5 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Make Time for
Ask a business leader for time management advice and she'll likely tell you that saying no is the most powerful tool at your disposal. While this is sometimes true, I've found that it is often just as important to say yes. Here are five efforts I (try!) to make time for -- no matter my workload or responsibilities -- as the payoffs they provide far exceed the time and effort put into them:
1. Building meaningful relationships through networking
Networking isn't just about handshaking and chit chat, it's about building authentic relationships that enrich our professions and our lives. To truly connect with others, you need to be willing to devote time and create consistency. It often relies, too, on finding common ground.
Through networking, I have found peers -- CEOs who are also building businesses -- and formed valuable relationships. We meet monthly as a group and have done so for four years. Our businesses and our careers are in various stages, giving us each unique expertise and advice to share. We've become trusted sounding boards for one another, learning from each failure and celebrating our successes together. It helps to have a confidential and empathetic group of peers to share an entrepreneurial journey that can be lonely at times.
2. Finding stress release outlets
There's often a psychological price to pay for entrepreneurship: It can create and contribute to chronic stress, leading to physical and mental exhaustion, lowered immunity and inability to focus on tasks at hand. These detrimental effects, and many others associated with stress and burnout, ultimately impact both your health and business.
Rather than viewing stress relief outlets -- exercise, yoga or creative diversions, for instance -- as time-sucking items that block precious calendar time, I view them as essential to my well-being and ability to manage my business and my family. I work stress relievers into my day, aiming for bite-size, consistent breaks, such as taking a business call from a bench in a nearby park or turning a typical conference room meeting with colleagues into a walking powwow. Since I can't always guarantee these breaks, I also hold myself to twice-a-week lunchtime workouts with my co-founder to check in and break a sweat.
3. Mentoring and developing your people
No matter your business, your employees are your most valuable asset. Invest in helping your employees find their passion by getting to know them and giving them space to explore teams and projects that interest them. Challenge their managers to be their mentors.
In our organization, a business analyst now leads the product team and a customer support associate now leads technical QA because they were encouraged to find their interests. The organizational shake-ups may leave holes to fill, but they also go a long way in retaining and nurturing talent, which ultimately not only helps your business succeed, but also leads to personal fulfillment for yourself and others.
4. Taking vacation
Leaving your business for a getaway can be worrisome, even terrifying to some. As entrepreneurs, we stare down scary stats about startup success rates and often fear we can't chance time away.
The truth is that you cannot afford not to step away. Besides the obvious recharge benefits -- including stress relief, better sleep, increased productivity and even heart disease prevention -- vacations can be a forcing function to get yourself to delegate work to others. Give people the opportunity to show you they can steer the ship while you're away, and they will do just that. You build competencies, nurture your team's growth and make room for yourself, upon return, to focus on higher priority tasks.
It's not always easy to plan and use vacation time, but I aim to travel with my family and take a solo trip to truly recharge at least once a year.
5. Spending time with and listening to customers
Don't lose sight of whom you're doing this for. By nature of my business -- a service that connects families with trusted childcare -- I talk with customers daily. It may be an investor who just used UrbanSitter to hire a babysitter or a reporter who is seeking personal recommendations for childcare in San Francisco. Seeing how customers use the service and listening to their feedback is eye-opening. In fact, some of our best features have come from customer requests.
If you struggle to find ways to connect with your customers, man the customer service queues for a day or host an "Ask Me Anything" webinar. The time spent will be well worth the insights you receive.
There's no one-size-fits-all time management plan for those in the throes of building a business. It boils down to figuring out what's deserving of your time and energy and committing to carving out time to do it. I've found that prioritizing relationships and my own well-being helps me feel good about my time. Committing to initiatives like the ones above takes discipline, but if you choose wisely, the payoffs are well worth the effort you give.