If you’re an entrepreneur, you are probably wearing more hats than the average bear. That makes it much harder to manage your time effectively. While I’m no time management guru, I did manage to pull off parenthood, household obligations, a full-time job and a Master’s degree simultaneously. Below are some of the approaches I used.
Get organized – Part 1. If you’ve ever seen a doctor or dietician about weight loss, the first thing they will often tell you to do is to keep a food diary. The same concept applies to your time. If you’re having trouble staying on top of things, the first step is to spend a week tracking how you spend your time. Be open, be honest. That’s how you’ll start to see where you can cut down on some tasks (or cut them out completely) and how you can improve efficiencies.
Get organized – Part 2. I’m a big fan of having a visual layout upcoming projects and then using daily lists to plan out my time to meet deadlines coming up. I have one of those dry-erase calendars that let you see up to four months at a time and I love it (nerd alert!). For team projects, apps like Asana, Monday.com and Slack (and about a million others) let you manage project tasks and keep track of communication between team members all in one place. Whether you’re an apps-and-digital-reminders person, a bullet journaler, or on team AGENDA4LIFE, you’ll find that good organization is the first step to keeping track of using your time effectively.
Put it in writing. Inform your clients of expected timelines related to your products or services, and put it in writing. Depending on your business, that may mean it is documented on your website, in an email chain or in a more formalized service agreement. As a career coach, people may hire me to write or edit their resumés, so I am up front about timeline expectations. No, I cannot produce a perfectly polished CV for that CEO role you want by tomorrow morning.
POOF. Awhile back, I was listening to a podcast interview with Raj Haldar, aka Lushlife. Lushlife is something of a polymath. He is the official in-stadium DJ for the Philadelphia Eagles, he’s a rapper and music producer, and he even co-authored a children’s book that spent some time earlier this year on the New York Times bestseller list. In the interview, he talked about how he uses “poof” to keep going with so many different projects. By that, he means that once something is complete and released to the public, poof, he’s onto the next thing. He doesn’t get hung up on how it lands or how successful it is or is not. It’s a great lesson for entrepreneurs. Don’t spend your time chasing potential clients. If they see value in your product or service, they’ll come back to you. Don’t spend all your time making that client report absolutely perfect. If it’s professional and meets what they need, it’s good enough. Move on. Poof.
Automate. Everybody has a list of stuff they don’t want to do, whether it is updating the books, making sales calls or cleaning the house. All of those things are necessary, but they aren’t necessarily pleasant. The worst part is, you’ll keep getting distracted from the good stuff by saying to yourself “I should really be doing that thing.” For those types of activities, try to automate. Pick one morning a week, schedule in the unpleasant activity and just rip off the Band-Aid. Set a goal for each weekly session (I will cold-call three new potential clients, I will enter all my receipts from this week into my tracking software) and as our friends at Nike would say, just do it. After awhile, it will become a habit to do the unpleasant stuff on the certain day, and then you can spend less time dreading it and thinking about it and just get on with the next thing.
Outsource. For any of those tasks you full-on want to avoid, consider outsourcing them. If you have work that does not require a certified professional, consider hiring post-secondary students or recent graduates. Every publicly-funded college and university in Ontario has a career centre that hosts an online job board for its students and alumni and is free for employers to use. With the federal government’s recent re-commitment to increasing work-integrated learning options for all post-secondary students, there is plenty of grant money available to subsidize the costs of hiring and training co-op students. Many post-secondary programs also incorporate unpaid field placement or internship options into their programs, which means you can hire student help for free.
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BIO: Devon Turcotte is working to change career conversations through careerified, a career and education coaching business based in the GTA. A Certified Career Strategist and professional member of the Career Professionals of Canada, Devon is adept at all things career: resumes, cover letters, job interviews, job search strategies and, of course, LinkedIn. Visit careerified.ca for more information.