One of the most important and yet under-acknowledged areas of being a great entrepreneur is time management. Complaining that you’re too busy is just another excuse – we’re all busy, we all have distractions and other responsibilities, and we all have 24 hours in our day to work with.
The toughest part of smashing time management is giving yourself a slap whenever you feel yourself complaining about having a lack of time, and learning to prioritise what you value most. Essentially: stop bitching, start doing.
I hope that the following 19 tips help you to prioritise more effectively, and make your time work a little harder for you.
1. Compartmentalise your diary
If you have 24 hours in your day but only a spare 2 hours to improve yourself as an entrepreneur, those 120 minutes have got to become your priority. Whenever that time falls – whether it’s in one chunk or split, and takes place in the morning, your lunch break, or the evening – then you have to ensure that during that time you fit in all of the essential business-related tasks.
Put this daily time slot(s) into your diary as a recurring entry that goes onwards indefinitely. And while you are working during that time, recognise that it isn’t about “fitting it in” – it’s about putting it first.
2. Isolate yourself while you work
2 hours every day is enough to succeed within any niche if you do it for 5-10 years in a row, but only if you can pick up the momentum needed during those times.
If you stay in contact with your emails, on Facebook, or you continue watching videos or are surrounded by distractions, those 2 hours of solid work are going to become 15 minutes.
It isn’t the volume of time that counts; it’s the quality of the time.
3. Stick to a specific amount of time each day
Consistency is key when you have only a limited time each day to spend on growing your personal business. Focusing on the fact that you only have a brief window each day only burns through the limited time you do have, so you have to work out which time slots you can leverage each day, and stick with them.
If you commute to work and back, that’s the ideal time to either listen to a podcast or read something that will help you develop. If you usually spend your lunchbreak fiddling around on the internet, you can fit in some work there, too. If you are out of the house between 7am and 7pm, you might want to get up half an hour earlier or fit in some work later in the evening.
It’s amazing how resourceful you can become once you start to see the results of the extra time you are spending on what you truly care about.
4. Focus on your KRAs
KRAs – or Key Result Areas – are the activities that have the biggest returns on time invested, and the biggest financial ROIs. These income-generating tasks are the ones you want to focus your time on, because this is where you are going to see the most significant results, and that in itself is motivating.
All these points are tied together. Without compartmentalising your diary, you aren’t going to manage your time effectively. Without isolating yourself, you aren’t going to be as productive, meaning you aren’t going to generate the income to see those differences, and without focusing on what generates the biggest results, you won’t progress as quickly as when you work exclusively on what generates the biggest changes.
5. Stop comparing yourself to people with more free time
As soon as you start comparing your progress to those who have more free time than you, and viewing their success in a non-inspirational, non-aspirational, demotivational way, you begin picturing yourself as a victim of circumstance and making excuses about why you will never succeed. Even if there is some truth to the fact that there are other people with more free time to spend and that progressing is likely to be easier for them, snap out of it and resist the urge – it does not serve you.
6. Net time
Here’s an example: when I went to London to interview Richard Reed for the Disruptive Entrepreneur, I didn’t drive myself; I paid someone to pick me up and take me there. I did this because the financial cost of doing so was far lower than the opportunity cost of the 2.5 hours there and the 2.5 hours back, when I focused on some high income-generating tasks, namely the creation of a new arm for our business. That’s net time.
Another example: during the 30-minute run which I do twice a week, I listen to a podcast at twice speed, meaning that I can listen to two hour-long podcasts. That’s finding time where you thought you had none. That’s also net time.
7. Systemise now
Most people seem to wait until they have a full enterprise and staff before they start creating systems and processes – but this is a mistake. If you record all that you do from the start, creating videos, making notes, documenting your methods, screen-recording your activities on your frequently-visited websites and apps, you will save yourself an avalanche of work when you come to train and teach the staff you will one day manage.
If you come to a point a few years away when you need to produce a manual or a book documenting all that you have done in the space of half a decade, you’re never going to remember everything without detailed notes. When you document your progress, not only do you have it in written form, but you also solidify your methods in your own head as you go.
8. Merging passion and profession
Once you find an effective way to mix business with pleasure in an enjoyable way, you take a step closer to running a lifestyle business rather than a constant operational slog.
For example, as a property investor, could you take some of your children (once they are old enough) to viewings? Can you visit properties or attend/run a business event while you are on holiday? Could you enjoy a romantic weekend away with your partner, but also attend a seminar during that time?
I run an annual Advanced Elite Speaker Boot Camp and always use this as an opportunity to have a family holiday.
Once you begin to blend these two separate factions of your life, you notice that when you are at home your work life stops being out of balance, and when you are at work your family life does the same.
