Absolutely everything you do as an entrepreneur can be classified into three basic tasks: planning, doing, and relating (i.e. conversations with investors, customers, partners, and such). Frequent disruptions are detrimental to success as well as the doubt about what you are doing right now is the right thing. You won’t be able to eliminate all interruptions, but you have to be in control of how much they distract you and that what you do has purpose. This makes good time management necessary. These following suggestions will help you finally get total control of your own time:
Keep a record of all the time you spend on planning, doing and relating for one week. After this week you should be able to see how much time you spent in each category and whether you consider this a successful week. Mark the most effective blocks during this week and blocks you think were the least effective. This helps you to identify patterns like your most productive times during a day. For the next week you can switch types of tasks around the day and keep records of your output. Possibly you are better at relating in the morning or you rather plan after lunch. These records can also help you to determine what your focus time is. The time you can work continuously without losing focus, which is likely different within the categories.
Allocate a half an hour each day in the morning to plan the upcoming day(s). Without planning very often we just chain tasks together that come up losing our aim of what we want to achieve. With a bit of oversight you can avoid wasting time that is better spent taking a break instead.
Clearly define your best outcome before you start relating with others. For example before you call a client make sure you have a specific outcome in mind. If he had a question make sure he is satisfied with your answer. Sometimes we like to jump into calls especially with individuals we enjoy talking to without a clearly defined goal. That often leads to pleasant but unproductive conversations. Make sure your goal was met before you end the call. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing not everything was covered and another conversation is needed.
In situations that require your absolute focus like when a deadline is quickly approaching then make sure you cannot be interrupted by anything. Close the email application, turn off all phones, shut the office door and hang up ‘Do Not Disturb’ note.
It is almost against nature not to respond to incoming information in form of emails, phone calls, text messages and more, but very often these don’t entail any useful information and will only deter you from your course. Hence it is quite useful to learn ignoring all these inputs. Catch up during your next break.
There are always some tasks on your list that have higher impact than others. Identify the top candidates within each category and create appointments with conservatively estimated times with yourself to complete these. These appointments are fixtures in your calendar. Don’t change them.
It is also very useful to write protocols for tasks that keep repeating so that other can take over these tasks based on your protocol. It also helps to learn to accurately estimate the time common tasks will take. When you overestimate you may get sidetracked in your ‘spare time’ with other tasks if your underestimate it you will run behind schedule.
You can exploit yourself only for a certain time. Body and mind need to catch up on sleep and mental downtime eventually. Although some sleepless nights may be needed when things need to get done, but in the long run is it more advisable to find a balance between work social and recreational activities.
Trombson McRight has more advice to get more done