Juggling Multiple Tasks
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Starting a business used to be just a distant fantasy-something you tossed around in between jobs as a high schooler or even as you sat at a desk in corporate America. But now you've done it. And though you're proud, you've also got 14 things to do before breakfast-and only space for nine in your hectic schedule. Think you can't get through it all? We talked to someone who not only lived through his multiple business and personal endeavors, but thrived. Fred Kiesner, Hilton chair of entrepreneurship at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, has done everything from starting a small-business incubator and training center in Russia to running his own import business. So if there's any doubt in your mind that you'll survive your start-up years, take it from Kiesner, the master of squeezing dozens of tasks into one day: It can be done. Here are his methods to keep you from madness:
Quit crying. All the time you spend lamenting the different things you have to do is self-defeating, says Kiesner. "Quit wasting time worrying and do stuff," he says. "Your job is to get things done." The more time you spend worrying, putting things off and spinning your wheels, the more you add to your workload. Watch how quickly that pile on your desk disappears when you stop killing time and actually attack it.
Eschew perfection. "Perfectionism is your enemy," says Kiesner. "So many people don't turn in work, they never get things done, they never start a business because they're waiting until it's perfect. Life isn't perfect-you're always doing things that are less than optimal. You have to take a risk. Maybe you'll make a wrong decision, but you have to make the decision and move on."
Meet smart. While Kiesner confesses that he "avoids committees like the plague," if you find yourself in an unavoidable meeting, make sure your time is well-spent. "You waste so much time in those meetings," he says. Try scheduling 20-minute meetings, either 20 minutes before lunch or 20 minutes before 5 p.m. "People want to go to lunch, and they want to go home. Tell them, 'We're not leaving until we finish,' and watch how quickly the work gets done."
Make time to have fun. Remember what it is you're working for. You started a business in order to enjoy your life more fully-not to be at the mercy of anyone else's schedule. Scheduling fun time to relax is just as important as scheduling that management meeting. It will refresh you and give you the energy you need to tackle more work. How to do it? "Get efficient," says Kiesner. Get your work done as soon as you get it-when it's out of the way, you can move on to the fun stuff.
Treasure your family time. What is one organizational tool Kiesner can't live without? "Family support." He recalls a time when he and his wife were both working, going to school and raising a baby. Time together wasn't always possible, but "if all you can squeak out is an hour a day and [in that time] they give you all their love and every minute they've got, and you give them the same back, this is what you need. That's quality time."
Don't dwell on the past. This goes for past victories as well as past defeats. "Don't complain about what went wrong," says Kiesner. "If you've just had the worse sales year in the history of the company, go out and [cool off] for 10 minutes and then get back to work trying to improve it. And if you've had the best sales year in the history of your company, go out and [celebrate] for 10 minutes and then get back to work and improve it. You celebrate victories for a short period of time, and you mourn defeats for a short period of time."
The key to juggling all the stuff in your life? "Be passionate about what you're doing," says Kiesner. "If you love it, then you can do it." Remember to enjoy the process of growing your business. It's why you got started in the first place.