We've all heard of 'Internet Time,' but I lived it," says Kevin Dykes, the 29-year-old founder of AllianceBuilder.com, an Austin, Texas-based Internet strategy and consulting firm. "Wasting time is the quickest path to failure in this industry."
Believe it or not, though, Dykes wasn't always so disciplined. Before he cofounded another company in 1999 called US Creative, he was a time-scattered freelance Web project manager. "Without a doubt, I was horrible at managing my time during the business day," Dykes admits. "Like many entrepreneurs, I would easily lose my focus and begin brainstorming and researching my own ideas. It led to some trying times."
Dykes' time-management struggle isn't unique, either, as many of you could surely attest. And that can mean big problems. "In many cases, entrepreneurs are busy putting out fires instead of zeroing in on the core tasks that really count-the things that result in real accomplishment," says Marty Foley, a seminar speaker and author of the audio program How to Get More Done with Less Time and Effort ($15, http://profitinfo.com/catalog). "Lack of good organization and time management results in undue stress and less time for family responsibilities. In the case of entrepreneurs who get paid by their level of productivity, it can also adversely affect them financially."
What can you do if you're always burning the midnight oil? It's pretty easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day grind that you forget the things you wanted to accomplish when you started your homebased business. Determining what your goals are will give you a quick reality check and help you find some direction. "Big-picture goals about where you want to go and how you want to spend the time getting there are the key to creating your life," Dykes suggests.
Once you've plotted your course, find a simple time-management system that works for you. "You have to find the methods that work with how you naturally think," explains Dykes. "For example, I can't use a Day Runner or a Franklin Planner according to the system they prescribe, but I use the elements that make sense with how my mind works."
Is it worth it to find the time to learn about time management? Dykes reports his strategy lets him have more fun and less stress. "I'm living and enjoying my life more. The second benefit, which provides a foundation for the first, is having greater success in my business so I can build the life my wife and I want. I am now able to accomplish much more in the same amount of time."
Make It Count
Stop working 12-hour days! Time-management guru Marty Foley offers these tips for slicing your schedule into bite-sized chunks.
1. Set goals. If you don't know what your destination is, how can you get there? Write down your goals.
2. Keep and use a prioritized to-do list. Always tackle the high-priority tasks first, and work on the low-priority ones as time allows.
3. Exercise self-discipline. If you can stay focused on your most important priorities, you'll see greater results from your time and effort.
4. Automate where possible. With e-mail, use time-saving tools such as autoresponders and filters.
5. Periodically analyze your business. Assess which activities work and which ones you should eliminate.
Lap of Luxury
Need to get out of the office but don't have a place to work? The Lapdog by Shaun Jackson Design (www.sjdesign.com) is a super-fashionable way to keep your computer in check.
Winner of a 1998 IDEA award, this padded carrying case unfolds into a workplace in seconds. A nonskid surface keeps your laptop cozy, while padded pockets add storage for cables and cords. The Lapdog makes it easy to work anywhere. And for a suggested retail price of $140, it's a whole lot cheaper than renting office space.
Heather Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer and owner of SuccessWorks, an online copywriting firm. Her time-management goal is to work a "normal" 40-hour week.