The early phases of any business includes an extensive to-do list. When staff is short and responsibilities are many, things can quickly slip through the cracks. Everything is further complicated by the proverbial lack of hours in a day. All serious entrepreneurs can use an extra few hours per day, but sometimes this is not possible. The next best thing? Serious time management skills.
The following are five tips that have helped me build—and continue to build—LSEO, a full-service SEO, pay-per-click and social media marketing agency. I directly attribute these five tips to my successful multi-tasking as a 15-company angel investor and a full-time entrepreneur.
Plan Ahead for Better Time Management
To help improve your time management skills, think about spending a half-hour to an hour every morning planning the day and prioritizing the most important tasks first in a list fashion. Prioritization is vital. Some people save their toughest tasks for the end of the day, but it may be easier to complete these tasks when the brain is freshest and the energy levels are high.
Also, consider taking five to 10 minutes ahead of any scheduled calls to focus on what needs to be executed. Have a call about the social media aspects of your marketing plan? Stick to this topic, and write down a few points that need to be covered (e.g. a Facebook strategy to drive engagement, attracting more Twitter followers, images for Instagram, etc.)
I do this every single day. It always appears that in the early days of the week, this planning process takes an hour, but by week’s end, it’s down to about a half-hour. Have extra time from planning? Consider getting to your first task, and reward yourself with some extra down time at lunch.
Stick to the List
When you plan ahead and make your list, stick to it. If you have an hour blocked away to finish an important business proposal, then a half-hour to answer emails, make sure you don’t answer any emails before finishing your allowed time for the proposal. There will be many times that a project goes over the block of time—say 10 minutes over the hour you allowed. This is fine, but try to stick to the base plan as closely as possible.
Don’t alter from the task at hand. The goal is to smoothly flow from one task to another throughout the day without disruption, which leads us to my next point.
Plan for Disruptions
While creating your plans, think about allowing at least two slots for planned disruptions from others within the company. Let team leaders and employees know the time you have allowed for these disruptions. This may help keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Chet Holmes, one of my favorite time-management leaders, says that when the average person loses focus from things like distractions, it takes 15 minutes to get fully back into the mindset and flow of work from your pre-disruption period.
At LSEO, my fellow team leaders know that I’m available every day from 9-9:30 a.m. and 4:30-5 p.m—and not a minute is wasted during these planned disruption periods.
Don’t Answer Emails or Internal Instant Messages
Now that you have time for planned disruptions from employees, block all other distractions that can take you away from the task at hand. This includes immediately answering emails and internal instant messages.
As part of your planned day, you may want to include a few slots for answering emails and IMs. I personally make this part of my second hour, and then throughout the day, I block 15 minutes every few hours to answer emails. Obviously, if there’s a red flag or subject line that needs immediate action, take the time to open it. But let your team know that’s the only way you’ll open internal emails.
Also, consider informing your team of nonsense IMs. Unless it's of vital importance, these IMs can wait. This became a standard practice for me about two years ago at LSEO, and productivity increased ten-fold.
Block Other Distractions
Besides not answering emails and IMs, you may want to keep other feeds of information—like your Twitter or Facebook feeds—blocked. It’s very easy to get distracted and fall deep into the ramblings on social media, whether it's breaking news or just friends yapping about the latest game. I make sure all notifications are off throughout the day.
Follow these tips, and you may observe tasks are getting done more consistently and smoothly. Also, consider making sure your team leaders are trained on time management and have them do the same for their employees. This may help make the company run smoother, which leads to growth. It also benefits each employee’s personal life due to lack of stress from not getting things complete, which also benefits the entire company.
Kristopher B. Jones is a prominent internet entrepreneur, investor, public speaker and best-selling author. In 2008 Kris wrote a book on search engine optimization that is currently in its third print for Wiley (2008, 2010, 2013) and has sold nearly 100,000 copies. Kris is the founder and former president and CEO of Pepperjam (sold to eBay), managing partner of KBJ Capital (13 companies) and the founder and CEO of LSEO.com and APPEK Mobile Apps. He is also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC).
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