What is your most scarce resource?

I’ll give you a clue. It can fly and heal, you can make it, kill it, manage it, save it and spend it but if you lose it you’ll never be able to find it again?

The thing we want the most…but use the worst. The most valuable thing we can spend and yet we waste it every day. It was Charles Darwin who said “a man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.”

Each of us starts the day with 24 hours; how we spend those hours determines the quality of our lives and we will go to extraordinary lengths to manage it, save it and make it.

Yes of course, time.

So why do we waste so much time when we know that lost time is never found again. And when the thief who steals what is most precious to us the law doesn’t prosecute.

It wasn’t always like this. In large parts of the world it still isn’t. A rural peasant in Africa will spend 35% of their time farming food, 30% cooking and cleaning, 20% collecting clean water and 5% collecting wood to burn (leaving 10% for everything else). But in the developed world most of these things are done for us.

Advances in science and technology have saved us hours and hours of time. Matt Ridley, a scientist, author and journalist suggests (The Rational Optimist, 2010) that “The true measure of something’s worth is the hours it takes to acquire it.” And yet we are very careless with our time: missed first baby steps, first words, first nativity play, first school concert, first sports day…..first day of summer, the list is endless.

As entrepreneurial business owners we all have so much to do and so little time. Advances in technology (electricity, telecommunications and the internet) have massively increased productivity and we’ve saved a lot time. Why aren’t we all living lives with more leisure time than ever? And how are the few – who seem to get so much done and still have islands in the sun – managing it.

Here’s the secret: they don’t do it all themselves.

Yup, no slaves or indentured workers just sensible delegation and outsourcing of the jobs and tasks they don’t have to do themselves or that someone else can do better, or instead, of them.

Blimey……..is that all there is to it? It can’t be as easy as that?

People aren’t stupid! Well of course they aren’t, so there must be a reason why so many of us are engaged in work we aren’t particularly good at, don’t enjoy and keeps us from spending time with our families and friends ….. and of course there is.

It’s the way our brains have evolved and are wired. Specialisation is a very recent phenomenon and back in the (prehistoric) day if you didn’t hunt and grow your own food, cook it yourself, collect clean water and firewood and protect yourself and your family you’d starve, get ill or be killed (or possibly all three!). We spent thousands of years learning to be self-sufficient. The odd 200 years since the industrial revolution began is hardly any time at all for our brains to adjust.

But for those whose brains have adjusted – the successful entrepreneurs who are concentrating on the things they are good at and only they can do – time is something they have mastered. They know that time is the most valuable thing they can spend so they spend it wisely. They delegate or outsource all the tasks – administration, answering the telephone, emails, diary management, bookkeeping, travel bookings, invoicing, chasing debts and pretty much everything else that gets in their way – to their virtual assistant.

Here’s how it works: I have a new VA, Anne-Marie (who I found through Viva Business and Lifestyle) does all my admin, typing, website maintenance (where she’ll have posted this blog by the time you read it) and much more. Saves me hours each month. Again, bargain.

Maybe you should try it……..or are you stuck in the dark ages?

Noel Guilford, Principal at Guilford Accounting
Noel Guilford is the principal of Guilford Accounting a small business accountancy practice specialising in advising owner-managed businesses on current accounting, finance, and tax matters. You can reach him via email at noel@guilfordaccounting.co.uk or by phone at 01244 660866. He is the author of the 'Figure it out - an entrepreneurs guide to understanding your business numbers' which you can obtain by visiting guilfordaccounting.co.uk.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ His latest book, How to Build a Successful Business' will be published in 2018.

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