When you’re starting out as an entrepreneur, you end up having to do everything yourself.
This means, you end up doing a 5 man job for 15 hours a day until you can finally afford to hire some help.
As you would expect, it’s completely normal to continuously run out of time.
I’ve narrowed time management down to two things: Organisation & Energy levels.
I’ve got 20 tips that help me better these two, I don’t expect you to implement all 20, but try and select 1 or 2 that resonate with you and see if you can bring them into your day to day.
1. The two minute rule
When you’re presented with a situation where you’ve already been interrupted, if it takes under 2 minutes to complete – do it immediately.
Someone drops in and asks you if you can send that file to them via email, you’ve already been interrupted – do it there and then.
I apply these at home too – especially with my dinner dishes.
2. The morning mind dump
I get in 15 minutes before everyone else does.
I don’t open my emails, I don’t check my phone – all I do is grab my to do list and vomit out everything in my head. I don’t think carefully about what’s higher priority, I just literally make sure it’s descriptive enough for me to decipher and done.
Once that’s finished, I move onto my Einsenhower matrix. It sounds way more complex than it actually is.
(Full disclosure: I’ve actually made my own spin off of the good old Einsenhower Matrix, ask me about it someday).
3. The Einsenhower matrix – to do list
Mind dump complete. I now roll through the list adding 2 main priorities:
Important – We all know what important means, I also use it to answer whether or not I am the only person that can do the task.
Urgent – something that needs to be done within 1-2 days
Break these into 4 sections, Urgent & Important, Not Urgent & Important, Urgent & Not Important, Not Urgent & Not Important.
Here’s a visual representation:
Organise your to do list into these 4 quadrants, believe me – when you have 100 things to do this tells you where to begin.
I tackle “Delegate” and “Do First” initially, “Eliminate” I leave for those days where I know I’m not performing – didn’t sleep well – you know the days.
4. Make a “not to do” list
As an entrepreneur you start off doing everything. The problem with doing everything is it’s hard to then somehow delegate – primarily because you are so used to doing everything yourself!
Your focus should always be to do nothing (eventually).
How I differentiate the tasks I should do versus the ones I shouldn’t is by adding a monetary value to my time. Let’s assume you are worth £100 an hour. Ask yourself; Is this task worth £100 an hour? If not, spend that hour training someone else to do it so tomorrow you can do something worth £100. This ensures you learn delegation – something you will need down the line.
5. No distractions between tedious tasks
Tedious task? Try your level best not to be interrupted.
Tell your team you’re going to do a long task, you’re going into the DND mode and if they need anything to email you.
I then pop my headphones in and get into the zone, my phone is set to “shut up”, and I go for it. If my task is taking way longer than expected. I pause, and walk around the office – I do this because motion helps me think, breath, switch off – when I am satisfied, I go back into the zone. Usually I take my music with my while walking as I try my best not to be brought back to the real world, my team knows I’m still in DND mode.
If this is difficult in your settings, find a place to hide – make your colleagues aware of your plan, or, if all else fails – use your work from home days.
6. Check your emails (only) 4x a day
I used to tackle every email that came in instantly. What then happened is I realised my entire day was just spent answering emails.
Now, I check It 4 times. Early morning, at lunch, mid afternoon, end of work. That’s all. I’m trying to bring it down to 3 times – believe me, you’ll suddenly have 3 more hours in your day.
7. Plan the unplannable
My work day is 10h long. I only plan work for 6h as I know the other 4h something will come up. Meetings, phone calls, something. You don’t know what, but you allocate time for it. If you free up, back to your matrix!
8. Be ready 5 minutes before a meeting start time
With all the rushing around, sometimes you forget what you actually want out of the meeting. Other times you aren’t present in the meeting because your previous task is in your head.
I finish up what I am doing 5 minutes ahead of my meeting and I take a second to bring myself back to the moment. I look out the window, take a deep breath, walk around for a few minutes (do not look at your phone here – you’ll make it worst).
9. Structure effective meetings
Meetings tend to overrun if they aren’t structured. By adding effective structures like agendas, objectives, meeting minutes, summaries, actions to take & booking in follow up meetings if necessary – things tend to get done quicker.
I also ensure I have a weekly meeting with my teams to ensure things are working and usually they interrupt me less during the week because of these. We run through everything, they get their answers, actions are set and summarised in an email.
