It sounds odd to say “time management tips for entrepreneurs.” Time management tips for entrepreneurs is certainly an oxymoron. In fact, if a non-entrepreneur said, I have some time management tips for entrepreneurs, we would likely think to ourselves, “they don’t get it.” After all, we all wish we could create the 28 hour day.
Getting the most of your day is a skill – and one of those skills that makes you a better entrepreneur. Every day can feel like the day is managing us instead of us managing our day. It’s a little bit of perspective, a little bit of time management and a little bit of discipline. The real solution is not the entrepreneur that comes up with a 28 hour day. It is improving our skills at managing our time and energy.
Follow these time management tips for entrepreneurs to get the most of your day.
Do The Hardest Task First Thing In The Morning.
Do the most important or difficult task of the day first thing in the morning, when you are most rested and least distracted. Unfortunately, 90 percent of people check their email as soon as they get to work. That turns his or her agenda and time over to someone else. They do it because it’s easy, and they feel more effective in a shorter time by answering emails. Focus first on the hardest task of the day. This will allow you to apply your best to the most important jobs. Resist the temptation to do mindless or easy things to gain a brief sense of accomplishment.
Choose and Go.
Once you have decided on your tasks for the day, stop worrying about other tasks and finish the ones in front of you. In the movie Apollo 13, the spacecraft suffers damage. The astronauts move through a series of procedures to prepare the spacecraft for reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Given the damage, success is hardly assured. While they are working, Bill Paxton (astronaut Fred Haise Sr.) questions whether Mission Control is giving the astronauts accurate information. Tom Hanks (captain Jim Lovell) says: “All right, there’s a thousand things that have to happen in order. We are on number eight. You’re talking about number six hundred and ninety-two… We’re not going to go bouncing oﬀ the walls for ten minutes, because we’re just going to end up back here with the same problems!”
Don’t spend your time thinking about what if. Spend your time and energy on the issue in front of you. Focus on the items that you have determined require your attention that day. The entrepreneur’s path to success is rarely built with “giant leaps for mankind” but steadily won with determined daily progress. When we chip away at today’s to-do list, we build powerful momentum for our business.
Silence Your Technology.
This is one of the most common and perhaps most relevant of all the time management tips you hear and read about.
If you are working on something, put your devices across the room with the sound oﬀ. Shifting your attention from one task to another, as we do when we’re answering text messages, disrupts our concentration and saps our focus. Each time we return to our initial task, we use up valuable cognitive resources reorienting ourselves. Research shows that when we an entrepreneur is deeply engrossed in an activity, even minor distractions can have a profound effect. The trouble, of course, is that multitasking is enjoyable. It’s fun to indulge your curiosity. Who knows what that next text message holds in store? Finding out provides immediate gratification for an entrepreneur. In contrast, resisting distraction and staying on-task requires discipline and mental effort. It’s up to you to protect your cognitive resources. The more you do to minimize task-switching over the day, the more mental bandwidth you’ll have for activities that matter.
Turn Off Your Email.
Do you find yourself constantly jumping in and out of your email during the day? I know – we want to be sure that the world is still paying attention. And while I’m sure the “you’ve got $2 million dollars waiting for you in a bank account in Algeria,” this is incredibly unproductive. In the times when you are working, turn off your email and focus at the task at hand. Put aside separate time to go though and clear out emails. But in the other times, give your brain the focused time it needs without the constant interruptions of the million dollar bank account you forgot to collect.
Set Regular Processes to Check In.
Entrepreneurial ventures are characterized by an ongoing flurry of activity. But instead of thinking of this flurry as something we have to fix to be more efficient, we tend to chalk it up to being “the nature of the beast.” Instead, don’t accept that, but rather embrace the use of of process to organize your efforts. If items occur regularly, set a weekly meeting to check in. For example, if pricing issues come up all the time, wouldn’t it be great to say “we will discuss that in the Tuesday pricing meeting” and avoid all of the back and forth? For anything that occurs repeatedly, define and stick to a regular process.
Take Daily Naps.
Tell an entrepreneur to take a nap and they’ll think you’re crazy. I thought the same thing. Boy was I wrong. Each day close your eyes for thirty minutes. No more than thirty minutes. Any longer and you run the risk of developing “sleep inertia”—that groggy feeling that takes a considerable amount of time to shake oﬀ. Power naps not only alleviate sleep deficits, but they boost our brains, including creative problem-solving, verbal memory, and perceptual object and statistical learning.
Napping improves our mood and feelings of fatigue, is good for our heart, blood pressure, stress levels, and surprisingly, even weight. Where am I going to nap, you ask? Be creative. Under your desk, in your car, in the park, on your lunch break. One entrepreneur said that he would doze oﬀ in a bathroom stall when the hours got extra-long. You don’t have to go that far, but make a plan for a short break. You’ll feel the improvement in everything you do.
