4 Things Productive Entrepreneurs Do Every Day

Time management is a huge challenge for entrepreneurs. You have many plates spinning at once, and prioritizing and handling it all can be daunting to say the least. These four tips can help you juggle it all.

1. Highest Impact First

On top of managing your own time, you also need to manage the priorities of everyone who reports up to you. This is where a rock star employee can make your job a lot easier by understanding and anticipating your priorities. On the

Even if your team understands priorities, there are always the inevitable fires and daily distractions that take all of us away from our long-term goals. When someone on my team asks me how to prioritize on the fly to deal with these short-term distractions, I encourage them to consider this question: “What can I do today that will have the highest impact on our business?”

Focusing on what creates the highest impact gives permission for people to focus on the one big issue that might take a bit more time to resolve vs multiple smaller issues that feel satisfying to cross off a list but can probably wait. It’s a helpful prompt for someone who deals with high volume but struggles to make the time to focus on an important project that requires more dedicated attention.

2. Acknowledge or Pass

Some employees will tell you that they would love to focus on that high impact task but simply can’t due to daily interruptions, “firefighting” unanticipated problems, and other competing demands for their time. It’s important for these people to understand of what I call “acknowledge or pass.”

Just as it sounds, this means that if you can’t deal with a request right away, you simply acknowledge that you’ve received it and provide a timeline for a response — or you pass it on to the appropriate person to handle, being sure to loop in the requestor so it’s officially off your plate.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming this is common practice. You need to actively communicate this expectation with everyone on your team. A performance metric like “24-hour response time to all internal and external inquiries” is a good way to hold your team accountable for responding quickly, even if their response is a request for more time vs a full-fledged answer.

Most of the people on the waiting end of a request will be fine with waiting a little longer for a good answer so long as you acknowledge that you’ve seen the request and then provide a timeline for a response.

3. Saying No

Another common time management flaw is the inability to say no. This is where the question of “What will have the highest impact on our business” can again be helpful in terms of helping an employee feel empowered to decline a lunch date with a vendor when up against a deadline, as an example.

4. Time Tracking

If prioritization has been tackled and your employees are still missing deadlines and response metrics, you’ll need to figure out where their time is really being spent.

Tools like Harvest can help both you and your employee see where daily time sucks are drawing down productivity. You may discover that the employee in question is stuck in meetings for four hours a day, unbeknownst to you.

These time audits should always be framed as fact-finding, not punitive, so that you can get accurate data and make changes that will truly impact results in the long-term.

Originally published at www.inc.com on August 26, 2016.

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