As we hurtle into the final two months of 2022, you could be starting to wonder where this year has gone! Too many of those best laid plans we made back in January are still on the to-do board. Now it’s nearly 2023, and we have to be ready to hit a whole new year’s tasks and targets with a clear mind. But how?!
Time waits for no one, which leaves you with two options in life: 1) become a slave to time, forever caught in a never-ending game of cat and mouse between you and the fleeting minutes, or, 2) learn how to manipulate old Father Time to your advantage. Entrepreneurs have no choice but to pick option two if business success is the goal. Between the various projects, campaigns, meetings, and errands that need to be started, managed and completed on any given day, time management is a crucial skill to have in your repertoire.
“Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.” Thomas Edison
To help you to harness the power of time, we’ve drawn up a list of our favourite time management tips. In the spirit of cherishing every momentous second, the whole blog should only take you 3-4 minutes to read!
How do entrepreneurs manage time?
1) Don’t just create a to-do list – prioritise!
With a plethora of tasks that need doing at any given moment, the humble to-do list is a fantastic tool for helping you focus on precisely what needs to be tackled TODAY. It stops you feeling overwhelmed or worrying that you’ll forget something important. Lots of people say the simple act of seeing a task written down stops it from intruding on their thoughts.
There is only so much that can be done in the waking hours, so creating a to-do list is an effective act of prioritisation. But we suggest you further prioritise by numbering your to-do list in order of importance. This follows on from Mark Twain and Brian Tracy’s advice to eat the frog, which we discussed in our blog, 5 powerful habits of successful business leaders. By starting your day with the task that will result in the most positive impact on your business, you can dramatically boost your productivity in a short space of time.
2) Just-in-time learning
To stay ahead of the competition and stay relevant to their market, great entrepreneurs are constantly learning. But learning takes time, and a lot of it. How do you continue to learn without desperately trying to squirrel away non-existent “spare” hours? Just-in-time learning is the answer! The theory underpinning this learning methodology is that most of the education we receive is “just-in-case learning” – i.e. we might use that skill at some point in the future. But just-in-time learning says that you should only learn so that you can do something that will pay immediate dividends. The extra bonus with this approach is you actually speed up the learning process because you get to practice your new skills straight away.
3) Actively track your time on tasks
The funny thing about time is that although we have clocks to measure it, our own perception of time is an ever shifting and fluctuating phenomena. A good example of this in action is the flow state, popularised by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which describes how when you are so immersed in an action time seems to go by very quickly. However, more often than not we lose track of time not because we are experiencing the positive, holistic experience of flow but because we are so busy! When you have your numbered to-do list to be getting through, this can become a bit of a problem.
A great way to combat this is to use a time tracking tool. Luckily, there is an endless supply of great apps out there that will track your time for you so there is no excuse not to master the hours and set time restrictions for each task. If you already use a productivity tool to manage your workload, there may be a built-in time tracker, which is even better.
4) Delegate or outsource
Time management is only truly effective if the work you are doing is required by you. To really make the most of your day, it’s essential to restrict your attention to certain types of tasks and not just anything that happens to pass by your desk. If you find you’re always doing a bit of everything, then the solution is to either be stricter about delegation or to outsource certain functions entirely. In fact, lots of business people will tell you to outsource anything that isn’t a core function or skill of the business.
This is often easier said than done for entrepreneurs who are used to doing everything themselves or are still bootstrapping. But true business growth is impossible without relinquishing that steadfast grip for perfectionism and letting other people pick up the slack.
5) Batch related tasks
This clever tactic may seem too simple to work, but we know that if you put it into practice properly, you will see a massive increase in your productivity! Task batching is all about organising your day by grouping similar tasks together and completing them all in one powerhouse session. As an example, instead of looking at your emails every time your email programme dings, tackle them in one go and then close your email programme down until your next authorised email window. Take it even further by maintaining a calendar and blocking off the time that will be needed for these batch jobs, so that meetings and other ad hoc activities don’t take away your focus.
It makes sense to set boundaries like this, especially now that multitasking has been proven by researchers to be a complete myth. In the Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception & Performance, an experiment proved that repeated switching between tasks can reduce productivity by a whopping 40%! So our advice is to stay focused on one batch at a time if you want to get the most out of your work day.
Give yourself time
Although this is a blog about using time and getting more out of time, remember that balance is key to a healthy life – for you and your startup. If you plan to use every second of your work day to its fullest potential, you should also aim to have some time in your day when you can do absolutely nothing. This could be something you do during a lunch or coffee break, or outside of your work hours. Everyone deserves some down-time during which there are no screens or demands or obligations. The amount of time you need will depend on you, but it’s crucial to carve out this space for yourself!
About the author
Scarlet Bierman is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence.