How Small Business Owners Can Use Carl Newport’s 3M’s Technique To Streamline Their Time

This simple technique is used by 1000’s of SMB owners worldwide to create more value for their businesses.

The 3M’s technique and other variations are adapted from Carl Newport’s ‘Deep Work’ book, which helps information workers earn more money.

If you want to grow your business by making better use of your time, this is for you.

I learned about and started applying this technique in the middle of a burnout/mini-meltdown, and it helped me get my shit together and my business back on track.

TLDR. Working with information is tricky because you can’t produce more value by adding another unit of input. I.e. unit does not always equal unit.

Example: A fruit picker produces value by picking fruit. Every kilo they pick, they produce another $x amount of value.

If an office worker ‘gets through’ some emails. They don’t produce $x amount of value per email. They could say the wrong thing and get fired (that’s me), or they could close a $1 million deal.

So the trick to working effectively is to identify your high-value work and spend as much time as possible doing precisely that.

Here’s a simple way to do this without being anal retentive with your time.

The 3M’s Of Work

Making, Managing & Maintaining.

Making is work you do that creates long-term value for your business and requires you to create.

Example: Developing a new product or creating content.

Managing is the work you do that optimises or increases the leverage of your business resources.

Example: Employee training or business planning.

Then there’s maintenance work. This is the stuff you do that keeps the house in order.

Example: Paying bills or replying to emails.

Here are a few more examples of each type of work. Skip this if you’ve already got the gist.

More Making Examples

1. Creating a piece of content. When you create content, like a sales video, you ‘make’ something that continues to provide value to the business for a long time.

2. Creating a process. When you create and allocate a business process, you create a consistent outcome that continues to produce value for as long as the process is followed.

 •  ‘Making’ drives the business forward. Imagine starting a new business tomorrow. All you have is you. First, you have to ‘make’ something that produces value for someone to drive your business forward. Without ‘making’, there will be nothing to ‘manage’ and nothing to ‘maintain’.

More Managing Examples

1. Hiring a contractor – You might need to hire a contractor to complete a project or piece of work. This is an example of managing because instead of doing the work yourself, you organise company resources to achieve an outcome.

2. Allocating resources – To achieve any outcome, resources must be organised and allocated to a project or process. For example, if you’re launching a marketing campaign and need a new video, you’ll need to give money (resource) to produce that video.

 •  Management is required to keep the business moving forward cohesively. Without this ‘managing’ work, the company won’t use its resources effectively and could produce an utterly undesirable outcome, like going bankrupt.

More Maintenance Examples

1. Paying invoices – You’ve got to pay your bills. But the act of paying the invoice does not contribute any value to your business. It just keeps it going.

2. Reporting – Creating reports helps business managers make better decisions. But the act of creating the report does not produce value by itself.

 •  You’ve got to maintain your business like your car. If you skimp on vehicle maintenance, eventually, the thing will die.

3M’s Your Time

Let’s say you’ve maxed out at 40 hours per week, and you don’t want to spend any more time in your business, but you want to grow it so you can give yourself a pay rise.

Energy levels are real. Most days, by 7 pm, I’m done. It’s Netflix and snacks for me.

The more time I spend ‘making’, the more fudged I get. It’s high brain-power stuff. ‘managing’ isn’t as bad, especially for you extroverts; you’ll likely find this fun. And ‘maintenance’ work is brain-numbing but low energy.

So you want to match your energy levels to the type of work you’re doing.

If you’re a morning person, do your making work in the morning.

Night-owls? Get creative in the evenings.

Manage when you feel okay and maintain when you CBF.

Now work through a process of elimination to find as much time in your day or week as possible to spend on ‘Maker’ work.

Secondly, organise your calendar or those work desk scribbles to find as many hours as possible for making.

Block out some CBF time for maintenance work. I try to keep this to 30 mins a day.

Now block out the minimum time you need to manage your business. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds with management work. I think this is where most of us struggle and ‘lose’ time. Cut this down, and you’ll be back on track.

Hopefully, you’ve got a ton of time leftover to make.

We’ve got about 25 hours of good making hours within us a week from the productivity books and a few studies that I’ve read. So I try to hit 25 creative hours a week and spend the rest on managing and maintaining.

Do this right, and you can work fewer hours but contribute a whole lot more.

Finally, Want to spend your time well? Ask yourself this. ‘How can I contribute the most value?’ (Not how can I contribute the most time or how can I look busy).

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