While working at a startup, it’s rare that you’ll find yourself without something to do. It’s not uncommon to be busy “all the time”, wearing your many hats, and constantly pushing the boundaries beyond the 40-hour work week. And although my to-do list is rarely blank, I sometimes find myself at an impasse. I know there are about 20 things that I could be doing right now, but which one of these things should I be doing? What will bring the most value to my company? While you absolutely should do what you need to do to get the job done, I think it’s also important to constantly strive to do things that will generate direct value for your company — or you.
“But I’m too busy” is a really poor excuse for not seeking constant improvement and growth.
Being busy doesn’t make you special. We get it. Everyone’s busy. Every single second of your day is occupied with something — working, driving, eating, breathing, sleeping, staring idly at your phone. With every single second accounted for, how could you possibly have time for anything else?
The question isn’t whether or not you have free time, but how you’re allocating your time each day. Are you optimizing the value of your time? When you think about each piece of your day, all those individual tasks, what is the outcome of that effort spent? For me, spending an hour a day at the gym or doing yoga at home helps me optimize for my health and creates value in that bucket of my life. My health is, after all, something that I really value. And while I value my time spent watching Netflix while eating, I realize that I’d probably be better off if I read before bed instead of scrolling through social media. Thinking about your time through this lens can help you reallocate or reclaim your time in a way that creates more value for you.
You can also think about this from a work perspective. If you find yourself consumed every week by the time it takes to update a weekly report, maybe investing the time in automating that report would create worthwhile value for you. If you’re really looking to become the value creator of the month, try seeking out opportunities for improvement and taking ownership over those.
Recently, I noticed one of my coworkers was overloaded by a weekly vehicle fleet report that he was responsible for. So overloaded in fact, that he didn’t look into the links I sent him for automated fleet management solutions. One could say he was incapacitated by his own busy-ness. Instead of nagging him, for maybe the fifth time, about checking these solutions out, I took ownership for it. A few weeks later, we’ve automated our fleet management and I’ve created a little bit of value for our company overall.
Time is our most precious (and you could argue only) resource. We should spend it on things the things that create value in all different areas of our life. Think of it as a classic optimization problem. How can you increase value by adjusting the variables (like hours spend at work, at the gym, eating, relaxing, etc.) while meeting all of the constraints in your life (like the time you need to eat, take care of yourself, relax, sleep, etc.)?
The answer to this grand question comes from being intentional about how you can create value in your own life and others, while also being mindful of how you spend your time.