As a young entrepreneur ready to take on the world, perhaps the most precious resource at your disposal is time. Money, ideas, talent, support – it can be generated or acquired, but no matter how smart you are, how hard you work, or how determined you are to succeed, a day goes by in 24 hours – and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
While many under-30 CEOs are working marathon shifts to achieve their goals, it is often done by sacrificing sleep, social life, and personal fulfillment, and ultimately equates to unsustainable results. If you are out of breath from continually racing to keep up the pace, consider these executive tips for taming the unrelenting march of time.
1. Always Have a Plan
They say life doesn’t come with directions, but by creating a master plan for your days, weeks, and months you can draw up your own set that will do just fine. While many recoil at the thought of making the effort to schedule all of their responsibilities, engagements, and events, modern technology and mobile connectivity make it easy to adapt to a digital calendar to help utilize time to maximum efficiency. Software applications such as Google Calendar or BusyCal 2 not only make it painless to maintain a detailed plan to guide your days, but also possible to do everything from coordinate schedules with associates, illuminate ways to be more efficient, and even point out when there’s simply no more time to spare.
2. Live by the List
Maintaining a daily to-do list is a productivity tip that has long been a staple of countless successful entrepreneurs. By jotting down the things that need to be done and arranging them by priority from top to bottom, you can make sure you are always on top of the essentials, and avoid being sidetracked by less relevant tasks.
Refresh and consult the list at the start of each day to form a clear plan of action for the ensuing hours, crossing off items as you go before taking a moment at quitting time to assess what you’ve accomplished. You’ll not only make more efficient use of your available schedule, but will begin to pay closer scrutiny in judging which tasks are worthy of your time.
3. Be the Quarterback
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to remember the mark of a great leader is the ability to delegate. Just like a quarterback on a football field, there’s a lot riding on your ability to call plays and lead the team toward the goal line, but you aren’t going to get very far without blockers to clear the path and someone to throw the ball to down field. While you might often feel you are the only one who can get the job done properly, its necessary to find trustworthy people to whom you can pass off time-consuming tasks so you can remain focused on making the big play.
4. Put on Blinders
Thoroughbred racehorses sometimes wear blinders in order to block peripheral vision to keep from running off course. While having a broad perspective of what’s going on around you is a positive trait in business, there are times when productivity can be maximized by shutting out the world and bringing laser-like focus to the work at hand.
Analyze the way you spend each day, identifying the periods during which you are typically most productive, and then structure your schedule to allow for total focus during your hours of peak proficiency. Set calls to go to voice mail, hang the “do not disturb” sign on the door, and put your head down and blast through your most important work sans distractions.
5. Draw the Line
The more success you earn as an entrepreneur, the more valuable your time becomes, making it necessary to put security in place to guard against potential time-thieves. Whether you are sitting in on an internal meeting, or taking a phone call from a potential client, set clear time limits and don’t be shy about being a stickler for sticking to the schedule. Set the tone in all of your communications by being concise and to the point, limiting the time you are willing to trade emails, instant messages, or even stand around chatting. You’ll not only reclaim countless hours of lost productivity, but also forge a culture of action where individuals understand the need to bring their “A” game when they are on your time.
6. Put Life on Autopilot
While it still takes knowledge, talent, creativity, and hard work to climb the latter of success, the savvy modern entrepreneur knows how to utilize technology to dramatically reduce the little tasks that can swallow up entire days. From automating your personal banking with recurring payments and balance transfers, to employing a software platform to schedule social media marketing posts and collect relevant data, the ability to harness time-saving technology is the key to lean efficiency. By using cell phone apps to remind you when you have an appointment, adjust your home utilities, and even automatically track the way you spend your time to find ways to be more productive, you can clear away distractions and remain focused on the prize.
While hard work when you are young and hungry paves a smoother path to travel through life, effective time management allows young entrepreneurs the chance to have their cake and eat it too. By managing a plan based on priorities, delegating responsibility, and protecting against distractions in order to become more efficient, you can reduce stress and avoid burnout while living a happier and more productive life.
What additional time management tips can you suggest?
Brian Spero is a business owner and writer for the personal finance site, Money Crashers, where he writes about productivity, technology, and money management.