There is no one size fits all for effectively increasing an entrepreneurs’ productivity. Every individual is physically and psychologically different. Over the years, you may have developed some good and bad habits that may help or hinder your ability to become a highly productive individual. For example, some people like to wake up at the crack of dawn to get what they call a “head start” on the day, while others like to wake up later in the morning. No matter what preferences you may have, as an entrepreneur your time is very limited and extremely valuable.
I am sure many entrepreneurs in the course of running their businesses believe that they no longer have the luxury of planning their day, or they believe their business is so chaotic that every second of the day feels like an emergency where every item or task seems urgent. For the entrepreneurs that are running from one crisis to the next I hope to provide some implementable guidelines that can help to reclaim some lost time.
One of the most effective things you can do as an entrepreneur is to set a consistent schedule for yourself that you follow religiously. Not surprisingly, many successful business leaders have a set weekly schedule that they follow incessantly. To get started, I am going to share my schedule that I follow 7 days a week.
My day begins about 4 or 4:30AM when I go on my run outside. This is the time for me to think clearly before engaging the day. While some people prefer to run in the evening after their day has ended, I prefer to start in the morning. The main reason is that in the morning at 4AM there is little to no traffic, cars, schools buses, or honking horns. Evening late in the evening in a city like New York there is still lots of activity. At 4AM, you can actually hear the birds, or crickets in some cases in running near one of the parks. Clarity of thought is the main goal here.
The second part of my day starts with a meal. Although I vary up my breakfast occasionally, the consistency of my meals trains my body to accept a routine that I know I can rely on. My body knows the general amount of time it will need to sustain itself until my next meal and I do not surprise it with food that it is not accustomed too. The morning is not the time to experiment.
Next, I begin answering my emails. I continue with the remainder of the day in the same fashion, scheduling parts of day accordingly. Looking at this routine, you may think, what about the surprises that are undoubtedly going to surface? Well unless you trading the stock markets at that time, at 4AM there is generally little surprise in the routine. As you progress later in the day, yes surprises may come and more people may demand your attention, but remember, the point of the early morning is to have time to myself and get things accomplish when more than likely the phone is not going to ring.
Now I understand most entrepreneurs may not want to start their day at 4AM. Below are five tips to better take control of your time and increase your productivity as a business owner.
#1 Set aside time for personal relationships:
It may surprise you that this is number one on the list. Nevertheless, I believe it to be the most important component to effective time management. It doesn’t matter who in your life you consider to be important. It could be your dog, cat, girlfriend, wife. Set time for an hour each day uninterrupted. No emails, phone calls etc. Whether it’s just chatting, playing a video game with that person, or going out to eat, that hour a day equates to 5 hours a week or 260 hours a year. Of course the person on the other end has to be available as well, so it may be best to set aside a time when both parties are able to commit. As a business owner, time is the most valuable asset you have and this commitment ensures that you have the opportunity to enjoy life, take a mental break and soak in the people around you. It always has the added benefit of forcing you to stop your work at consistent time everyday.
#2 Tell everyone your schedule and don’t make exceptions for anyone
My team knows that at 11PM I am unreachable. Why is that? Because I have to wake up in five hours and begin my routine again. If I am not asleep by then, I cannot operate at peak efficiency the following day and it ultimately may affect my productivity for the rest of the week. As a business owner, you “OWN” your own schedule. Ensure that everyone realizes that.
When I first started with my team, I would set deadlines every week and revise the deadlines that were missed, even if only by a day. The philosophy here is that for two different people, the same assignment or task may take a variably different amount of time. Logic dictates that you should assign and reward the most effective leaders or managers to the projects based upon their ability to get a project completed on time. As a leader, you will begin to assign effective teams and partners for projects depending on the deadlines, and remove individuals that may be slowing down the productivity of the entire unit.
#4 Weekly Question & Answer Meetings Only
While I believe many meetings are a waste of time, some company cultures seem to need them. Meetings should be the time where an entire team comes to together to ask questions only for the purpose of clarity and re on anything that is not clear. As the leader, you need to be ready to answer any questions quickly and effectively. Finally, always record the team meeting conversations, even if in person. This avoids those long overview emails and the constant back and forth for conversation. We record all of our meetings and provide recorded access to our team in case anyone needs to revisit what was said on the phone conversation. Your team will not want to listen to an hour worth of conversation again to find one segment in the conversation they missed. This will give everyone the discipline to get it right the first time.
#5 Pick Up The Phone To Avoid Wasting Time
While social media, instant messaging, texting, and email communication is great and highly effective, many times a simple phone conversation can do wonders for effectiveness. By the time a conversation, and back and forth email thread is complete, a resolution over the phone could have come very easily. Don’t underestimate the power and effective phone conversation can bring.