then need to start overlaying it into your diary. And that means blocking out time when you're available for client work. Blocking out time when you're going to focus on your strategy. And blocking out time in your week when you're going to focus on admin. And this is a bit like that game we used to play when we were kids, where you move two squares around the board because, obviously, you don't necessarily want to say to a client, “Sorry, I can't meet you today because I'm doing strategy work.” But what you do know is if you need to overwrite, say some strategy time because that's when a client wants to meet you, then you move that strategy time somewhere else in your diary.

Now, one other tip is that if you plan your week this way, then when you arrive at strategy time as an example you want to know exactly what you're going to do in that time because I guarantee a surefire way of thinking. I've got more important things to do. Like that client report will mean that you overwrite the strategy time with client work. So, not only do you want to schedule it in your diary, but you also want to know exactly what you're going to do.

And this is the mistake that I made this week. When I was planning my week out, I had in my head all of the strategy things that I needed to do, such as some of the marketing recording podcasts and, like I said earlier, creating new content. But I didn't actually schedule it in my diary because looking at the diary for the following week, it looked fairly clear. So, I just thought, “Well, I'll do it next week.” And of course, as I said earlier then, client meetings started to come in, but because I hadn't already protected the time to work on strategy, it got overwritten by a revenue work. (ie. client work)

So, that was my mistake. And this is a timely reminder that I need to practise what I teach, which is really what I'm endeavouring to do and actually start blocking out time and put in the specific tasks into those time slots. So, I know exactly what I'm going to do now. If you want to be in control of your agency's journey, then you need to be doing this because, otherwise, you will just let external factors completely dictate the trajectory of your travel rather than you being in control of that. So, I'd highly recommend that you do what I'm saying today, and you also use that time recording tool to work out how you're currently splitting your time. 

Now, I don't want to turn this episode of the podcast into a time management lesson, but one thing I would really advise you to do is that when you are scheduling tasks always overestimate how long a task will take. So, if you get it done quickly, great, then you've won back some time. But you and I both know that, invariably, things often take longer than we anticipated. And if we haven't built any kind of buffer in, then really quickly, our time planning goes completely out of the window. So, you want to make sure that you are doing that. 

And you also want to make sure that you are delegating as much as possible. And you are automating as much as possible, leaving you to do things only you can do well. So, these are what I call your superpowers. 

Now, that doesn't mean that you can do client management really well if someone else can do it well enough, But it means what are the things that you, as the agency owner, can do that no one else can do. And that definitely falls in that strategy spot pot because you, as the agency owner, will be dictating the future travel routes through your vision and your plan. And you will also be the best person to do your business development and be the figurehead for your agency. So, you want to make sure that you have enough time to do that. And when you are scheduling tasks in your diary, make sure you overestimate how long the task will take another quick fall on. 

Effectively managing your time is to look at the task that you do and consider what that task is worth and also have a sense of what your notional alley rate is. And then, if that task is worthless than that, you should have someone else do it. If it's worth your notional hourly rate or more, then you should do it yourself. So, like I said, I don't want to turn this episode into a sort of time management lesson. But those are a couple of tips that I can share with you. And as I say, the lesson I've learned this week is when you have a clear week, make sure you scheduled it. Well, actually, it doesn't matter whether you have a clear, weak or not.

Make sure you are scheduling your time across revenue, admin and strategy and make sure you are specifically saying what you're going to do in that block of time so that you don't just overwrite it with something that seems easier or client work. Because the client is shouting. Now, if you're listening to this thinking, “Well, that's all very well, Rob. And it sounds good in theory, but I have to jump when my clients tell me, and I don't really have any choice about that because otherwise, they will leave me.”

I just want to remind you that we all are hopefully good at putting boundaries in our agency. And what I mean by that is that I hope that you don't work evenings and weekends. And if that's the truth, which I hope it is, then you already have an example of good boundaries. And if a client phoned and said, “Hey, Rob, can we meet on Sunday for our client's session?” I'd be saying, “Sorry, I don't work on a Sunday,” so you have a good example of boundaries already.

Now, you just need to apply those boundaries to protect your strategy, and admin time, whilst having enough time to do a good level of client work to ensure that you have consistent income coming in, whilst at the same, time focusing on the future of your agency and also making sure your agency is a well-oiled machine because you're spending enough time in the admin pot. So, I hope that all makes sense. Do go look at that all. 

Have a fantastic week! Get yourself organised. Make sure next week is a super productive, focused week. And I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. 

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