Every startup founder feels the pressure of the thousands of things that need to get done, all seemingly at the same time. There is just not enough time! The real solution is better productivity and less procrastination, to put you back in control of your business. You need to spend time on important things, as well as the urgent.
Many entrepreneurs waste too much time on low-priority administrative tasks, procrastinating on higher priority but tougher tasks, resulting in last minute crises, and failure to complete the critical work that people are really expecting of them. We all know people who profess to be stressed out and “so busy” that they never have time for anything – yet they never seem to get things done.
Dr. Jan Yager, a recognized expert on the subject of time management, addressed this issue in the classic edition of her book, “Work Less, Do More: The 14-Day Productivity Makeover.” Among other things, she identified ten general productivity principles to give you a competitive edge, which I have adapted here for entrepreneurs:
- Control yourself well, but don’t try to control others. The key problem you need to solve first is “distractionitis.” This is the pain of the endless stream of email, phone calls, and daily crises which prevent any really important accomplishments, like closing customers. Being a good role model is productive, but trying to control others is fruitless.
- Don’t try to do everything, or you may accomplish very little. Pareto’s law says you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. Figure out what deserves your 20%, and focus on that. Start each day with the highest priority task you need done that day, and leave the emails and phone calls till the end of the day, if you have time.
- Making the time to organize yourself will save you time. One of the top productivity killers is disorganization and wasting time trying to find something. Take the time to build a database of contacts, and structure your online filing system to include a total search capability. Hire an expert, if required, to automate repetitive tasks.
- Aim for achieving excellence, but reject perfectionism. By definition, no human or any business is perfect, so achieving perfection is unrealistic and doomed to failure. The aim for excellence is laudable, but if translated to perfectionism, it becomes self-defeating and non-productive.
- Understand and overcome procrastination. Fear of success and fear of failure are at the root of most acts of procrastination. Psychologists assert that procrastinators actually sabotage themselves. They put obstacles in their own path. They actually choose paths that hurt their productivity, and limit their success in business. Avoid these.
- Pacing yourself will take you further than non-stop working. Rest makes you more productive. Get enough sleep so you can remain active throughout the day and evening. Build in “breaks” to your day, like scheduling lunch away from your desk, and going outside for a breath of fresh air every couple of hours.
- Use your listening skills to become more efficient and effective. Maximize your own productivity by listening to what your team and your customers tell you they need and giving it to them. But still make the time to set high-level business strategy and objectives. Don’t waste time on nice-to-haves.
- Productivity is a relative concept. Perception is reality in business. The most productive team members are the ones who consistently over-deliver, even though they have promised less. Productivity is perceived value per unit of time, and is not related to actual hours spent working, or working intensity. Productivity is quantifiable results.
- Have clear measures of your productivity. If you can’t or don’t measure results, you can’t manage any activity or run a business. An entrepreneur’s ultimate task is to define success in term of results desired – number of customers, revenue, and profit. Without goals, there is no productivity to measure.
- Delegate tasks, not relationships. Delegation of tasks to others who can do the work faster or cheaper is a productivity multiplier. But maintain the communication relationship with all key constituents. If you’re not talking to your key clients, customers, or vendors, you don’t have the relationships needed to manage productivity.
For entrepreneurs, after the idea, success is all about execution. Success in execution is all about productivity – more time, more money, more customers, and more satisfaction. If you find yourself working more, enjoying it less, and getting less done, it’s time for you to implement these new mantras for productivity.