It’s an absolute rule of business: people who are able to be successful are those who are exceptional at managing their own time. I’d argue that there are no examples of successful people who aren’t also extremely conscious about how they use their time. But why is time management a second class topic in entrepreneurship? Why do we place our own personal productivity behind topics such as financing, team dynamics, and product design?
I think that the main reason entrepreneurs don’t like to talk about time management is because they think it’s simply a matter of discipline. “I know how to work hard”, we tell ourselves. “I just have to find the right idea, the right team and the right support to make it happen. That’s when I’ll manage my time well.” Of course, this is not how business works. We have to fail over and over again in order to find success. If we’re not efficient at identifying options and discarding those that don’t work, we’re not likely to build a growing business.
So what should an entrepreneur do? Here are some time management tips that apply best to people who are building a business:
• Set daily goals, the fewer the better – Establish at most three major tasks you want to accomplish that day, and do them first. The tremendous advantage to this approach is that you aren’t just working, you are working on what you decided to pursue—not what just popped up ahead of you.
• Practice explaining everything – It’s crucially important to have an “elevator speech” for your business model ready to go at all times. But really, all of the aspects of your business deserve soundbites so that you can share them with others and get quick feedback. No matter how brilliant an idea or important a story, no one will listen if you can’t tell it with brevity and clarity.
• Say No – Building a business means having more opportunities to pursue than hours in the day. Turn most of them down. Say “Thanks, but I need to decline.” Ask to be contacted next year instead. Close the door, ignore the phone, reply to emails tomorrow and work.
If you consider yourself an entrepreneur, you had best be an expert in managing your own time. Be conscious about where you spend your minutes. Once gone, you can never have them back.