Not for entrepreneurs only: Getting work done

good jobSeven days or 168 hours.  That’s what a week is made up of.

Is that enough for what we have to do, with time for rest and recreation to spare?

Small entrepreneurs are supposed to be the busiest people, especially when they’re in the start-up stage and unable to hire enough assistants to help them cope with the hundred and one things running a business involves.

Entrepreneurs sometimes find themselves preoccupied with the banal, day-to-day responsibilities, at the expense of the more important task of innovating and planning the company’s future.

Clearly, time management is crucial to make sure the business owner does not neglect necessary aspects of running his business.

Time management has become so important to all, entrepreneurs or not, that innumerable authors have written tons of advice, experiences and insights about it. Here’s what two of them say.

Covey’s get-it-done habits

Begin with the end in mind, suggests Stephen Covey in the now classic Seven Habits of Effective People.

When we begin with the end in mind, we have a personal direction to guide our daily activities, without which we will accomplish little toward our own goals. Beginning with the end in mind is part of the process of personal leadership, taking control of our own lives.

A starting point in beginning with the end in mind is to develop a personal mission statement, that will help us focus on what we want to be (our character and personality), what we want to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values and principles upon which your being and doing are based. The personal mission statement gives us a changeless core from which we can deal with external change.

Another Covey prescription is “First things first.”

This rule tells us we do not have do everything that comes our way. It is saying we can go ahead and say  “No” when necessary.  That we do not need to overextend ourselves but rather focus on “first things” or on priorities.

First things are those you personally find of most worth.  If you put first things first, you are organizing and managing time, tasks and events according to personal priorities you have established when you begin with the end in mind.

Allen’s way

In his book “Getting Things Done, David Allen gives more specific advice to those who want to  make the most of their time. 

The first is: To acquire the discipline not to daydream or in any way digress from the task at hand.

We digress and become counterproductive when a thought or idea strays into our head in the middle of a task.  We might think it is harmless to dwell on this for a moment, but the consequence is the momentum we have established in doing the task is broken.  How long it takes to go back to what we were doing in the first place is anyone’s guess.

The big solution to this is to get “in the zone” with whatever task we do, but that’s often difficult.  One way that has worked is to have a  trusted system like jotting something that happens to pop up in the middle of doing a task.  Jot it down quickly so you can deal with it later. Mind wandering disappears if you can get those concerns out of your head into somewhere secure. “If something pops into my head mid-task, I can just jot it down quickly, knowing I’ll deal with it later. Daydreaming and mind-wandering almost disappear if you get all of that stuff out of your head and somewhere secure”

Another suggestion by Allen is to: Focus exclusively on the next action, when being productive. 

No matter how big or how small a project you’re looking at, it can’t move forward without you taking a single step.

That single step is the key. If there’s something you genuinely wish to accomplish, focus not on the enormity of the goal and the seeming complexities it holds (at least, not right now). Focus instead on the very next thing you need to do to achieve that goal. Nothing else matters right now.

(More time management tips in upcoming articles)

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