Most of the stresses and challenges of entrepreneurship are well-documented. Entrepreneurs go into the game knowing that it’s difficult to raise funding, it’s hard to find good employees, decision fatigue will catch up to them eventually and so on. But one of the most common problems in entrepreneurship is also one of the least outwardly discussed -- time management.
Time management is critical to your long-term success for two main reasons. First, it’s a determining factor for your overall productivity -- essentially, the better you can manage your time, the more tasks you’ll be able to get done in a day. Second, it bears a massive impact on your psychological disposition -- the worse you are at time management, the more stress you’ll experience, and the more easily exhausted you’ll be in your position.
Mastering time management is a crucial component of entrepreneurship, and these eight secrets will help you pursue that path.
1. Segment your time.
How you schedule your time at the beginning of the day has a major impact on how your work pans out. Block out different “segments” of time to work out different tasks, and try to work within those confines. This will help you in two ways. First, you’ll minimize wasting time between tasks deciding what to do next. Second, you’ll give yourself natural time limits, inherently forcing yourself to work harder to get tasks done within a certain period. Just be sure to leave some room for adjustment.
Before you can manage your time effectively, you have to know where your time is most valuable. Create a prioritization system, one that categorizes tasks based on urgency and importance, and don’t focus on lower priorities until you’ve addressed the higher ones. This will keep you using your time in the most effective ways.
3. Focus on one thing at a time.
Even if your plate is full of different, small tasks, don’t attempt to multitask, and don’t let yourself get distracted by items that have newly arisen. Instead, focus on one item at a time, and don’t stray from it until it’s complete.
4. Learn to delegate.
New entrepreneurs are often driven to do everything themselves. They see their business as their baby, and they’re intimidated to let anyone else take control. As a result, they take on a lot of tasks they otherwise wouldn’t and end up overloaded. Instead, strive to be an effective delegator. You hired these employees because you trust them, so let them handle some of the lower-level tasks.
Related: Track Your Time to Get More Done
5. Choose efficient modes of communication.
You don’t need to call an hour-long meeting every time you have an update. Instead, opt for more efficient modes of communication. Email is instant, written (and therefore permanent), and can be executed much faster than a phone call, IM conversation or in-person meeting. Strive to communicate as succinctly as possible, and you could save yourself hours a day.
6. Shut down communication for 'blackout' periods.
Let’s face it -- even when efficient, communication is distracting. You’re always getting new emails, new texts and new IM notifications to the point you can’t focus on anything without being pulled aside. There’s one easy solution: Host “blackout” periods, where you turn off all devices and forms of communication, to help you focus on the tasks at hand.
7. Take breaks.
It seems ridiculous, but the fact is, taking breaks will actually help you stay more productive. A recent study suggests that working for 52 minutes and breaking for 17 is the optimal pattern for productivity, but you don’t have to be this regimented. The goal is to set a finite time period for work, and decompress with a break afterward to keep you motivated for the next round.
8. Draw a line.
As an entrepreneur, you’re passionate about your work, so it’s tempting to take on as much work as possible. However, if you do this at the expense of your personal life, it could have dire consequences for your mental, social and even physical health. Part of being an effective time manager is knowing when it’s time to cool down. Every day, you should have a firm “go home” time, and a standing order that you won’t work from home unless necessary. This line will keep you refreshed, mitigating the risk of burnout, and will help you focus on work when you’re at work.
These eight tactics aren’t the only ones you can use to better cope with the demands of entrepreneurship, but they are some of the easiest to adopt and some of the most effective strategies you’ll find. Adopt them in your own business, and you should notice a difference in a matter of days. The only problem left to solve is what you’ll do with the extra hours.