When you start your own business, you’ll be juggling multiple projects, from managing the books to managing your early employees. But over time you might find that the hardest thing to manage… is yourself. Just as you have to account for every dollar that flows in and out of your business, you, too, must also have a good grasp of where you spend every minute and hour on a day-to-day basis.
Here are some tips to help you maximize your productivity, and give you a sense of accomplishment in a role where it seems like your to-do list will never end. These strategies and time-management techniques will help you cross off those tedious tasks and meet those visionary goals and all the tasks in between.
Combine Short and Long-Term Lists To Create a Roadmap:
Stay Focused By “Bucketing” Your Time
For years, people, particularly those who hailed from the startup industry, glorified multi-tasking. But we’ve learned the hard way that the hustle hard culture has its downside, from burnout, to heightened human errors and complete mismanagement. It can even promote a poor company culture.
If you want to get something done well, you need to give it your full, proper attention. Many successful founders bucket their day into tasks. They try not to move on to the next project until the first one is complete. Always seeing things through completion is the key pillar of time management.
Wake Up Before the Sun
It’s no secret that many of the world’s most successful business leaders are early risers.
Call it the Tim Cook effect. The Apple CEO made waves when he revealed that he awoke at 3:45 am each day to exercise and start his work day. Ellevest CEO Sallie Krawcheck and Oprah are also known to wake up before dawn.
Logging in before 6:30 or 7 every morning can help you accomplish a great deal before the 9-to-5 grind, when meetings and correspondences can easily suck up your time.
Create Time for Creativity
So many business owners find themselves working “in” the business and forget working “on” the business. Getting inundated with various tasks and juggling so many hats can often cloud your head and lead you to lose purpose.
Take regular breaks between mundane activities and align your progress with your overall purpose as a founder. Go out and take a walk, get some fresh air and perhaps connect with your cofounder or another fellow entrepreneur who can empathize. These simple ideas can lead to fresh, creative ideas and recharge your energy.
Distinguish Between Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
You will never feel accomplished if you don’t check your self at various points throughout the year:
-Annually: First, create a concrete goal tied to sales or some other monetary milestone. How much revenue do you need to consider your business viable, or how much do you need to pay back a portion of your small business loans? Then, create a visionary, big-picture goal separate from your sales projections. This goal will keep your creative entrepreneurial soul alive (hence the importance of brainstorming). Do you want to land your? Do you want to lock in a key advisor or investor? Do you want to gather at least X number of regular customers by end of year?
-Quarterly: Each quarter, write your five biggest objectives for your business.
-Weekly: Start each Monday focusing on the biggest priorities for the week.
-Daily: Start each morning putting together a daily to-do list.
Confront What You Have Not Completed
Long-term goals are important but it’s mastering that daily schedule that can truly determine one’s productivity. Building on that daily to-do list, strive to cross out every item on that list. Physically crossing it out will give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation. But you must also be honest with yourself. If you did not accomplish something within a given day, then physically rewrite that task on the next day’s to-do list. These simple actions of crossing out and re-writing tasks will turn seemingly abstract duties into concrete projects that must be done.
It all starts with hiring smart. This is one of the most effective ways to optimize time, as well as grow your company in the right direction. As small businesses owners, it’s tempting to want to hire with a budget-first mindset. But investing the time to onboard qualified and driven people you can trust, especially for your first hires, is absolutely priceless. As a business owner and manager, you need to focus on the long-term vision of the company and trust the team.
Always Room for Improvement
No matter how efficient your strategy is, there’s always room for improvement. Always take note of what is eating up too much of your time and energy. and see what needs to be simplified, outsourced–or eliminated for your to-do list altogether. Part of being an entrepreneur means that learning never ends. There will always be new apps, new technologies and new ways to work smarter.