Entrepreneurs often profess to be stressed out and “so busy” that they never have time for anything, even their own families and friends. When I ask many of my former clients about leaving their business to their children, many respond that their children don’t want the business. They just don’t want to work the long hours their parents have had to make the business a success.
Entrepreneurs describe their workday as usually more than double the average person’s workday. In fact, Microsoft recently completed a work study that concluded that roughly a third of the workday hours in the United States are largely un-productive. The fact is that many entrepreneurs waste a lot of time on low-priority administrative tasks and often procrastinate on higher priority, tougher and more important projects. This often results in last minute crises and missed opportunities in the marketplace. Getting more productive and less busy is as essential to business success as developing that winning business plan for your business.
Follow these five steps and increase your productivity immediately by 10-30 percent.
First do an evaluation of your daily, weekly and monthly schedule, literally write down where you spend your time. Look for time spans where you are not efficient, it could be on the long commute to and from work, a weekly meeting that ends in no real outcomes, a routine task at the office that ends up becoming a big time waster or simply unproductive lunch meetings. What you are trying to do is look for way to cut back. You may have to ask someone with fresh eyes to review your schedule with you and give you some ideas.
Create a Daily “To Do List.” To do lists are effective as long as you don’t crowd it with too many tasks for the day. Avoid doing the unimportant things first leaving the more critical items to be done later in the day with far less time allocated to their successful completion. Be sure to prioritize your to do list and be sure to tackle the important and, most of the time, more challenging items first.
Use but Don’t Abuse Technology. Use Microsoft Outlook and other such programs to keep an efficient online calendar. Such options as color coding time blocks and files can make it easier to stay on track. Smart phones, Tablets and other devices can make staying on top of things on the go relatively easy, but be mindful that these tools can also help to take you off focus. Checking electronic mail every time your phone or computer makes a noise can take your concentration off tasks. For that reason, most highly efficient people only check their emails at certain times of the day and allocate a set time known to clients, employees and others for when they will return messages.
Learn to Take Breaks. It is important to know that taking a break doesn’t mean doing nothing. It is to renew and refresh so that your focus is intensified on the tasks ahead. Some studies cite that exercise is perfect for this time, a short walk, others cite taking a short nap to renew, still others tout catching up on personal calls to check in on family or even reading or meditating is good. What is good is dependent on the individual, but you should resume work with a heightened energy and focus. If you don’t have
that, your break is not effective. There will also be people who feel that working straight through keeps them working at a high level. Studies over time show that is a huge mistake. Find time to take a break.
Take control of your meeting time. Well known entrepreneur and billionaire Mark Cuban is quoted as saying that meetings are a waste of time unless you are closing a deal. He feels that there are so many ways to communicate in real time without necessarily a face to face meeting. The key, however, if you must have the standard meeting is to stick to a time frame with a written agenda. If there is no need for a meeting, don’t have one. Well known entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran states that the productiveness of any meeting depends on the advance thought given the agenda, and you should never leave a meeting without a follow up list with each item assigned to one person.
Being less busy is a lifestyle and a deliberate tactic in being highly productive. Mastering these five steps and others will surely bring you the precious time that is important beyond the business but allowing the Entrepreneur to live a great life as well.
(Source: Eric Bonaparte, PhD., Assistant State Director, UGA SBDC)