10. Cross device to-do lists
I’m a big fan of Android phones. I have Google Keep on there and a widget on my phone home screen showing me my to-do list. I also use our Siri equivalent and while driving if I remember something it goes into a reminder.
Make sure you have a way of logging on the go thoughts or things to do as they always seem to creep up!
11. Change your seating spot regularly
I’ve noticed my mood & energy levels change when I change seats. It’s like a brand new station. Sometimes I work sitting on the floor. Other times at my desk. Other times on a beanbag.
Changing these frequently seems to work for me very well and keeps me super productive. I’ve also noticed lighting helps me a lot. Well lit areas keep me happier that badly lit areas. See what works for you.
12. Implement effective communication
I cannot multitask. Officially. The rumours about men are true, and I am their poster boy.
Interruptions ruin me. I find myself fearing an interruption so I don’t even attempt to engross myself into important work.
My recommendation: train your teams on effective communication.
Email – If it’s due this week
Chat – If it’s due today
Call/Interrupt – If it’s due in the next 2 hours
13. Mid day motivational music
Music has a way of changing your mood. If you’re someone who gets to anxious, get your favourite calm music on. If you find yourself not doing enough and getting lazy, get your motivational tracks on. This keeps up the tempo (and every now and again just bop your head like you’re in an awesome concert, movement creates emotion too!)
14. Ignore your technology when you’ve got work to do
Your phone is your enemy. It will interrupt you at all times. Disable all social media notifications entirely, make it so that if you want to see them you can, but they wont find you. You’ll save 2 hours a day. And I consider Whatsapp social media too!
Most of the time you look at your phone almost like an addiction. Just monitor how many times you look at it in a day without it even beeping.
15. Respect other people’s time & they will respect yours
I use every method of communication with my team. I do it specifically because I’ve explained when to use what.
If you apply the rules to yourself, your team will follow them blindly too.
Everyone slips up, tackle their query and gently nurture them back to using the communication streams.
16. Wind down before you leave work
- Think what can you send off to other teams in different time zones
- Write down what you need to really do tomorrow (half your mind dump done for the morning)
- Take a few minutes to think of anything you may have forgotten to do during the day (add in personal stuff too)
17. Enjoy your lunch
Do not power through lunch. I take 25 minutes to eat, but I ensure I clear my head. I sometimes eat in the park, sometimes near the window, sometimes I take a team member with me.
This does wonders for your energy levels. We feel we’re busy so we power through this, but really a clear head gives you an extra 2 hours of productivity, so to me, it’s an investment. 25 minutes for 2 extra hours – no brainer.
What I am starting to do is interact with someone new every day. Waitress, cleaner, colleague, anyone. Our mood changes with people and it also serves as a reminder that we are not robots.
18. Bring in gratitude time outs
Take time outs. Don’t do anything. Just be still and breathe. Look out the window. Look at everyone around you being busy. Observe it. Thank those silently in your head for helping you with the tasks. Bring in a little gratitude to your day. Thank your partner, thank your dog – if you can’t think of anyone thank your laptop!
This technique really energises you. Try it.
19. Remember the real point of work [Very Important]
Remember as humans we have completely made up work.
We do it to keep busy instead of sitting around growing our own vegetables on a farm.
The point of life is not work. The point of life is people.
So add people into your day, have some fun. You can be super stressed and busy and still laugh your ass off for 5 minutes. In that moment there is no need to carry that stress and live in it as if it’s infected your every cell.
20. Don’t lie to yourself [Most Important]
I find myself saying I have no time and suddenly I have a 25 minute chat with an old friend, or I get home and watch a 1 hour sitcom on Netflix.
You always have time. You may be busy, but you always always have time. Tell the world whatever you want, just don’t lie to yourself.
If you haven’t done something it’s because you don’t want to (which is also fine). Either delegate it or buckle down and do it – just be truthful to yourself.
Believe me, the bigger you & your company gets, the more work is piled on your plate. The more the stress when it goes wrong. Learn early this is a process, the real losers and the ones who are so focused on the destination they forget about the journey.
If I’m totally honest, there really isn’t a destination either. I’d refer to it as the oasis, as it keeps changing. Today you may say you want X, tomorrow it will be twice that.
Enjoy the day to day, the moment to moment and you will be the wealthiest man of them all.
Philosophical I know – it’s still true.
Got more tips? Share some love, drop a comment in below!