If there’s one thing you don’t have, it’s enough time in the day. You’ve got a million ideas in your head about your existing business, your next venture, and a bunch of things you needed to complete last week. You regularly put in crazy hours, have gone multiple days without showering and are so glued to the computer that your friends are convinced you’ve entered a hack-a-thon. It's time to make sure you're being the most effective manager of your most precious commodity — time.
Be specific when delegating tasks to team members, employees or contractors. Explain exactly what you want and when it is needed by. Be sure to build in time for your review, and for unforeseen circumstances. The bigger or more important the product you delegate, the more cushion time you should build in for testing and double-checking. Are you afraid to delegate because it won't be done the way you want? When your business gets to a certain size or phase of development, you really do need to learn to let go of some of the control. At a minimum, decide which things you are able to delegate out, and which things you want to keep the reigns on. Once you've developed good relationships with good performers, you can re-evaluate delegating out additional tasks.
Successful entrepreneurs know delegation is the key to freeing up time. But there are other reasons you really need to be doing more of it, or your business will never grow the way your competition will. Your people will only develop their skills as far as they are given autonomy to do so. A team member who has grown and developed in their individual decision making skills is a huge asset to your company.
You need to set aside time for critical thinking and planning new ideas for your business. But finding the right balance of planning and taking action can be a major challenge. Here are some easy guidelines for brainstorming that will also save you precious time:
- The right time – Brainstorm at your most creative time, but not during peak work hours that others are counting on you for operational support and decision making.
- The right place – If you do all your work in one office or room, make an effort to physically change locations for creative brainstorming. You'll get more productive brainstorming out of your limited time. — and a much needed break.
All that procrastinating is causing you to lose productivity and keeping you from getting the most important things done. Spend the first hour of each day doing something toward the hardest thing on your plate. Set a timer if you must to keep yourself on track. As the day goes on and your energy dwindles, you can work on the more routine tasks. An interesting thing might happen. As your brain wanders during the more routine tasks, you are thinking critically toward solving the rest of the difficult problem you started the day with. That gives you some motivation to pick up where you left off, and it's not so daunting now because you've already started the task at the beginning of the day.
Scheduling and Grouping Tasks
If you've made it this far as an entrepreneur, you know you're good at multitasking! But keeping all those plates in the air is not time effective unless it's been well-orchestrated. Here are some key time management tips:
- Set Days – Keep set days of the week for specific tasks
- Free Day – Keep at least one day a week free of specific set tasks
- Email – Only check email at prescribed times of the day
- Calls – Only return calls at prescribed times of the day
Time Management Scenario
So you've got a meeting with a potential investor on Wednesday and you're behind in preparing. Monday morning the phone is ringing off the hook and it's off to a stressful week:
- Delegation – Delegate parts of the Wednesday investor meeting prep to team mates and ask for it to be done by Tuesday morning, so you can review it prior to Wednesday's meeting.
- Message Management – Return your most important calls at morning, noon and late afternoon. If you're in a time crunch for a Wednesday deadline, let all others go to voicemail during your core productive time from 9:30-11:30 am or have someone screen calls for you. Apply the same screening to email.
- Mental Break – Halfway through the day Tuesday as stress about the Wednesday investor meeting mounts, take a walk to clear your head and think creatively about your approach.
If it all seems like too much to implement in one week, try just one new time management strategy each week. Remember that each business is different — talk to colleagues in your specific field to get their tips and tricks of the trade.
What are your best time management techniques?