Time. We all have more things we want to do than hours in the day. As a creative, I’ve often grappled with how to best allocate my hours, ensuring that I’m not only productive but also fulfilled. The idea of “buying back your time” isn’t a new concept, but a recent conversation with seasoned entrepreneur and coach, Dan Martell, helped galvanize this idea for me. While Dan’s insights are primarily tailored for business leaders, I found them deeply resonant for us creatives.
Understanding the Buyback Principle
At its core, the buyback principle isn’t about hiring people to grow your business or craft. It’s about hiring or delegating to reclaim your time. Think about it: if you spend hours on administrative tasks, are you truly maximizing your creative potential? Probably not. By offloading tasks that don’t directly contribute to your creative output, you’re essentially buying back hours that can be better spent elsewhere.
The Buyback Principle: More Than Just Hiring
Dan emphasized that we shouldn’t just hire people to grow our ventures but to reclaim our time. By focusing on buying back our time, growth often follows naturally. However, if we only concentrate on growth, we might not always reclaim our time, leading to what he calls a “capacity over calendar” issue.
The Four Aspects of Leverage
But here’s the thing: buying back your time isn’t just about money. It’s about recognizing and harnessing all the resources at our disposal. It’s about understanding that our time is precious and that with the right strategies, we can make the most of it. The key is to identify them and use them to our advantage.
- Capital: This isn’t just about throwing money at a problem. It’s about strategically investing in tools, equipment, or resources that can amplify your efforts. For a photographer, it might mean investing in a high-quality camera that can capture shots in less time. For a writer, it might be investing in a writing software that streamlines the editing process.
- Content: Your experiences, knowledge, and skills are invaluable. Think of how many times you’ve repeated a task. By documenting your processes, creating templates, or even recording tutorial videos for tasks you repeatedly do, you can save time in the future. It’s about creating a repository of your expertise that you can tap into or share with others.
- Code: We live in an era where technology can be our greatest ally. From automating mundane tasks with software to using AI to assist in creative processes, the possibilities are endless. For instance, using scheduling tools to manage appointments or automating your social media posts can free up significant chunks of time.
- Collaboration: Two heads are often better than one. Collaborating doesn’t just divide the workload; it multiplies the brainpower. By teaming up with others, you can tap into diverse skill sets, get fresh perspectives, and produce results faster and often of a higher quality.
The Buyback Rate: A Creative’s Best Friend
One of the most enlightening concepts I’ve come across is the buyback rate. It’s a simple formula: take your annual income (including profits and discretionary expenses) and divide it by 2,000 hours (the average work hours in a year). This gives you an hourly rate. Now, divide that rate by four. The result? The amount you should be willing to pay someone else to do a task so you can focus on what you do best.
And remember this isn’t just people, it can be tools, subscriptions to automation sites, or AI, etc.
Where to Apply Leverage
Over the years, I’ve made it a habit to regularly audit my time. Living by my calendar, it’s easy for me to see where my time goes.
One exercise that truly resonated with me was color-coding tasks: green for tasks that energize me and red for those that drain me. The goal? To fill my calendar with as many green tasks as possible. When my day flows from one energizing task to another, my creative output amplifies exponentially. It’s like a force multiplier. When you’re focused on things you’re good at and love, not only does your efficiency increase, but the quality of your work also skyrockets.
The Buyback Loop: Audit, Transfer, Fill
Dan expands on calendar audit with a three step process he calls the buy back loop:
- Audit: Examine your calendar for both time and energy. Understand where your time goes and how it affects your energy levels.
- Transfer: Delegate or outsource tasks that no longer align with your core creative pursuits or drain your energy.
- Fill: Replace the time you’ve freed up with activities that energize you and contribute significantly to your creative endeavors.
The Pitfalls of Buying Back Time
It’s easy to think, “I can do it all.” But the reality is, stretching yourself too thin can lead to burnout. By not delegating or hiring out certain tasks, you risk not only your mental well-being but also the quality of your work. But remember, it’s not just about business growth; it’s about personal growth and fulfillment. If you aim to offload the wrong things, it can actually work against you.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with outsourcing various tasks. For instance, I once hired help for household chores like laundry. On paper, it made sense. These tasks fell within my buyback rate, and outsourcing them would theoretically free up more time for my creative pursuits. However, I soon realized that I actually enjoyed these simple tasks. They grounded me, provided a break from the digital world, and offered a sense of accomplishment. So, I chose to take them back.
The lesson here? While it’s essential to understand the value of your time and consider outsourcing, it’s equally crucial to stay connected to what genuinely brings you joy and fulfillment. Sometimes, the tasks we think of as mundane or time-consuming can offer unexpected moments of mindfulness and satisfaction.
Constantly pursuing growth and achievement is an epidemic of more. Growth for the sake of growth can lead to a chaotic calendar and a loss of direction. It’s essential to ensure that as you grow, you remain aligned with your core values and passions.
The Value of Moments
But here’s the heart of the matter: buying back your time isn’t about having deep pockets or an arsenal of resources. It’s about recognizing the value of moments, both big and small. It’s understanding that every task, every project, every moment spent doing something you don’t love is a moment not spent doing what you truly care about.
It’s not about outsourcing everything in your life, but rather making intentional choices about where your time and energy are best spent.
Whether you’re leveraging capital, using your knowledge and skills, using AI or code, or collaborating, remember that the ultimate goal is to create more space for what truly matters to you.
And sometimes, that might mean rolling up your sleeves and doing the laundry yourself, simply because it brings you joy.