Do you maintain a budget for your personal or business expenses? One of the keys to effective budgeting is to re-evaluate them every so often. When you first set a budget you might have to engage in some guess work, not being entirely sure about what your costs will be. But learning to work within a budget can save you from many financial stresses.
But what about your time? Do you have a budget for that? As important as financial budgeting is, I would argue that a time budget is more important. After all, you could inherit a windfall and suddenly have more money than you’ll ever need. But you can never add even one hour to your days. Both you and Bill Gates get 24 of them in a day, and neither of you can store them up. So managing your most valuable, non-renewable, and limited resource is an essential skill.
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As creative entrepreneurs the delivery of our professional services can take up a considerable amount of time. Some projects can take weeks, or even months to complete. Web development projects for example, consist of a lengthy series of phases, stages, milestones, tasks and sub tasks. As you work on your projects you’re constantly burning daylight. Too often we come to the end of the money, while there’s still so much project to fulfill.
Project planning and project management are yet one more skill that creative entrepreneurs have to master. In my early days, resource and project planning were done with spreadsheets and a whiteboard. Today there are more sophisticated systems for project planning and resource allocation. But all of them take a significant amount of time to set up, structure, implement, and most importantly, to maintain.
There are far too many project management systems on the market for me to offer a review in a short podcast like this. But I do have one strong recommendation for timekeeping and resource planning. I use Harvest for my timekeeping for a few reasons. One, is it’s simple interface. No one likes tracking time, and if your time keeping interface creates extra friction, that’s just one more excuse to not use it.
Harvest also has great reports, and the real value of tracking time in the first place is in your ability to learn from that information later. Harvest allows you to easily slice and dice your past data revealing helpful and valuable insights.
Another reason I use and recommend Harvest is it’s sister platform, aptly named Forecast. Forecast allows you to assign projects to team members and project these allocations out into the future. This provides a vital “time budgeting tool” that can ensure that your team is not overloaded, or that any particular team member’s schedule gets stretched too thin. Having some way to view how your current project load matches up with team member capacity is a huge benefit to running a creative practice.
But I will warn you, forecasting your time resources, based on project budgets, can be a heavy lift—both to set up in the first place, and even more importantly, to keep up with. For projects to run smoothly, task details need to be reviewed and updated almost daily. If assignments are not updated to reflect your actual day-by-day activity, then your projections become profoundly muddled. And so spending ten to fifteen minutes each day with every team member, reviewing and updating their workloads needs to become a part of your normal operation.
Here’s a tip to help you maintain this important management data. The availability of virtual assistants has been growing rapidly over the past few years. And doing these daily check ins and updates with staff is a perfect role for a VA. And if you’re looking for a VA check out Zirtual—they have VAs specially trained for project management.
Time management can be a huge puzzle. And if you have a growing team, it gets harder with every new hire. But building this discipline into your practice will not only ensure a smooth and productive work environment for your employees—competent project management also protects the profitability of your projects.
So if you’ve neglected “time budgeting,” you should fix that by budgeting some time to start budgeting your time.
Until next time: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.