I am definitely going to take a course on time management… just as soon as I can work it into my schedule.
It’s 9pm on a Friday evening. You are still at your desk, trying to wind up several tasks that you had kept in your pipeline for quite some time now. The deadline for remitting your tax returns is in a few hours, you also need to service some urgent invoices, you have missed your dentist’s appointment which was rescheduled for the second time because you were too busy on both occasions, your phone has been buzzing over and over again; you promised your friends a get together this evening that you will probably need to cancel, yet again. You are here, you are there and you are everywhere.
You remember you left employment to start your own business so that you can concentrate solely on what you enjoy doing most. But it’s evident that you are failing miserably. You are drowning in some constant flow of urgent petty work, never stopping to think about the direction your company is going. The workload continuously increases as the days go by, yet some important but never urgent things never get done. How did this happen?
You rarely step back and prioritize work.
Remember, your work of managing a company is not about doing everything yourself but about finding apt employees and delegating. You should keep to yourself only two types of tasks: what no one else should be doing, like long-term strategy of the company, and ideally what you enjoy doing. Planning and prioritizing work in view of these criteria should be done before delving into different tasks of the day. Without it, you’ll simply be a headless chicken running around barely completing important tasks.
How do you prioritize what to do and when to do it?
President Dwight Eisenhauer came up with a structured way of planning your tasks, based on his famous expression “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”. Simply categorize tasks two-dimensionally by their urgency and importance.
You might realize that for quite some time you have been dwelling on neither urgent nor important tasks that you can and should delegate.
The most widespread fallacy entrepreneurs commit is procrastinating and doing everything themselves instead of creating systems so that other, less skilled employees can take over the tasks. This way entrepreneurs do not get stuck in the treadmill of urgent daily operations. Yes, it will take you more time initially to design the system than to simply execute a task yourself. But this will happen only once, and then you will reduce your engagement to control. (Read more in “Stop getting in your own way”.) These tasks of deliberate, designing, structure are truly important and can rarely be done by anyone but you. They are never urgent, and that’s why most often forever postponed.
You don’t know how to say no
Entrepreneurs burden themselves with the yes mentality. I can sell clothes, I can build a bridge, I can transport your kids to school; whatever you will pay for I will do. Out of financial fears, pretending it is diversification and so on. Being a jack of all trades won’t take you far. Specialization is key. You can never become the best in what you do and cost-efficiently at that if you waste your limited resources on everything. (Read more in “How do you position your business?”.)
Nor is diversification a proper notion for it. Diversification is applicable only to investment, not to business, the major difference being your time and work: when you invest, you don’t spend your time working in the companies; in business your work and time are extremely valuable and very scarce resources. (Read more in “Diversification, Should You Put All Your Eggs In One Basket?”
If you have a problem rejecting orders and letting people down in person, you can simply ask for time to think about their request. Give yourself some room to deliberate on whether it would be possible and fit into your core business activity. If the answer is no, don’t be afraid to say so and recommend another company that can do it. Such attitude leaves a very good, selfless impression on people. This way you will not stretch your capacity to unsustainable levels, nor will you have a guilty conscience hanging over your head.
Time management is not only being on time but also planning your activities to effectively fulfill your obligations. It is a measure of self-discipline and honesty with yourself and others. Entrepreneurs need to be aware of how they spend their time and how to utilize it effectively in their business and in life generally.
Join our Advanced Entrepreneurship Program @ ISBI Strathmore today and learn how to master the art of time management. Arrange a free visit to sample the program.