Time management is a skill that every #entrepreneur needs to master, but managing one’s time is often considered to be one of the most difficult aspects of running a business. Entrepreneurs who fully dedicate themselves to their ventures work tirelessly: waking up early and staying up late, wearing all the hats of a business person.
For most, spending an insane amount of time running your business is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, after so much time investment, many entrepreneurs find themselves filling breaks in their schedules with busy work. Without a proper time management strategy, entrepreneurs run a great risk of burning out.
- Learn the art of triage. Think of a recent time when your inbox exceeded 100 emails, and your phone wouldn’t stop ringing, and your biggest client was on the verge of leaving, and your kid needed to be picked up from practice. To most people, this seems paralyzingly overwhelming. But events like these are part of the daily routine of entrepreneurs, and while all seem important, the effective entrepreneur looks at each of the tasks and is able to prioritize. Task triage and prioritization is not procrastination, but instead an effective way to deal with the many hurdles we encounter on a daily basis.
- Organize your mind. Sounds too easy, right? Most advice does, but successful entrepreneurs take the time to figure out how to make advice work for them. For me, I spend the first 10-15 minutes of every day lining out what I need to accomplish. Some people make lists; some people read, some people exercise, some people eat. Personally, I find list making to be another chore. But every morning, by writing down what I need to accomplish for the day, I make a commitment to myself to fulfill those duties.
- Block your time. This phrase has two connotations: 1, actually schedule blocks of your day to dedicate to specific projects or tasks. 2. block your time so you can minimize disruptions; panic emails, unnecessary meetings, or any unanticipated event. This isn’t 100% fail proof, as every day is a version of chaos, but it will help keep you directed when something unexpected arises.
- Do 10 push ups every hour. Or air squats. Or take a walk. Exercise and physical fitness go hand-in-hand with mental fitness. Taking a few minutes a few times a day to get the blood flowing helps you process information, energize your creative mindset and get in a chance to burn some calories. Further, sitting at a desk is one of the worst physical things we do to ourselves. Break up the monotony.
- Schedule time to think and reflect. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers. And while we start out with a big problem to solve, our minds are running 24/7 and often caught up in the minutae of day-to-day small problems or other’s people’s problems. To stay directed and keep on track, we need to schedule a portion of the day, or week, to think about the big picture, and reflect on recent successes, as well as areas to improve.
- Go off the grid. For me, this is the hardest thing to do with my day. As a remote worker, I am all but required to be accessible to my team and to my clients. Here’s what works for me: Following my blocked time schedule, I close Outlook for an 30 minutes every other hour, set my phone to do not disturb and set an away message on my instant messenger. It’s hard to follow this routine, but I remind myself: There is no work emergency so dire that 30 minutes of being away will make worse.
- Keep work email off your smartphone. I realize this won’t work for every industry or position, but ask yourself if you have your work email on your phone because it’s a requirement, or if you want to feel like you’re needed? For me, I have an insane work ethic and always want to be doing better than expected. But I realized that when I was out to eat with my girlfriend or enjoying time with friends and my phone buzzed with a new email, I mentally left the room. That’s not healthy. And it’s not fair to those whom you’re with.
We all need a break from that which drives us. And when you’re trying to manage 20 things and have to constantly put out fires, we condition ourselves to be needed.
Further, burning both ends of the candle for too long works against us, instead of in our favor. That best time to take a break is when you don’t think you have the time (in two weeks I’m taking my first real vacation in two years!). That could be a vacation, or spending your evenings with friends and loved ones.
These are tips that have worked for me, but at the end of the day, each of our situations are different, and it’s up to you to figure out what works best.
Last advice: Don’t read 10 of these articles and think “Those sound good, I should try them sometime.” Pick one of the tips and start applying it to your life right now. Manage your mind, manage your time, and manage your business.