Time management for an entrepreneur is perhaps the most insane and ludicrous notion especially when we are working and thinking in overdrive all the time.
Gary Vaynerchuk claims to work 19 to 20 hour work days and we have read his articles and heard him on videos on how to embark the straightest, quickest path to success.
On the flip side, we have scientific research that says working more than 40 hours a week is hazardous to health!
So how can one manage time, get things done, be always on top of their to-do’s and live to tell the tale?
With these five time-tested hacks that I have not only come across, but have used, for several years, and continue to do so regularly. To tell you how effective they are, let me give you a run-down of my routine.
I wake up anywhere between 5 am to 6 am, pack in a workout, and work on my morning routine, which includes responding to all the late night messages that have accumulated and meditate/watch funny videos to start my day with positivity. After that I get my clothes and breakfast ready, have breakfast, and leave for work. I am usually at work by 8.30 am, about an hour before my team- pack in any work that is pending and which needs my utmost attention and zero distractions and then my real work day starts.
My work day generally ends by 6 pm or 7 pm — lately I was helping with chores around the house which included cooking and dishes atleast three times a week. Over the weekend, I am usually working on strategy, accounting, administration and other odds and ends.
These are actually my better days. During my busy days, I have taken flights in the evening, to land in another country and start meetings and work with clients there, and then come back during that evening — to come back to my office the next day, without taking any extra hours to rest.
There have been busier days too, which included part time studying most evenings and on the weekends, as well as working on a side gig while working full time.
In all that while, I socialize with my friends, AND volunteer half days on Saturdays.
So, I suppose my time management hacks actually work! I give you my top five here:
- Keep a running list of things that need attention:
Don’t create a to do of the day, or things to do for this week. Keep a running list of all the things that need to be done, work, business, personal, private, house, anything and everything goes in that list. Like a bullet journal, I mark the priority ones with a star, the ones that are non-work/non-business, with a circle, and only then focus on the stars first, work/business ones next, and the personal ones after that.
Since I can tackle the personal items only in the evening, they get crossed off at the end of the day. Since its a running list, I keep crossing off items and adding more to the list. If the page gets too dirty being crossed out, the pending list gets copied on to the next day.
Over time, I have discovered that Wunderlist works really well for me as a running to do list and it functions the same way sans the dirty, crossed out, messy lists in my notebook.
2. Always carry a notebook like its your third arm:
I carry a notebook with me everywhere except to the loo. Everywhere. It has all sorts of notes regarding a conversation, brain dumps, minutes of meetings, to do lists, and random lightbulb moments.
The good part of having one notebook that has everything in it, is that you can always use it as a reference to one of your previous meetings, go back to look through old conversations, strike out to do lists, and basically build a whole system of remembering things right from that notebook.
I also use it as a catchall, so my receipts, and business cards I collect, all can be picked out right from the pages of the notebook. If I dont carry one, I feel empty handed, and I forget what I have to work on.
The biggest advantage, however, is since its a catchall, literally and figuratively, I can dump my brain’s thought process on paper and forget about it. This helps me to align my focus on things that need my attention at the moment. Less distracting, more focused, means more work gets done in shorter time.
I haven’t found any technology alternatives for an analog notebook. I am also working on a bullet journal/planner for myself which will be done by end of October — a souped up version of my notebook.
3. Build routines and follow them to the letter:
The one thing I have always worked with, for the past fourteen years, is routines- morning, evening, daily, weekly and monthly plans that are now ironed out, well laid out, and dictated to the last minute. I have these routines written down and well established. I follow these routines, because they help me save time, bring my think time to zero when it comes to getting ready for work, or for the day, or ease my evening out after a full day’s worth of work, and more. My weekly and monthly routines work the same way too.
Productivity has increased because now I don’t have to think about when I have to do my laundry, or what to eat or wear for the day; or what day of the week will I get time to do my groceries or chores. I have a day for everything and each routine has been practiced till its an unconscious activity that does not require think time, aka, better focus on things that need my actual time.
4. Set pattern for clothes for work:
This you will find, is the weirdest time management hack, I can tell you. I have 6 to 8 articles of clothing that I wear to work and rotate on a weekly basis. I also have one pair of jeans and some standard black shirts that dont require me to think about matching the right colors, and accessories. On days when I dont have a meeting, I pick out the jeans and a shirt, and wear that to work. On days, when I expect a meeting, its either one of the six outfits, whichever is the handiest at that time.
This makes the thinking and accessorizing process in the morning a fifteen minute job, from choosing the outfit, to ironing to wearing my clothes. I pick from one of two pairs of shoes, and pick up my standard handbag that goes with everything.
I may not be the snazziest person when it comes to work fashion but I am probably the fastest person to get dressed and get moving.
5. Define blocks of time and assign activities:
I have learnt this over time, and have read upon this on various forums and in time management books. It has helped me to define how I spend my waking hours, and be most productive. It has also helped me during the busiest of days.
I take my entire week, and create a sample of how it should be spent. I make time blocks for each activity that needs to be done, for example, 1 hour workout, 1 hour to finish my morning routine, get ready and leave for work, half an hour lunch break; you get the picture. This is how my ideal week should look like. This includes my weekends too.
Then I try to follow this to the letter — it makes my week productive, it helps me to focus on core activities that need my attention, and again, it helps me to avoid using brain power where it just gets wasted due to ill or no planning.
These my not look like time management hacks but they give you the power and equip you with tools to bring your life to focus on core areas that are attention worthy. Which means you reduce waste of time, and learn to think on important elements only.
These are MY top five time management and productivity hacks and they have helped me immensely as an entrepreneur- especially when things can be all sorts of crazy. What are yours?