time management

Time Management – Stop Running Like a Headless Chicken

If you are running a startup odds are you probably feel like you could use a few extra hours in the day. The question becomes how do you free up time when everything seems important? First of all, you need to stop lying to yourself. Is everything you do equally important? Probably not. You’re reading this article right now aren’t you? Shouldn’t you be engaging with potential customers or working on you growth strategies?

Here are a few things that are proven and tested to help you achieve better time management.

Know Your Priorities

What are the top 3 things that your business is focusing on right now? Is it growing your audience? Improving your product? Or improving your conversions? If you don’t know this, you should! It seems obvious but you would be surprised how many business owners can’t name you their top priorities. Therefore, figure out the top 3 things that will bring value to you company and then write them down (or use Trello to keep a list of priorities).

Once you have written down your top priorities put a reminder in your calendar so you can review them each month.

Find Out Where You Spend Your Time

You are going to hate this advice but trust me it’s well worth the effort. For the next week, I want you to track every minute of your day. You will need to note down what you’re doing and for how long. I don’t care how you do it; use paper, excel or Toggl, but track every minute.

I know this is a painful but you will only be doing this for a week. Time accounting will allow you to know how much time you spend on each activity. In return you will find out where you are wasting time. We can tell you right now you’re probably checking Facebook or your email too often. Most likely you need to improve your time management.

Compile and Evaluate

Now that you have done time accounting and loved it so much, you can analyze the data.

Here’s how we did it:

  1. Compile a total you spent on each activity (using export to CSV feature), create groups if you need
  2. Sort each activity highest to lowest
  3. Mark the activities that were part of your top priorities
  4. Mark anything that was absolutely urgent
  5. Note any activities that took less than 30 minutes

Now, any activity that was not marked as top priority or urgent is were your time is being wasted. If you want to achieve better time management. These activities should be considerably reduced or eliminated all together.

Next, all activities that are less than 30 minutes should be grouped together and you should consider using a timeboxing strategy to help you be more productive and improve time management.

If you still think most of your activities are crucial. You can do deeper analysis and see how each of those activities had a real impact on your business. How you do this will be part of another post but try to get some metrics and see how each activity really impacted the bottom line.

Result: Improved Time Management

All right that was simple enough right? If you read until here then you have no reason not to try it. Otherwise you are wasting your time reading blogs while you should be working.

Here are the major adjustment I’ve personally done after a week:

  • Grouped all email reading and replies to 3 times a day: morning after lunch and at night.
  • Pick one or two core tasks to accomplish early in the day and work at the very least two one hour blocks on them
  • Filter all emails that are not that important into appropriate folders
  • Grouped all social network browsing and content creation in between tasks and pushed at the end of the day where my focus is reduced
  • Learn not to address items immediately to avoid disruptions

Well I hope you will give it a try and please let me know how it went!

Post image is creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by sfllaw: http://flickr.com/photos/sfllaw/2090170051

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