Being in college and running a business has forced me to become something of a time management expert. As a sophomore majoring in neuroscience at Duke University and the co-founder of Star Toilet Paper, I learned early on that if I wanted to succeed in school and in business, I needed to figure out a way to manage my time. Not only did I figure it out—I get everything done I need to do—I'm enjoying every step along the way.
Here are my three tricks for managing my time and workload.
1. Use every resource available to support your business. This one seems obvious, but it's something so many people don't do. Taking the time to understand the resources offered in your area in the beginning will save you a lot of time (and mistakes) in the long run.
For example, I went to an open house at DUhatch, the student business incubator here at Duke University. It wasn't exactly near where I lived, but I took the time to see what it was like anyway. It turns out that they offer free office space and free "coaches on call" (local entrepreneurs such as lawyers and attorneys) to help students. Now I spend hours every day in DUhatch because I have discovered that I am much more productive there.
Resources can also be professional organizations and groups you join or apply to join. If you spend a little time researching groups that will help you connect to other entrepreneurs for mentorship, you can save a lot of time later on, when you actually need advice, help or connections. These resources can make all the difference and are often worth the upfront cost.
2. Make a master list. Whether it's daily, weekly or monthly, making a list always helps me know what I have to accomplish. A list helps you accomplish two key things: First, it helps you prioritize and manage your time for everything you need, and, second, it feels good to check things off along the way. You feel a sense of accomplishment every time you finish something, no matter how big or small. And what happens when you finish your list? You can leave work for the day.
Plus, by making a list regularly, you will soon learn how to create a reasonable checklist for the week to ensure your workload is manageable (and not 120 hours a week). If you don't learn how to manage your time every day, those calls and projects you were supposed to do last week will continue to stack up.
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3. Ask questions. This is perhaps the most important aspect of managing your time effectively as an entrepreneur. Asking questions of those who are more knowledgeable on a subject can drastically increase the amount of time you actually spend being productive. While doing your own research can help in terms of actually learning, you should also consider what you could otherwise be doing with that time—like growing your business.
Successful entrepreneurs are often willing to take a call to answer some simple questions. Even if you don't think they will pick up the phone or listen to you, just calling is the first step you must take. What's the worst that can happen? You end up exactly where you started.
Plus, I have found that once you speak to, say, the head of Accelerator A, those at Accelerator B and Incubator A are more than happy to help if you name drop and say, "So-and-so over at Accelerator A told me you would be a great person whose brain I can pick. Do you have a few minutes?"
That being said, you should do two things to make sure you don't waste your time and theirs: First, prep your questions and make sure they have a point. The successful entrepreneur you are talking to will get frustrated fast if your questions have no direction. Second, make sure the person you want to talk to is actually knowledgeable on the given subject. Many people may be experts in some area, but that doesn't mean they know everything about everything.
To better manage your time in the long run, invest some time in the beginning, whether to exploring resources, making a list or asking questions.
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Bryan Silverman is the co-founder of Star Toilet Paper and a sophomore studying neuroscience at Duke University. His company utilizes a two-ply business model: It first obtains a large public venue to receive toilet paper at no cost, then reaches out to advertisers who pay half a cent per ad to target that demographic. He's also a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs.