The universal challenge for every startup founder is to get everything done that needs to get done and still have a life. Even outside of business, everyone wants to accomplish more but work less. I’ve been a student of these techniques for a while. Some time ago, I came across a great summary that seems to pull all the key principles together.
Stever Robbins, known on the Internet as the “Get-It-Done Guy,” outlines his strategies for task management in his book, 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More. These steps are not aimed specifically at entrepreneurs, but I see how they can be applied.
1. Living on purpose.
Figure out what’s really important to you as an entrepreneur. For most, it’s following a passion to show customers your better solution. Live your lifestyle, do what you love and identify your top priorities. You will get things done, and it won’t even seem like work.
2. Stop procrastinating.
Procrastination is a killer when it comes to being effective. One of the best ways to stop procrastinating is to break things down into small chunks, using tiny steps to move forward. Break time into pieces. When there’s an end in sight, it’s a lot easier to get down to business.
3. Conquer technology.
Cellphones, laptops and other electronic devices are supposed to give users additional freedom, but far too often, they create time traps. Separate yourself from technology on a regular schedule so as not to allow a machine to dictate your day’s agenda.
4. Beat distractions to cultivate focus.
You need to set boundaries and say “no” in order to stop multitasking and to find ways to group similar tasks. Remember to delegate to other team members. Don’t be tempted to solve the current “crisis” and postpone the important tasks of strategy decisions and monitoring the progress of the business.
5. Stay organized.
Many people confuse “organized” with “neat.” In fact, organized means a place for everything and everything in its place. When you stumble over something that doesn’t have a place, either throw it away or make a place for it. If you don’t have any more room, throw something away — don’t rent a storage unit.
6. Stop wasting time.
Work is whatever you need to do that most matches your business goals as they are today. Use the 80/20 rule to pick, and then complete those tasks. Stop trying to do things perfectly. “Good enough” is the antidote to perfectionism. Make faster decisions by limiting the options you consider.
Stop doing what isn’t working so you’ll have the time to optimize the rest of what you do. Some of the best ways to optimize include using team feedback to identify blind spots that could be limiting effectiveness, recognizing when it’s time to call in an expert to get the job done and listening to your own advice.
8. Build stronger relationships.
Build a network of contacts to allow you to harness the power of others’ strengths. Superficial relationships don’t help. Giving is the best and quickest way to strengthen a relationship. Conflict takes energy to sustain, so work to prevent conflicts from arising and to end the conflicts that do arise, quickly.
Use technology thoughtfully to automate things that take a lot of time, thus gaining leverage. Reuse things rather than reinvent them. The most valuable computer function in business is “cut and paste.” These days on the Internet, you can find samples of every document and contract you will ever need, so use them.
With each of these steps, you will reclaim more control of both your business and your life. You will find yourself honing in on the things that actually move the startup forward and make you happy, while also learning the skills you need to resist the rest. You, too, can be a get-it-done guy or gal.