As an entrepreneur, what’s your most valuable resource? I’m willing to bet it’s your time!
Your time is likely in high demand with the pressures of work, projects you want to complete, and a life you should be enjoying outside of the office. It’s common for business owners to feel like they don’t have enough time with their families, or enough time to relax, sleep, and do the things they enjoy most. Even if you love to work, it’s important to have time to recharge and spend time with those who matter to you.
Your time is incredibly valuable to your business. Your uniqueness lies in leading with innovative ideas and connecting team members to the vision that makes the business thrive.
Finding ways to maximize your time can have great benefits to your business because it permits more time for creativity, gives your brain the rest and fuel it needs, and provides space to discover new ideas and opportunities for growth to help you generate more revenue and reach your full potential.
I have four simple tricks that have freed up my time greatly, and if you manage to do just these four things, you’ll find yourself finishing your work quicker so you can maximize your time in the way you want, with a personal life you actually enjoy.
- Improve efficiency of meetings. Keep your meetings purposeful and organized. This may take some practice as well as strong communication to every member of your team, but cutting down on unnecessary meeting time is a major time-saver.
We’ve all been in meetings that seemed to just drag on, where someone brings up an unrelated topic and, before you know it, the allotted time for the meeting has passed without having definitive action items from the meeting.
Here are a few simple ways to cut down on meeting time:
- Make the purpose of the meeting clear to everyone involved. Avoid addressing too many topics at once, as this can quickly lead to rabbit trails. If topics unrelated to that purpose arise during the meeting, have a system in place for addressing them at a later time.
A great way to ensure everyone is clear on the purpose is to send out an agenda ahead of time that tells them exactly what you intend to cover. If you want attendees to provide a particular kind of input, you can also ask them to prepare this ahead of time, which can reduce brainstorming time during the meeting.
During the meeting, we have someone record the ‘parking lot’ action items so that we know who’s responsible for what action. It may include scheduling separate meetings for those topics that are important but not included in the initial objective of this meeting. It’s really helpful to keep everyone on the same page, as well as keep each team member accountable.
- Involve only those people who are necessary to the purpose of the meeting. If your meeting’s purpose is clear and direct, and you aren’t trying to cover too many items in a short time span, it should be easy to reduce the number of people involved. This avoids wasting the time of those who don’t need to be there, when they might otherwise sit through unrelated topics waiting for their input in a single item at the end of the meeting. It also helps avoid unnecessary rabbit trails. This includes you as well—don’t attend meetings where you don’t need to be involved.
- Set a timer or appoint someone as the timekeeper. If you allot a certain amount of time to each topic you want to cover and make that time limit known, you may still go over the amount of time scheduled, but it will help team members remember to keep their comments and questions to the point. Set a time slot at the end of the meeting to go over parking lot action items and next steps.
- Organize your email inbox. Emails, like meetings, are one of the biggest time-sucking culprits. Changes are you’ve experienced the overwhelming inbox full of thousands of unread messages.
I created a simple folder system that allowed me to take my inbox from 75,000 unread messages to zero. Have your assistant sort your emails for you into the following four folder categories:
- For immediate attention. Emails in this folder require urgent response. I have my assistant text me whenever an email goes in this folder so I know to respond to it quickly.
- Need response today. Emails that need a response within the day but aren’t urgent go in this folder, and I review it at the end of the day and respond to the messages during my dedicated email time block. These are also emails that don’t need my response, but I want to be aware of what’s happening.
- Review on Friday. In this folder, place emails that need a response by the end of the week. Schedule a larger time block on Fridays to attend to all of these emails.
- Interesting but not urgent. This folder is where things like newsletters and other subscriptions go. I peruse them when I have time, and if I haven’t opened them by the end of the month, my assistant clears the folder out.
This simple folder system allows you to time block your email responses so they don’t distract you throughout the day and keeps your inbox organized and easy to navigate. You’ll no longer lose important emails in the ocean of messages, and you can even have your assistant respond to emails that don’t require your level of expertise to help save you time.
- . Create a checklist system. You likely already have a task management system, whether that’s simple checklists or time blocking. But whatever you do, make sure to record everything you want to get done.
Write it all down, and at the end of the week, whatever you haven’t managed to finish, create an action list for the next week. In addition to recording what you intend to do, record what you have done. I have a legal size yellow pad next to my mouse where I jot down each to-do item.
Keep your checklists for a while after you’ve completed them, so that when you come back from the weekend and have forgotten whether or not you remembered to do something, you can see whether you checked it off.
- Prioritize your tasks. This may sound obvious, but it can be easy to get caught up in whatever you’re focused on and forget to prioritize. Sometimes prioritization means delegating work—if it doesn’t require your expertise, you can prioritize your time by working on something more important instead.
When you create your checklists each day, start by going over everything you want to accomplish, and choose just a few main things you want to focus on—your top three tasks. I usually highlight my top three items so that I don’t get distracted from the other items on the list. From there, you can create a list of other things you’d like to get done if you have the time. Those can be tomorrow’s top three tasks, or they can be less important tasks.
Once you’ve created a plan, stick with it and make yourself accountable to it. Remember that:
- What gets scheduled, gets done.
- Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. Often done is better than perfect, because in striving for perfection, you will waste time and inevitably fall short.
- It’s better to fail and learn something from it than to never finish because you were too occupied with chasing perfection.
- Delegate, delegate, delegate
I’d love to hear your favorite productivity hacks that work for you. Click the button to share this article on LinkedIn, and comment with what helps you to be more productive. We can all benefit from learning from one another!