I must admit that this is the most challenging part of an entrepreneur's daily life. How does an entrepreneur prioritize and manage his time? What is the most valuable use of his time right now? All techniques and methods of time management are aimed at helping you to precisely answer this question. There are many books and articles written by successful coaches, motivational speakers and leaders on this subject. You can search this on internet and figure out what may work for you. Here is how I would like to distill the four key take away (4KTA) points on this important topic that I try to use.
1.Clarity – The clarity of having a clear purpose is the starting point. Once your purpose is defined, then prioritize around it with a laser focus and use your time around those priorities on a yearly, monthly, weekly and daily schedule. As an entrepreneur, you must figure out as to what you want for you and for your company. Once you know it, you begin to have clarity of your purpose. Define your priorities and goals effectively now. Once this step is done, you tend to make better choices as to where you put your time, energy and focus. Stay away from negative environment, negative energy, bad habits and bad food for they all drain your energy, focus and mental clarity. The healthier and more passionate you are about your company and its mission, the more effective you will be every hour of every day. Being passionate about your purpose is the ultimate fuel for success and hence, managing your time around it brings you the greatest elation.
2.Priority - Now how do you prioritize around your purpose and live day after day with follow through on it and measure your mini-success leading towards your final goals. At any point during the stage of your company, focus needs to be on high value activities of immense importance. You need to ask yourself constantly whole day what my highest value activities are at this particular moment. Use 80/20 rule. Focus on 20 percent of the activities that provide you 80 percent of the results. Here is a simple example to emphasize this point. Suppose you are expecting an acquisition letter for your company. The prospective acquirers have been talking about various scenarios for the deal terms for some time. Your board is in sync with you to sell the company. This is your highest value activity. Manage your time around it. Make sure that you move this activity rapidly to the next step with your prospect. More often, first time entrepreneurs talk more and divulge all internal details during the discussion phase rather than listening. I advise entrepreneurs to break the process into a number of smaller chunks with measurable outcomes. You must lead your prospect into giving you a written draft of the terms and conditions. This accomplishes two things. It forces other party to put it in writing and present a formal term sheet to you. Secondly, it validates that they are serious about acquiring your company. The similar strategy can be applied for closing a complex product or solutions sale to a customer.
3.Habit – We as human beings are creatures of our own habits. The good news is that time management is a skill and a discipline that can be learnt with practice. As they say, "If you always do what you have always done, you will always get the same outcome!" To obtain different outcome, we need to change our actions. In order for actions to become natural habits, we must be highly disciplined with a relentless will to follow through on your new actions daily for three weeks or longer as required. For instance, if you would like to start practicing healthy living, start going to gym and make sure that you do it every day for 3-4 weeks and experience the results. Before you know it, it has become a part of your daily lifestyle. Similarly, if you would like to be the best salesman, you need to take an action of making 10-15 cold calls every day to prospects, not just sit in your office wishing and dreaming. Entrepreneurs have to be the best salesmen for their company otherwise no one is going to buy into their vision or product or technology. They need to take actions to change their stale habits so they can manage their time better and be happier.
4.Focus – These days, we are so consumed and distracted all the time with our mobile phones that every few minutes we waste time checking our emails or reacting to notifications. This is not good for concentration and has a negative impact on decision making. Plan ahead every morning your daily priorities around your purpose. Make a list of your tasks using 80/20 rule. You can also use other techniques such as labeling your priorities as A, B, C and allocating time against it. Discipline yourself to focus single-mindedly on one activity until it is 100 percent complete. Set aside time for checking messages and replying only few times a day. As an entrepreneur, it is critical for you not only how to manage not just your own time, but all your employees’ time as well. The key is to inspire and energize everyone to stay focused. Finally, measure your results at the end of every day by analyzing how you fared against your priorities around your purpose and keep up the ongoing cycle of continuous improvement. Remember the quote, "Excellence is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends".
In summary, having clarity, priority around your purpose, an action plan to create good habits and having laser focus are four key ingredients for an entrepreneur to manage his time effectively.
Naveen Bisht is Co-Founder of Auriss Technologies, Inc, a serial entrepreneur and Board Member, Chair- Programs, The Indus Entrepreneur(TiE) and member of TiE Angels Steering Committee, based in Silicon Valley, California.