Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, calls it "time famine." Your doctor calls it "dangerous levels of stress." The '80s band Rush called it "too many hands on my time." Whatever label you put on the entrepreneurial trait of having more tasks than time, it's a factor of almost every successful business life.
But it doesn't have to be. Check your own daily schedule to see if you're falling into one of these six time management traps.
1. No Time To Train
Admit it. You have at least three tasks you hate doing that eat up too much of your time. The only reason you haven't passed them on to a loyal minion is you can't seem to find the time to train somebody else to do it. Make the time. Spending even a full day once beats nickle-and-diming your time every day for the next year.
Time Management Challenge: Hand off one task to a trusted employee by this time next month.
You might think you're being more productive and look like you're being more productive, but the research shows multitasking doesn't work. It's actually impossible—you can't focus on two things at once but rather switch focus rapidly between jobs. Since it takes as much as 10 minutes to find your rhythm with any given task, multitasking means working at lower effectiveness all day long.
Time Management Challenge: Try focusing on a single task for 30 minutes before moving to the next. Compare the results to your multitasking norm.
3. Skipping Sleep
We all skip sleep from time to time to make a tight deadline or fix an emergency. It's unavoidable, but resist the temptation to burn the midnight oil for tasks that aren't urgent. Getting six hours of sleep instead of seven robs you of two-and-a-third to three hours' worth of productivity in an eight-hour workday—longer if you're pulling the 12-hour shifts of many business owners.
Time Management Challenge: Set a hard limit of seven hours of sleep per night, which means you stop working and start to wind down eight to nine hours before it's time to get up.
4. Ineffective Scheduling
You're the boss. You get to set your schedule the way you like it, so be smart about it and schedule big jobs for the times of day you work best. Morning person? Set aside time to work on that big report first thing. Afternoons work best? Close your door from the end of lunch until 3 p.m. or so. Ineffective scheduling steals productivity. And remember that not scheduling your time is the least effective scheduling of all.
Time Management Challenge: Come to work 15 minutes early for a week, and use that time to craft your perfect agenda for the day.
5. Not Managing Distractions
As the person in charge, you must be available for major decisions and to help with emergencies, but it's likely those points only take up 10 to 20 percent of the interruptions and distractions that hit you every day. Don't be shy about establishing dedicated "do not disturb" time every day to work on your key tasks. Better yet, focus on training and empowering your team to the point that they don't need to interrupt you so often.
Time Management Challenge: Make yourself a "Do Not Disturb" sign, complete with hole to hang on your office door. If you work in a cubicle, make one that can drape over the back of your chair.
6. Disorganized Work Space
Don't kid yourself. That pile of papers only has a system to it if a stranger can walk in and use that system to find things. Disorganized work spaces mean you lose time every day trying to find misplaced items, or replace work you did but can't locate. In too many cases, it can even lead to having to run to the office supply store for that ink you forgot to replace or some similar unnecessary errand.
Time Management Challenge: Leave the office with a clean desk each day for a week. Don't cheat by just stuffing everything in a drawer.
What's your biggest time sink on a given day?
Read more articles on productivity.
Jason has contributed over 2,000 blog and magazine articles to publications local, regional and national. He speaks regularly at writing and business conferences. You can find out more about Jason at his website.