Get Ahead and Stay Ahead: Creating A Time Buffer
Everybody loves having free time. I don’t even need a link for a study on that as proof, it’s undeniable fact. Every single person, from the unemployed, all the way through the 9-5ers and up to the self-employed like us, loves having time to pursue their own interests, relax, spend time with their family, or any number of other things.
As I mentioned way back in this article at the beginning of April, self-employed people are among the hardest working in the world, often working the longest hours. After all, our income is directly tied to how much effort we put in. We are our own bosses, our earnings are personal and independent. If we want to make money, it’s all on us to put in all the work we can. It is a truly wonderful feeling to have to answer to no one but yourself, and hugely rewarding to know that the money you make, you made on your own, with not a single person telling you what to do (I don’t count, everything I say on this blog is helpful advice that you’re free and clear to listen to or ignore at your own discretion, though I personally recommend listening, as a post wouldn’t go up if I didn’t think it could benefit you in some way).
The flip side to this is that it can often leave us with perhaps not as much free time as we would like, and that wonderful feeling of success is potentially lessened somewhat when it comes at the expense of, well, living life. It’s great to have all kinds of money that you’ve made all on your own, but when are you going to find the time to spend any of it?
I’ve spoken before of planning your day to save time, and that remains excellent advice. But what I’m going to talk about today is using your time effectively to let you stay ahead of the game, creating a buffer zone where if you want to take some time for yourself, you can, guilt free.
Two examples, both coming from my own staff.
At the time of this writing, most of my staff is working 16 hour days putting the finishing touches on a project we’re working on. It’s down to crunch time, so working longer hours is to be expected, but 16 hours? That’s beyond ridiculous. Work is consuming everyone’s life and leaving them with little to no time for themselves. In a crunch period, this sort of goes with the territory. In that last few weeks leading up to launch, everyone is scrambling to get every single detail polished and ready for launch. It’s a madhouse. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this, though I’m sure there are a couple ways we could’ve taken a few preemptive measures to ease up on the last minute craziness a tad. But, c’est la vie. The point is, everyone is working themselves to the bone and probably more than a little stressed out as a result. They have no buffer. They have no time to themselves. It’s work work work work work.
Our other example, is our pseudo-staffer from this article. His primary job is as a content provider. He’s a writer, essentially (and a very good one at that, we only work with the best here). Now rather than writing his content at the last possible minute, he instead opted to write quite a lot of it in a fairly short period of time. Some of his deadlines are (again, at the time of this writing), over a month away, but the work is already completed, approved, and ready to go on the appointed date. He has created a huge buffer for himself where he can essentially do as he pleases for a month and not have to worry about a thing. Well, unless I spring more work on him. Which is one of the reasons trying to create a time buffer is so important.
For my core staff in crunch time, they’re so busy with their project that should other important tasks that require immediate completion pop up (and believe me, they have), they have to scramble to get it done. And they already have so little time to begin with.
For my pseudo-staffer on the other hand, he’s got a huge buffer of completed work. If I end up requiring more content that falls under his purview, he can do it easily, and not have to worry about getting his day to day stuff done, because it’s already long completed.
A crunch time situation is obviously a very drastic example, and not really indicative of a regular work week around here. But it’s all too easy to fall into a situation where your workday suddenly becomes exactly like a crunch period. A mad scramble to complete important tasks very, very quickly. In the case of a crunch period, this is unavoidable. On a regular day to day though, steps can be taken to help prevent this. For that, we look to our pseudo-staffer.
With advanced knowledge of what is required of him, he was able to do his work well in advance, creating that buffer I keep talking about. This is a great lead for you to follow. Obviously not all tasks in your own personal business can be completed well in advance, but those that can, it is certainly wise to get as many of them done as possible beforehand. If you’ve been following my advice and budgeting your time, you may often find yourself with all your immediate work completed, and some extra time on your hands. Rather than spending it all on leisure activity (tempting though it may be), why not use a bit of that time to get ahead on any of those tasks that you can do in advance? You work a little bit harder, a little bit longer now, but in the long run you end up with more free time to do with as you will. Look to other business opportunities, and peruse ways to improve your business.
You’re also better equipped to deal with any other tasks that may come up that require your time and fast completion. You avoid the mad scramble almost entirely, because you’ve left yourself with the additional time in your day to get that work done.
So wherever possible, try and get ahead in your work. As far ahead as possible, or as far ahead as you feel comfortable doing. It’s entirely up to you. The point is to get yourself ahead now, so you have more time later. And time is perhaps the most valuable thing of all. After all, you only have 24 hours of it every day. Why spend two thirds of that working if you don’t have to?