Eight Hours Once Per Week.
One day per week—preferably in the middle of the week—get eight hours of sleep. After the financial crisis of 2008, I was working twenty hours per day, but every Wednesday I went to bed at 10 p.m. and got eight hours. Made a world of difference in how effective I was not only the next day but for the week as a whole. In fact, I knew that I could really push myself on Tuesday because I knew that Wednesday night I was going to rest my brain and body. Remember, your brain needs rest to be at its best. While this may not seem like “time management tips for entrepreneurs” it has a direct impact on the quality of that time.
Schedule More (not less) Activities.
We tend to only calendar those items that involve others – such as meetings with customers, vendors or employees. But because there is so much going on each day, it is difficult to make sure the right things are being done if we don’t add some structure to the day. When you need to focus on something, or need to do something every day, actually put in in your calendar. It could be your daily social media work or drafting a contract once in a while. Allocate specific time in your calendar and stick to it. Otherwise, the day will take hold of your already scarce time and energy.
Take Phone Calls On the Move.
When you are an entrepreneur, you no doubt will be running around at certain times per day. You may be driving in your car to a meeting. Use this time to schedule and make phone calls. Whether they are business or personal, you can kill two birds with one stone by talking while you are moving. Make sure to avoid using this techniques for items for which you need to be still (i.e., customer demo) but use it to maximize your time for other items.
Schedule 15 Minute Meetings.
Not all meetings have to be 30 minutes – especially for an entrepreneur. There are many meetings and calls that only require 15 minutes but we naturally default to 30 minutes – mostly because of the way our calendars are set up. In fact, using shorter meetings will often make you be more efficient in the way that you organize or prepare. Use the 15 minute meeting whenever you can.
Don’t Evaluate Your Life in the Middle of the Fight.
There must be time (often with a glass or two of bourbon) for you to reflect, think about the big picture and evaluate your personal goals as an entrepreneur. Not having this time to reflect can be damaging. The problem is, an entrepreneur often feels compelled to investigate their personal life only when the shit hits the fan—at the busiest, most inopportune moments in the middle of the business day. It’s like asking Mike Tyson or Tom Brady if they are going to retire right after a grueling battle.
This is precisely the time not to do it. When thoughts about the meaning of life arise, they distract us from the tasks at hand—the tasks that advance the business and make the issues of the day improve. More importantly, it consumes energy that would otherwise be used moving the business forward. Taking the time to check in with yourself is critical. But you can’t fight the fight and evaluate your life at the same time. Set a time for yourself every two weeks to check in and take stock of yourself. When the thought creeps into your head in the middle of the day, resist the temptation to address it and wait until your designated time. Put it on your calendar and never miss it. Sometimes “time management tips for entrepreneurs” means how you choose to spend your time.
Get a Release.
We know how it goes, running from one task to another, constantly worrying about your lack of resources, both human and financial, never enough time to just stop and think about how our mind and body is paying the price for the constant “go go go” mentality. It is important to taking the time to let your mind and body recharge. This can be yoga, working out, meditation, talking to your kids, or jamming to music. Take a little time every day to give yourself a release. Check in with Spotify, Equinox, Gold’s Gym your favorite book from Amazon, a little yoga at Yogaworks, your favorite podcast from ITunes or your favorite show on Netflix. It does not matter what your release it – you just need to make sure you have a few to keep you moving forward.
Know Where You Need Help.
Each entrepreneur needs to grasp various parts of their business. Each of us have specific skills and areas we aren’t good at or that we don’t like. Part of improving as an entrepreneur is understanding which pieces of the business to take on and which ones to turn to others for. Don’t waste countless hours learning a part of the business you want to learn.
It is not our craft that weights us down, it is often the things that are the hardest or that we don’t like that saps our entrepreneurial spirit. But when you do make these decisions, make sure you get a foundation first – and there are people in each field that can help. You can find YouTube videos on everything. You can get learning and training from Lynda. And of course there is The Lonely Entrepreneur Community. It’s not that you don’t need to learn some of these things. But make sure you have a foundation before you start spinning your wheels.
When we think of skills, we normally think of marketing, sales technology and managing people. What we often forget is that part of being a good entrepreneur is managing your time to be the most efficient you can be. If we think of this as a skill that needs to be honed, just like marketing or sales, we then start to improve on how we manage our scarce amount of time and energy. If you think of managing your time as one of those entrepreneurial skills you must develop, you will embrace getting better at it. Time management tips for entrepreneurs is just one way to do that.