Are you spending too much time managing your business and not enough time building it?
You are not alone. This is a systemic problem, and most entrepreneurs succumb to the daily grind, leaving barely any time to focus on growth opportunities.
As an entrepreneur, you have a lot on your plate. You are the person who makes all the business decisions, and you are the one who deals with the outcomes.
At the same time, you are doing all this with limited time and resources. What if you could get a big chunk of time back each day? How far will you be able to take your business with more time on hand for you to work on growing your business?
Many entrepreneurs are so focused on their to-do list that they lose track of why they are doing specific tasks. Others fail to delegate simple tasks that can easily be done by someone else. Yet others end up wasting valuable time on meetings and emails.
By making a few small changes, business owners can redirect their energy toward growing their business. It may seem daunting to get started, but it doesn’t have to be.
We asked 10 members of The Alternative Board and entrepreneurs to break it down for you. Here are ten tips on how you can get back more time from your workday.
1. Find out where you are spending your time and how much. Then delegate what you can.
One way to get more time back is to take stock of where exactly you are spending your time. Many of my TAB Members log in how and where they are spending their time. Then they will look at each item and reflect on the following questions:
- Is this something only I can do? What if I am not here? Who would do it, and have I given them a chance?
- What can I delegate to whom, and what needs to be done so the delegation can happen effectively —like a tool, training, or reprioritisation of that person’s duties?
- Am I doing this at a time when I should be doing something else? (For instance, “Am I doing my books when I have prime customers who want to meet with me?”)
- Am I not clear about what I am delegating to either do it myself or have to make too many corrections? Should I slow down and make sure we have an agreement on what is to be done, by when, and what is an acceptable outcome? Should I allow the other person to figure out how?
2. Write down 4-5 most important tasks for the following day when you leave work.
To get more quality time in your day, before you leave work each day, write down four or five most important things you want to accomplish the next day. Allow time for interruptions, unexpected happenings, phone calls, etc., but be realistic in what you want to achieve. When you arrive at your desk the next morning, take 15-20 minutes to put away your personal items, sit down, mentally change gears, and don’t accept interruptions (do this consistently, and people will learn to leave you alone at this time of day), then move forward with what you wrote down at the end of the previous day. This will help you become more focused and help leave your work at the office once you end your workday.
3. Create a framework for each workday.
Define what a perfect workday looks like to you, and create a disciplined approach to create a new framework for your workweek.
Write down your goals for the day and block off the calendar to achieve the most important goals. Allow flexible time for secondary objectives that can be bumped into another day should emergencies arise. For example, if your perfect day includes time to exercise, meditate, have a good breakfast, then make that your morning schedule.
Routinise non-important decisions like the time to start work, what to eat, or what to wear —all the things that can be a brain drain. Then begin work with the priority to-do list you wrote the night before. If you have morning meetings, tackle the priority list following the meetings. Celebrate the goal achievements or progress by crossing them off the list. Use your goals as the “true north” to maximise your daily output and ensure you stay focused on achieving what is truly most important.
4. Schedule downtime, and maintain it.
Lifelong learners and coaching clients have their set rituals – their effective tactics to make the most of their time. Examples include:
- Waking up early
- Practicing daily gratitude
- Writing a task list
- Marking the top three tasks for the day
Those are all the foundations for a productive day.
I’m sure everyone agrees that getting more time in your day is a worthy goal to achieve. Who among us could not use an extra hour to knock off more tasks from the list, hit the gym, or participate in a family activity? Maybe even give back to the community with volunteer work.
How can business leaders get more time back in their day?
The answer is to assign “downtime” within their day’s structure.
Downtime can be described as the moments in which we step away from our crazy schedule of tasks, emails, calls, and meetings to daydream — and this is where innovation starts. It is time we set aside to visualise our future goals. It’s time to rest our brains from the insane stimulation into which technology has submerged us. Downtime is when we can work on our lives, not in our lives, just as we spend time on our business rather than in our business.
Pink Floyd created an album that has sold more than 45 million copies. This critically acclaimed work, which has been awarded a spot in the Library of Congress, centers around losing time. It is not by accident that the work segues from the tracks “Time” into “Breathe.” This is when the listener can sit back and feel how the simplicity of spaces in the music (downtime) settles the anxiety of time into a relaxing breath. The music score relies on the downtime (or blank spaces) to accent the importance of nothing. Business leaders need these spaces and moments of nothing to accent their use of time.
Downtime supports your ability to create and innovate ways to pivot your time accordingly while at the same time altering activities that are not generating your desired results.
5. Change your standard meetings.
When setting internal or external meetings, make it your company policy to have either 20-minute or 45-minute meetings instead of the standard 30-minute or one-hour meetings that most calendar systems have as a default.
6. Always have an agenda, and stick to it.
Distribute this agenda to all invitees. Start on time, and finish on time.
For internal meetings, don’t serve beverages and food during meetings. Consumption of these takes up time and causes interruptions. For meetings of 30 minutes and less, meet somewhere everyone will have to stand.
7. Block out time to check and answer emails twice a day.
Instead of emails being a tool for our business, they can quickly become our master. The inbox’s ping causes us to divert our attention from other tasks hindering our efficiency and focus. Rather than answering emails when they come in, set aside two times per day to deal with them. I find that mid-morning and late afternoon is best for me, and I avoid looking at email other than during those two times. Try this, and you will see two benefits. First, you will become much more efficient in dealing with your email, and secondly, you will find your efficiency on other tasks will also improve.
8. Avoid small talk
Small talk and bonding conversations are essential when you’re getting to know a new employee, customer, or business contact of any type. However, once you have established those relationships, it is likely no longer needed. Yet, we still waste time on every conversation. This often takes more time than the actual business conversation. If you save only a few minutes per conversation, that quickly adds up to an extra 30 minutes to an hour in a day!
The people you are talking to are also busy. You’ll find they appreciate and respect your schedule and your need to get to the point quickly and move on. There is always time for small-talk after business hours.
9. Designate time to address questions from your team.
Block out time on your calendar to answer questions for your team. Have your team members save up their queries until this designated time. This will eliminate the churn that can occur when everyone on your team interrupts to ask a question whenever it comes to them. It will help you become more focused so you can get things done. It will help them plan better, think things through more on their own, and start to shift the culture from one of firefighting to quality, strategic, and well-thought-out plans. As a result, you will get more time back in your day.
10. Set actions that correspond to your goals.
You should set actions based upon your longer-term goals. In other words, once you have decided on a clearly defined vision for your company, you will find more time in your day. Here’s how you can use this tip. With the future state defined, ask yourself this: “Will my actions get me closer to my goal? And will the current trajectory get me there?” If the answer is yes, you will waste less time by being more effective and efficient with your time and, therefore, get more time back in your day.