One of the biggest resources used by any business is the hours spent by employees, contractors, and owners on the business.
Because of this, it’s also one of the biggest areas with opportunities for reducing costs and making the business more efficient.
With all the Clients I work one on one with, about 80% of them end up doing a time study in the first few weeks. A Time Study is one of the tools that you can easily use in your business to see where you are wasting time and can make improvements to gain efficiency.
What is a Time Study?
A time study involves collecting data for a week or two on work happening in your business. A time study can be done for a specific system (how much time does your business spend doing “x” per week?) or could be done for a team within your business or the business as a whole.
During the time study, participants track how they spend their time and what tasks they work on. This can be done easily in a spreadsheet app like Excel or Google Sheets.
After time has been collected for a week or two, it can then be analyzed to see how time is being spent in the business.
From the analysis, decisions can be made on improvement work to reduce wasted time and refocus efforts on more important work.
A time study will show you what work is really happening in your business. What I see time and time again is that business owners think they know what’s going on in their business and where time is being spent, but after a time study, they see there are gaps in what they see and what they think to be true.
Oftentimes, work is taking time that the business owner didn’t know was taking time. The opposite is also true. Activities the business owner thought were taking time actually aren’t taking time.
This happens even in solo entrepreneur situations where no employees are involved!
How a Time Study Helps You Scale
When you scale a business, you don’t just scale the good. Everything scales including the waste and problems that exist in your business.
Any time wasted today will increase as you scale your business. It’s imperative that you find where in your business you’re wasting time and correct issues before you scale.
By making your business more efficient, you will make scaling your business easier to achieve and will have significantly less waste as you scale.
A time study is going to help you understand where you’re wasting your time so you can fix issues and reduce waste.
The time study will also help you see where you’re NOT spending time. You might find things you thought were getting attention that really aren’t. You’ll have the opportunity to fix these issues before scaling could make them real problems in your business.
Using a Time Study to Help You Hire
Having a deeper view of what time is being spent where on your business, you will be able to make an accurate blueprint of how much time is being spent on different tasks in your business.
This will give you all the information you need to inform who you need to hire and for how long per week you will want them to work.
Use the information you have from the time study to define the tasks that a new employee will perform. From there, you can use that information to define the skills you want the person to have.
Using a Time Study to Manage Staff
You can also use time study information to better manage the staff you have. The time study will tell you how your employees spend their time, giving you information to understand how each employee is contributing to the outcomes you are getting from your business.
It will help you see where employees are spending too much time and where they aren’t spending enough time. That information can then be used to have discussions with your employees to redirect their work where needed.
You also might find gaps that are causing problems for your business as well as your employees. Filling these gaps will create a better experience for your employees and you’ll get more out of your business. Your Customers are likely to benefit as well either directly or indirectly.
Using a Time Study at Any Stage of Business
A time study can be done at any point, regardless of the stage of your business. Even if you’re just starting and the only employee, you can still benefit from tracking your time for a week to see what you’re doing (or not!).
If you’re running a larger business, you might break up the time study efforts by department or team. If you do this, be sure to use the same format across teams so that you can aggregate the information and look at it across your business.
How to do the Time Study
First, decide what tool you’re going to use to gather data. There are many purpose-built time tracking tools out there, but none of them are needed to do a proper time study. I have my Clients use Excel or Google Sheets.
Decide what fields you want to capture and put a template together. There is one on the Optimize For Outcomes resources site you can download for free and modify to your needs.
After that, start capturing data for a week or two. If you’ve got employees that are participating, you’ll want to give them an overview of what you expect from them.
Once the data is captured, you can add up the different values and analyze the results. Look at where you spent your time as well as what you didn’t spend time on.
Think through any gaps or problems that you see and make the changes needed to address the issues.
You don’t need to gather your time every week forever. Just for a week or two and you should have enough to work with. You can repeat the time study later at any point you feel having updated data would be useful. I’d encourage you to do it a few times a year at a minimum but not more than one week a month without a very specific reason.
If you’re looking for more guidance on how to do a time study, I do offer a course, Time Studies for Entrepreneurs on the resources site for a nominal charge of $15 USD.
If you have any additional questions, please reach out to me directly through email or your preferred social channel.