I wish there were more than 24 hours in a day. Like most of you, I struggle with the ongoing challenge of trying to fit a series of seemingly endless tasks into one short day. Unlike the 9-to-5 routine we once knew as employees, being an entrepreneur is a job that never ends. But there are ways to take control of your time and get more done each day.
Here are six suggestions:
How do you keep track of your schedule? Are you forever jotting notes down on Post-Its that you stuff in your wallet? Do you write appointments on three different paper calendars? Well, it’s no wonder things fall through the cracks. To get a grip, choose one place and system to track all your appointments and to-do’s. Go as high-tech or low-tech as you like. Some people swear by paper organizers or notebooks; others love online calendaring. The key is to pick the system that works for you. If an assistant or other employee is responsible for scheduling your time, make sure he or she has access to your calendaring system, too.
2. Know thyself.
Are you a night owl? Then why are you always planning to get to the office at 6 a.m. when it’s quiet? Smart entrepreneurs shape their schedules around their strengths. Know what time of day and in what situations you’re most productive. If you always feel energetic and chatty in the morning, for instance, use that time to make phone calls or hold brainstorming meetings. During the afternoon, do you just want to be left alone? Make that the time you do your big-picture thinking, write proposals or do other tasks that don’t require lots of interaction. Harness your natural rhythms instead of fighting them, and you’ll accomplish more with less effort.
We all start each morning with the best intentions. But the minute you walk in the office door, dozens of seemingly urgent matters fight for your attention. They may be urgent, but are they important? The two are not always the same. Set aside some time (at least 20 minutes) every day to work on one important task -- the one that moves you closer to accomplishing your long-term business goals. It could be writing a proposal, strategizing new products, or reconnecting with former customers. Don’t let anything interfere with working on your chosen task.
One reason our days get so swamped is that we all too often schedule ourselves down to the minute. Then, when a meeting runs long or a client call doesn’t start on time, we instantly fall behind… and it just snowballs from there. Give yourself a cushion for every scheduled event on your calendar, and try to keep a few hours unscheduled each day.
There’s a reason this tops nearly every business coaches to-do list. For entrepreneurs heading growing businesses, one of the hardest skills to learn is letting go. Your business is your baby, and you’re sure no one can run it as well as you. But in order for your company to grow, you’ve got to give up some responsibility. Start by handing off the duties you dislike or aren’t good at. Have you always hated making sales calls, or reconciling the budget? Chances are someone on your staff would enjoy it -- and do it better than you. You’ll free up time that you can use to do the things only you can do -- like plan your company’s long-term strategy. And you’ll empower your employees, making them happier and more productive.
6. Give it a rest.
Have you heard of the law of diminishing returns? The more worn out you are, the longer it takes you to get a simple task done. The next time you find yourself spinning your wheels, take a break. It doesn’t have to be anything big -- taking a quick walk around the block, running out to grab a cup of coffee or stretching can be enough to recharge. If that doesn’t do it, take the afternoon off. You’re the boss, right? You’ve earned it.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva @Rieva, and visitSmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports.
Image credit: Photos.com