How to manage time as a busy entrepreneur?

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Being an entrepreneur can give you a high, but it is extremely demanding. You typically bite off more than you can chew, and still make it all work with sheer determination. Successful entrepreneurs manage to balance their many responsibilities and juggle many crucial tasks – without ever dropping the ball. They manage this by using their time efficiently. Here are a few simple tricks that can help you do the same:

  1. Anticipate interruptions: Most of the work that a manager does is ad hoc in nature. It is even more true for an entrepreneur. It is not about just the tasks that you need to accomplish, but much more. For example, what if your most productive employee needs a week off because of a personal emergency? What happens if your car breaks down on the way to the office in the morning? The way to handle this is simple: don’t pack your day to the brim. Leave yourself time to manage the interruptions, and you will accomplish much more than you do on a full schedule.

  2. Limit time on unscheduled demands: An add-on to managing interruptions is limiting the time you spend on unscheduled activities. Say, not more than 5 minutes on an unexpected call, not more than 2 unscheduled meetings in a day, and so on. Notifications on your smartphone can take away a lot of time: schedule them or schedule when you would check them. Say, four times during the workday. You can do this through apps available or through good old discipline.

  3. Schedule your priorities: Do not prioritize what you have on your schedule, rather schedule your priorities. Remember the Pareto principle: 80% of results would come from 20% of the tasks. Make sure that you schedule these vital tasks before everything else. The Pareto principle does not just allow you to schedule better, it also tells you that within each task you should push to get the 80% results through the 20% crucial bits first.

  4. Automate regular tasks: As an entrepreneur, you would have to deal with a lot of repetitive tasks. Automate as many of them as you can. Start with the simplest tasks: automate recurring payments, follow up emails, social media posts, appointment reminders, and the likes. You could even automate your phone becoming silent when you have a scheduled meeting. Next, automate anything that you regularly monitor as far as possible – find ways to set up alerts. You could also employ technology to build some of the automation based on your specific requirements. Next, find processes in your workflow that can be automated – use a workflow management tool, collaboration platforms, digital contract management platforms, etc. based on your requirements.

  5. Delegate: Successful entrepreneurs value their time, and therefore delegate whatever is not core to their success. You should only do two types of tasks:

    a.) tasks that cannot be delegated,

    b.) tasks that can be delegated but are crucial for your success.

    All other tasks should be delegated away. Remember you do not delegate because you do not want to perform certain tasks. Rather, you delegate because:

    a.) there is a premium on your time,

    b.) you need to build your team for success.

  6. Make a note of expected results: Most entrepreneurs want to be busy, they have a bias for action. This can sometimes put them in a situation where they are busy, but not really productive. One way to not fall into this trap is to attach expected results to each activity you take on. This will let you know how important the activity is, and how much of your time should you be willing to spend on accomplishing it. For example, when you go into a meeting write down what you wish to accomplish from the meeting on the whiteboard – and cross out items as you accomplish them.

  7. Productivity hacks: Most successful entrepreneurs employ productivity hacks. Some of these they develop for themselves, and others are time-tested tricks they have learned from elsewhere. Here are four I recommend:

    a. The two-minute rule: To overcome inertia, commit to doing a task for two minutes. For example, if you find that you are procrastinating on writing an email: set a timer for two minutes and ensure that you draft the mail for just these two minutes. More often than not you would find that you wouldn’t stop when the timer runs out – but finish the task instead.

    b. The 70% rule: Just start on a project or task when you have 70% information, 70% resources and 70% confidence. You don’t need more than that for a successful start.

    c. The Pomodoro technique: Build tasks that take 25 minutes each. Set a timer for 25 minutes, accomplish a task and take a 5-minute break. Repeat. This allows you to have a single-minded focus when you are working at a task. If you want to learn more about the technique, you would find a lot of material and apps for the same online.

    d. The 6 most important tasks: At the close of the day, make a list of the six most important tasks that you need to complete on the next day. Now, simply follow the list the next day to complete one task at a time. Do not start the next task until you have finished the previous one on the list.

Being your own boss is exciting, but entrepreneurs also have to deal with a lot of stress. One of the best ways to reduce the stress involved is by managing your time and your attention better. Employ the techniques listed above and see the difference for yourself.

Karishmma V Mangal,

Karishmma V Mangal,

Director & Trustee, Thakur International School- Cambridge

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