Welcome to entrepreneurship! The most important thing to realize is, you are not alone! Just as a point of reference, a Google search on the phrase “time management” returns over 1.6 BILLION hits! Yes, it makes me want to find a support group where I can say, “Hi, I’m Jerry, and I’m a full time worker and family guy who wants to start a business.” <Insert crowd response of “Hi, Jerry” here.> But, as millions of people around the world have learned through trial and error, it IS possible. This is the first in a two-part series on smart time management for the budding entrepreneur.
Entrepreneur.com has an article on entrepreneurs who own and operate multiple businesses simultaneously, with their suggestions on time management. It’s a quick read, and it provides some good ideas. I really like their use of the term “serial entrepreneur” because it indicates that they are running multiple businesses. What most people don’t realize is, we are all serial entrepreneurs. One of my businesses is my day job. One is being a husband and a father. One is as a handyman in my household. The list goes on and on. Each “job” I have requires commitments of time, energy, money and emotion. As an employee, I see the benefit every two weeks in my bank account. As a husband and father, my payday is the love and affection I get in return, and the satisfaction of taking care of those I love. As a homeowner, having a safe, enjoyable home for my family is my payment. While some may not consider these “businesses” in the traditional sense, they all add up to how I spend my week, divide up my time, and they are what makes my world go round. We are all serial entrepreneurs in our own way.
In this first part of this series, I discuss preparation for smart time management. The steps you can use to get ready to start your business, or change your way of thinking if you are currently under the proverbial gun. The second part of this series discusses ways to fit your new business tasks into your daily life.
Planning and Prioritizing
The best way to start organizing and managing your time efficiently is to think ahead. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it’s this first step that is often overlooked. Start thinking ahead to the tasks you have to do this week. Consider your personal list and your business list. You obviously have to get the kids to soccer practice, stop at the store and get groceries for dinner, vacuum the living room, make those phone calls that are on your list, etc. Those are the personal life responsibilities. What has to be done for the business? Do you have to research new equipment? Work on your business plan? Order stock? Meet with some potential customers? Update your website?
We all know that there are only so many hours in a given day (last I checked it was around 24 or so). Factoring the sleep that we all require, plan to perform certain tasks on certain days. I know that tonight, for example, I am going to work on setting up and organizing our home office space. We need a dedicated work environment to have a desk, computer, etc. Somewhere separate from the rest of the house where we can go to concentrate on work and work alone. I’ll probably work on it on Wednesday night after work as well. This involves clearing out some piles of paperwork that need to be sorted/filed/disposed of, setting up some organization, getting the computer set up, etc. By thinking ahead, and planning to have a specific task to do at a certain time, I can remember when something comes up that I “have plans” for the evening. Starting a business means setting these things as a priority and making sure to follow the plan.
Once you have set up your plan in place, set deadlines. Plans don’t just mean what’s happening this week. The weekly plans help you meet your overall goals by accomplishing smaller tasks, which add up. Putting deadlines on those overall long term goals helps you set those priorities to get the job done. If your goal is to evaluate three different systems and choose which one is the best for your business, setting a goal of having it done within the next month will help drive you to plan the required tasks in a given week. You know you have a deadline to meet, so you’ll set the time aside accordingly. Holding yourself to deadlines greatly helps with time management. One of my personal deadlines is to get that desk area set up and organized by this weekend. I know it may not sound like a lot of work, but I have some paperwork to go through (see Organization, below), and it’s already shaping up to be a busy week! But I’ve set a goal with a deadline, and I’m going to get it done!
Optimizing Existing Tasks
One of the biggest problems we face as families today is getting everything done. It is possible, however, to combine tasks and reduce the workload. Good time management means not going to the supermarket four times in a week, and then also stopping at the convenience store two additional times for eggs and milk. If you know you will need to eat that week, try to plan ahead and get your groceries in one trip. Meats will last a few days in the fridge! (Just check the date on the package!) Also, combine trips whenever possible. Stop at the store on your way home from picking up your son or daughter from their activity. Not only will you have one less trip to make, but you’ll also have someone to help go and get some of the things you need, which makes the trip shorter! By combining trips and reducing multiple repetitive trips, you’ll be surprised how much time you can save. Want another idea? Why not fold the wash or do that dusting while you’re on the phone or talking to your kids/spouse? Many of the repetitive tasks we do during our week don’t require much concentration and can be done while having a conversation. Just don’t try to talk on the phone while vacuuming!
This one is obvious. Get yourself organized. Have places for things. Have a filing system. Know how to find what you want. This applies to your business as well as your personal life. How many times have you tried to find the <insert name of important paperwork here> and spent a half hour looking for it? Then, the next time you need it, you can’t find it again.
Get a filing cabinet. Organize it. Most people can fit anything they would need in a given year into a small, two-drawer filing cabinet. Get hanging folders and have one for each topic. Label them in a way that makes sense to you. One folder is for car insurance. One is for paperwork regarding home improvements. Whatever works. Separate them by subject and alphabetize them. Trust me, you will thank me for this. This is one of the best skills I learned from my mother, and I’ll be sure to let her know I blogged about how great it is! The next time you get a new car and you need to provide the lender with the coversheet from your car insurance policy, you’ll know exactly where it is. You won’t have to waste that half hour looking for it. Go, smart time management! And, all of those piles of paperwork will be out of the way, leaving you more usable workspace! This also goes for other things you have lying around the house. In my house, it’s kids’ sporting equipment. You have no idea how hard it can be to find the basketball pump on some days! But we are working on that organization, too!
Wrapping It Up
These are the first steps. They are intended to prepare you for getting yourself ready for being a time management guru. Well, if not a guru, maybe getting on track for fitting your new business into your daily world. Get organized and plan. In the second part of this series, I will discuss ways to perform your work-specific jobs during your week. You will see that there are a lot of ways to squeeze in those responsibilities and make sure you take care of both your business world and your personal world.
Originally posted on May 21, 2012 on the Engraving Amore blog.