Many entrepreneurs fantasize about days longer than 24 hours, convinced that their new venture could change the world, if they just had more time. They don’t realize that a more viable solution is to get more done per existing hour, rather than creating more hours. We all know at least one person who is always “very busy” and works plenty of hours, but generates few significant results.
Every person, no matter what their passion, needs to revisit the principles of time management from time to time. However, this topic is particularly critical to entrepreneurs, who struggle with challenges and crises every day that they didn’t anticipate. Effective time management skills are often the best competitive edge.
I found some new insight and direction on this subject in a recent book by Jan Yager, Ph.D., “Put More Time On Your Side.” Dr. Yager is a real guru on this subject, having been a productivity coach, trainer, and author for many years, and still found time to squeeze out over 30 books, including five related to this subject.
Here are my recommendations for taking her top ten points in accelerating time management productivity from the conceptual level to the practical level for entrepreneurs:
- Overcome procrastination to achieve your priorities: All too often, we spend too much time on startup ‘emergencies,’ and put off ‘urgencies’ for another day. The best way to recognize this problem is to track daily where your time is really spent. This can help to force you to stay ‘on task’ rather than mindlessly working the issue of the moment.
- See a deadline as something empowering, rather than negative: A realistic product deadline will motivate you, so stop setting unrealistic deadlines, which discourage you or even ‘shut you down.’ Learn to use time-saving strategies, including delegation to team members, freelancers or technology. Sometimes the right answer is to revise the goal.
- Respond right now rather than wait to the last minute: It’s never good to let a team member or customer request be ignored until the last minute. If you are the right person, handle it now or pass it on to the right person immediately. Ignored requests lead to crises, animosity and projects that get off-track, and even startup failures.
- Seize opportunities in the marketplace: One of the greatest benefits of improved time management is that it allows you recognize and follow-up on unexpected opportunities or pivots that could come your way. In the startup world, these can make all the difference in closing on a key new customer, or capitalizing on a new business partnership.
- Determine where email and social media add value: Keep a check on your web browsing habits, and limit your daily time spent or delegate these activities. If you find your attention distracted from the task at hand by headlines or new videos, it may be time to shift to another platform that does not highlight these distractions.
- Find and use preferred individual contact methods: If someone lets you know that they hate phone calls, respect that. If email is your preference, communicate that to your team and contacts, perhaps minimizing office interruptions. You need to learn how to use the latest technology, like smartphones, to make you more productive and mobile.
- Get a neutral eye review before submitting critical work: Have you ever proofed your own letter or contract several times, only to find an embarrassing error later? It’s usually more efficient and effective to have a trusted team member make the last pass to save your time, and possibly add content and details that you overlooked.
- Learn to say ‘no:’ None of us have the time to do everything. Learn how to say ‘no’ politely and tactfully without feeling guilty about it. Being able to feel comfortable with what you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to will help you to broaden your options and empower you to spend your valuable time on things with the biggest payback to your startup.
- Get products out the door and shipped: You know you are making progress when you get things out the door. If closing customers is your priority, proposals completed and delivered is the key. Programmers and engineers are famous for always needing more time to hone the product before it’s ready to ship. No products mean no business.
- Look outside your business domain for new solutions: Too many of us get stuck in the rut of looking to our own experiences and skills for solutions to business challenges. Instead, don’t be hesitant to talk to your investors, board advisors, or peers in other industries for alternate approaches, new techniques and direct outside help.
I hope you realize by now that your day will never have more than 24 hours, and “I didn’t have enough time,” will never be a valid entrepreneur excuse for any business partner, customer or investor. Time management is a learnable skill, but it takes continual focus. How many of the concepts presented here do you use on a regular basis?
Image credit: CC by Oliver Tacke