Why Most Entrepreneurs Are Terrible at Time Management (and What to Do Instead)
Why is this the case, and what can you do about it?
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You might expect that entrepreneurs are typically quite good with time management because they get so much active practice prioritizing and considering how they spend time on a daily basis. But in reality, time management is a skill most entrepreneurs struggle with.
Why is this the case, and what can you do about it?
The practical applications of time management
Let's start by discussing why time management is so important for entrepreneurs to develop.
- Project management. Time management is crucial to most types of project and campaign management. If you have six weeks to complete a project, you need to make the most of each week. If you have six milestones to hit, one week at a time, you need to actively manage your team's time each day to hit those targets.
- Personal efficiency. Effective time management also leads to greater personal efficiency, which has many benefits. When working optimally, you can fit more tasks and responsibilities into each day, maximizing your output. It also prevents you from needing to work long nights and weekends, so you can spend more personal time relaxing (and avoid burnout).
- Respecting commitments. With better time management, you're also more likely to honor all your commitments. You won't have to worry about having to cancel meetings or turn down opportunities just because you don't have enough time to spare.
Why most entrepreneurs are terrible at time management
Not all entrepreneurs struggle with time management, but those that do can usually blame some combination of the following:
- Sheer number of commitments. One common problem is the sheer number of commitments and responsibilities you have as an entrepreneur. On a given day, you might drift between multiple departments, and then in a given week, you might have 60 hours of work or more. With this abundance of tasks to do and meetings to make, time management becomes difficult for anybody.
- Scaling issues. Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the double-edged sword of business scaling. If you scale or grow too quickly, you start running into resource management and long-term planning problems. Many new entrepreneurs are surprised to learn just how quickly a business can grow, so they aren't prepared to handle the time management dilemmas that present themselves along the way.
- Refusal to delegate. It's only natural to be personally invested in your business, eager to see it grow and enthusiastic about working for it. But this often manifests as a total refusal to delegate; Many entrepreneurs simply want to do everything themselves. This might be feasible in the short term, but in the long term, it simply doesn't scale.
- The entrepreneurial personality. Entrepreneurs typically share many personality traits and characteristics. They're extremely ambitious, prompting them to take on more responsibilities than they can reasonably handle. They're always looking for new things, which means they sometimes abandon old systems or old priorities for newer, more exciting ones. These traits and others can make it more difficult to properly manage time.
- Addressing problems by spending more time. Additionally, business owners are prone to addressing time management problems the wrong way. They try to brute force their way through the time difficulty, solving problems by just working longer hours. This might get you through some temporary issues, but it's not a good long-term approach.
Improving your approach to time management
What steps can you take to improve your time management?
- Admit you have a problem. Like with resolving many problems, the first step is to admit you have a problem. If you've been getting by with sloppy time management practices and brute force approaches, it may be difficult for you to admit that your time management strategy needs to be updated.
- Learn to prioritize effectively. The most important element of any time management strategy is prioritization. One common approach to prioritization is the Eisenhower matrix, which forces you to consider both the importance and urgency of different tasks on your radar. You can use any system you want, as long as you have some consistent system in place.
- Focus on being productive, not just busy. Being busy isn't the same as being productive. Just because you're spending hours at the office doesn't mean you're getting things done. Refocus your efforts on being productive, contributing valuable effort to your business rather than just racking up additional spent hours of work.
- Delegate freely and often. Delegation is your best friend. Hire people you trust and build a network of contractors so that you can reliably and freely delegate low priorities. The more you practice delegating, the more comfortable you're going to be with it.
- Find scalable solutions. Finally, look for solutions that can scale with you as your business continues to grow. Automation tools and delegation tools are ideal for this, but you'll also need to think about the general processes you follow to get more work done each day.
With better time management, you can tackle more projects, waste less time and even have more time to yourself. It's not an easy skill to develop, especially as you're juggling countless other priorities, but if you put in the time and energy, you'll be rewarded for it.