Entrepreneurs lead a busy and overwhelming life, whether you’re just starting out or already leading a company – you know how much your time is worth to you. But do you know where your time goes? Turns out, most people don’t, we all end up staring at our phones way too often and wondering just how we spent all day working without really achieving much. With life getting out of hand daily, everyone wants more control over their time. This is where time management comes in, a topic much raved about but still rarely practiced. Here are ten tips to get you started:
1. Track your time
The more you know about where your time goes, the more you’ll be able to hold yourself accountable. If you’re into time sheets, block out your day in a notebook and start writing down what you spend time on. If however, you’d rather save time tracking time, try one of the time tracking tools available out there and finally get a sense of your time. Time management expert, Laura Vanderkam suggest tracking all of your time for a week (precisely, 168 hours) to get a better sense of your habits. It’s a great start and the results are bound to dazzle you.
2. Stop guesstimating
Now that you’re tracking time, you have a lot more insight into what tasks take the most of your time and how long certain tasks take. Set goals for every week and try to estimate how long will these take to accomplish. Your goal for next week will be bringing estimates as close as possible to reality. If you’ve ever worked in a management position, you know how hard it is for some people to estimate the time it’ll take for certain tasks. Now, try it for yourself and don’t worry if you’re way off – you’ll get better, that’s what time management is about anyway.
3. Plan ahead
Apparently, every minute you spend on planning saves you at least ten minutes in execution. If this sounds too good to be true – try it for yourself. Start your week on a Sunday, grab a pen and paper and think thoroughly about everything you want to achieve this week, think about bigger goals but also try to line up the steps needed. Make sure you’re ready to start work on Monday, rather than spending your morning trying to figure out where to start from.
4. Make a smarter to-do list
Don’t just list our everything that needs to be done and expect to cross things off the list as they come. Organize your list by priority, make your goals realistic, and set a daily focus for each day of the week. This will help you clear your head and make your to-do list a bit more bearable, it also will help focus and stop wasting your time on reorganizing the list.
5. Batch related tasks together
Since focus is key to productivity, be smart about the things you choose to dedicate your time to and what time of day you spend on these. If you try managing your company internal stuff while emailing investors and discussing new feature requests, you’re bound to lose focus on at least one if not all of those things. So try to divide your weekly tasks in categories – internal, fundraising, development etc. Your brain can’t do context switching full time, try to keep focus on similar tasks to stay on track and save time.
6. Schedule time for interruptions
You have a team of employees depending on you, you have a hundred unread notifications on your phone, you have meetings that require follow-ups, and the cleaners also need you to let them into the parking lot once they arrive. You’re an entrepreneur, you get interrupted a lot. This is why you should never schedule your day 100%, make plans for being interrupted. This might sound counterintuitive make sure you to optimize your schedule so the interruptions don’t disrupt your entire workflow.
7. Make use of prep time
Whether it’s a meeting or a phone call – anything that might go on forever and eat out your time while you helplessly try to get back to work – plan it out. Make an agenda for every meeting or phone call you have scheduled, make sure you lay out the goals you want to achieve with this, start with an introduction to everyone involved, be a leader of every conversation you’re in, and once everybody’s gotten what they wanted from it. Start with your exit strategy and don’t let small talk take over.
8. Take breaks
Contrary to popular belief and modern business culture, breaks are not a waste of time. Breaks help restore focus and give you a fresh start for any task you have on hand. Be generous to yourself and take breaks often, don’t let the feeling of burnout get to you. Whether it’s a walk to the nearby park or a quick round of Candy Crush, you’ll feel refreshed and as good as new when back to work. Alternatively, try the Pomodoro method and see how it fits into your workflow.
9. Make use of incubation
Incubation, in terms of psychology, is one of the four stages of creativity and it starts when you’re not actively thinking about whatever problems need solving or ideas you’re trying to develop. Don’t think about work all the time. I know it might seem hard for someone that is supposed to always be working toward their goals but you’re actually more likely to get new ideas and think of solutions to problems you’re facing when you’re not actively thinking about the solutions. Many entrepreneurs boast about not taking weekends off or bringing their work home. The truth is you’re far more productive when not constantly keeping busy.
10. Calm down
Have you ever noticed how time goes by so slowly when you just calm down, clear your head and stay in the moment? Yoga, meditation, mindfulness are all methods of taking back some control over present, rather than planning for the future or thinking about the past. However, you don’t have to turn into a zen guru to feel the moment. It’s enough to try and not think about anything for a few minutes, enjoy a view, play with a pet, enjoy artwork or simply gaze at the sky. Be present and don’t let your time be taken over by the numerous distractions of the modern world and you’ll be happier and more productive in no time.
Originally published on LifeHack.com