9. Ask for help
Every start-up entrepreneur seems to wear their hard work and overlong work hours like a badge of honour. They’re exhausted, they have no free time, they are overworked and under-satisfied, and they’re bragging about it.
Ask for help. Beg your parents, your friends, and your family for aid, and outsource to new staff and contacts who owe you a favour. There is no shame in admitting that being a start-up is hard work, and people will recognise this and help you out. Many of the entrepreneurs who scaled their start-up to a huge levels did exactly this, and it got them to where they are today.
I’m not saying that you should sit back, or do nothing, or take credit for the work that others have done. I’m just saying that leveraging from other people is a legitimate strategy.
10. Spend time
Spend your time on activities that are going to give you a residual or a recurring benefit, like producing videos, a blog, a system, or even a book, and wherever you can, make them evergreen so that they maintain their value.
Ask yourself, will I get a benefit from this in a month’s time, or in a year? Is this going to remain an asset over time, and can it produce a recurring income, or can I repurpose it into something equally or more valuable but in a different format? These are the most valuable ways to spend your time.
11. Learn on the go
This is similar to net timing, so if you run or you commute, stop listening to the radio and focus on a helpful audiobook. We’re all busy, yes, but we also have net time throughout our day that we can spend reprogramming our minds to focus more on finance, sales, vision, leadership, and all the other things that help move you forwards as an entrepreneur.
12. Train yourself to research and make decisions faster
Start now, and perfect your craft later. Once you have put in some basic research, done some quick testing, and gotten 70% of the way towards full preparation, just go for it. I’m not suggesting that you plunge face-first into something completely stupid at the risk of hurting other people, but once you have put in a certain amount of research, spending longer trying to ready yourself is just procrastination.
If a decision goes wrong, pick yourself up and start looking to either tweak and correct what went wrong, or move onto something else.
13. Reprogram the way you ask questions
Stop asking, “How can I do this task that I don’t want to do?”
Start asking, “Who can do this task better than I can?”
That’s leveraged thinking, and when you adopt this attitude you are better equipped to find the right solutions.
14. Achieve more in less time
When you have less time, you are forced to make faster decisions and to focus on the most valuable ways to spend your time. I often find that when a person has 10 hours, they’re wasting 9 of them. It’s the 80/20 principle, so the trick is to avoid thinking about how little time you have, and instead consider how you can make that time work better for you.
15. Leverage 1st, Manage 2nd, Do Last
This is a model I designed, L1 M2 DL, which states that the first thing to consider when you have a long list of tasks is who you can ask to help lighten your load. It’s not about being lazy – it’s about being smart.
You won’t want to offload all of them, because some might be generate very high incomes for you, but if you can leverage half of them to friends, family, staff and outsources, you are giving yourself more time to focus on the most important elements of your business. You may have some coaching, chasing, advice and feedback to handle, but this should only be a temporary situation until you have a manager who can manage the work going forwards. Only after you have leveraged first, and then managed second, should you do last.
16. Short, sharp focus
The Pomodoro Technique is an Italian time management system that suggests working for something like 17 minutes before taking 5 minutes off, and the idea rings true for me. It allows you to focus intently in energetic bursts, which should be aided by the fact that you will be working in complete isolation without distractions. If you have an hour you might try 22 minutes of focus and 7 minutes off. Have a play and see what works best for you.
17. Finding the best guidance
Find the mentors, thought leaders, trainers, experts and authors who are at a higher level in their careers and personal development than you, and immerse yourself in every piece of advice and content they can offer. Follow them on social media, read their blogs, listen to their podcasts, go to their courses and attend their seminars, masterminds and retreats.
Learn from those who can teach you to better yourself.
18. Get the environment right
If you’re sat in a busy coffee shop, or you’re at home and the kids are squealing and running around, or you are in a place where someone is interrupting you at every moment, then it’s going to be a tough gig trying to achieve the level of focus needed to nail those KRAs.
Find an environment that both calms and inspires you, with an absolute minimum of distractions.
19. Pick your battles wisely
It’s easy to lose yourself to discussions and activities that at one moment in time can seem important or fulfilling, but are in fact worthless. If you find yourself on Facebook debating something irrelevant or hypothetical, or you are digging through forums without purpose, or you are adding to the comments to Top 10 list videos on YouTube, you should re-evaluate how you spend your time.
Now and again you will encounter discussions that reflect your core values and which you believe are worth fighting for, and it is these passionate encounters that can change your personal outlook or behaviour, or someone else’s.
Fight for the things that are worth your time, and avoid those that waste it.
What methods do you have for growing and getting more done? What down and dirty tips can you offer, or which of mind do you want to add to or dispute? Please share your comments below!
Use your time more wisely, until next time!
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