If time management were easy, the word management would be absent. It’s not easy to manage your time in a way that allows for ample productivity and self care, but if you’re an entrepreneur, that’s just what you have to do.
Entrepreneurs naturally struggle with the idea of time management. You might wonder, “Do I really want to create arbitrary rules and schedules for every area of my life?”
The simple answer: Yes. The complicated answer: Read below.
Boosting productivity and self care with ‘time buckets’
First – what is a time bucket, and how do you use one?
Time buckets are simply a concept that represents where and on what you’re spending your time each day. Michael Cooper, the creator of the time bucket concept, maintains that there are 8 essential time buckets every entrepreneur must pay attention to.
To have a healthy balance of productivity and self care, each of the 8 time buckets must be scrutinized and assigned a ‘time spent’ minimum. For example, the Sleep and Recuperation bucket’s time minimum might be 49 hours (at 7 hours of sleep/night x 7 days of the week), depending on how much sleep you need.
Here are the 8 proposed time buckets Cooper outlines in his concept. Which ones apply to your life?
Bucket 1: Sleep and recuperation
You can’t underestimate the importance of sleep. Without enough sleep, entrepreneurs fail to be productive and lose their competitive edge. Arianna Huffington is a firm supporter of the “Sleep Your Way to the Top” movement, encouraging executives and busy types to take a rest more often in an effort to be healthier and more productive in the long-run.
Consider your sleep needs, not norms. How much sleep do you need to function well and feel rested? Multiply that number by 7. You’ve got your first time bucket ready!
8 hours sleep/night x 7 days/week = 56 hours/week, out of 168 total hours in a week
Time remaining to be divided into buckets: 112 hours
Bucket 2: Self care and regeneration
Now that you’ve found how much time will be spent sleeping, you should focus on self care and regeneration. Self care can take any form – the point is you’re doing something you enjoy that relaxes and renews your spirit. That can be exercise, meditation, reading, spiritual time, shopping, lawn work – anything! You simply won’t be able to keep up with all the productivity if you’re not taking measures to care for yourself and regenerate after big events, launches, and hard work. This one is a bit harder to estimate your time needs for, so be general and use educated guesses rather than exact calculations.
1 hour of self care/day x 7 days/week = 7 hours/week
Time remaining to be divided into buckets: 105 hours
Bucket 3: Vacation
Vacation is an important form of self care, but it deserves its own bucket because it matters that much. Vacation time is not a negotiable thing for entrepreneurs, who burn out at a higher rate than people in most other career paths. Entrepreneurial work is fast-paced and intense. Vacations should be frequent and relaxing, not full of sight-seeing and stress (unless that’s your thing) to earn you the most productivity and self care benefits. No matter how often or how little you’ve vacationed in the past, consider your needs and what you can afford to calculate your time needs here.
Think of the time you allocate to the vacation bucket like you’re building up vacation days on a paycheck. You won’t take a vacation every week, but you can allocate time toward vacationing so you’re never left unprepared when it’s time to pack up and go.
1 hour of vacation time/day x 7 days/week = 7 hours/week
Time remaining to be divided into buckets: 98 hours
Bucket 4: Family, friends, and social
Depending on your preferences for social activity and spending time with others, this bucket can be very important or almost empty. A socially active person who enjoys spending time with others and staying connected to friends and family might estimate that they’ll need 10 hours every week for social time. Your number might be lower.
Remember – these time buckets are about your individual needs, not a norm or average! You might take lunch with a friend twice a week, spend time with your family every night, and make time for social engagements on the weekends. The time adds up, but if it’s allocated in your time bucket, you’ll always have time for it!
1.5 hours social time/day x 7 days/week = 10.5 hours/week
Time remaining to be divided into buckets: 87.5 hours
Bucket 5: Strategy
Strategy time is important no matter what stage of business you’re in. It’s not necessary to pore over strategy every day, but it’s recommended that you spend at least one, preferably two hours each week assessing and making changes to your strategy. This is necessary for true growth. If you’re not sure where to start, start with what isn’t currently working for your business and go from there.
> 1 hour/day x 7 days/week = 2 hours/week
Time remaining to be divided into buckets: 85.5 hours
Bucket 6: Business development
Business development encompasses all the little things you do to grow your business – talking to new clients, making connections and networking, advertising and marketing, etc. This is a big priority because it’s so closely tied to your revenue. It’s recommended that you spend at least 2 hours per week, preferably up to 5, on business development.
> 1 hour/day x 7 days/week = 5 hours/week
Time remaining to be divided into buckets: 80.5 hours
Bucket 7: Business administration
It’s a necessary evil – business administration. Billing and accounting, human resources, reception, organization – it all has to be handled or your business will spiral out of control.
One of the best ways to handle business administration without expending too much of your valuable time is by outsourcing your administrative tasks to a trusted third party like Conversational (we provide virtual receptionists and virtual assistants for small business owners that need help answering calls, managing appointments, and more). If you’re working alone, 1-2 hours each week should be sufficient, but small businesses need at least 4-6 hours each week to handle these duties without outsourcing.
> 1 hour/day x 7 days/week = 6 hours/week
Time remaining to be divided into buckets: 74.5 hours
Bucket 8: Client service
If you’re spending more than 35 hours per week in client service, you need to increase your fees. This might be your largest time expense, other than sleep, but it’s also one of the most stressful. Some entrepreneurs spend as much as 80 hours per week dealing with clients, and it’s easy to see why that’s unhealthy. If you’re focused on increasing productivity and self care, you need to limit the amount of time you’re spending with clients down to around 35-40 hours per week. That number should go down as your business grows.
5 hours/day x 7 days/week = 35 hours/week
Time remaining to be divided into buckets: 39.5 free hours remaining
Big thanks to Michael Cooper at Innovators + Influencers for the excellent time bucket concept – it’s one we will continue to refer to here at Conversational.