The (lost) Art Of Time Management

Posted by Trustev editor on August 23, 2013

Being in a start-up is a VERY exciting place to be - always lots going on, and interesting obstacles to overcome on a daily basis. Never a dull moment.

But....

It can be a time management nightmare. A small team of cross-functional professionals; growing a business from small beginnings; always a contribution to make to many aspects of the business - recruitment, logistics, product development, office moves, events, partnerships, etc. etc. So there are never enough hours in the day, and focus is key to delivering best results. And of course there are the small matters of sleeping, eating & home life that have to be considered too ;-)

So here are some hints & tips that I've learned over the years to help make sense of the daily toil...

1. Top n tail the day with some quiet time
If you can take some quiet time early in the morning (ideally before work) to gather your thoughts, this can really help give the day a structure & clear priorities. I walk the dogs early in the morning when I can, and try to leave the phone at home which allows me to focus totally on the day at hand. It often also gives a time of clarity to solve stubborn problems from the previous day that a good sleep might have sorted.
The same for the late evening before you go to bed - taking some time to "come down" after a hectic day allows priorities to be captured and the mind to move towards rest. Again, the dogs really help me here....

2. One hour prep / one hour meeting (or activity) / one hour follow-up
This may be commonly known, but in my early business life, my then boss drummed into me the importance of preparation and follow-up for any subject. Too often we're racing around trying to do as much as possible, without regard to the quality of our work. Using the equal time principle for prep / meeting / follow-up ensures that whatever work you do, is done well.

3. 50% extra free
When travelling, always allow 50 - 100% extra time to what you'd expect. Bitter experience has taught me not to try to cram-in too much in too short a time - one small delay and everything falls down like a house of cards and the stress levels go through the roof. Be measured and pragmatic in expectations.

4. Eat that frog!
The more difficult or taxing tasks are very often best completed in the morning, when you're fresh and have a clear head. Keeping motivated to drive forward with those undesirable items first thing in the morning creates a strong sense of well-being and increases motivation for the rest of the day when energy levels may tend to drop. It's certainly not the easiest thing to do, but is always the most satisfying!

5. Use downtime productively
When in queues, travelling or generally a location where you are waiting for a prolonged time period, rather than browsing twitter or the mobile web, try to deal with some simple email responses on your phone. While some responses realistically need a keyboard to complete properly, many emails can be dealt with using your mobile phone. This makes good use of your otherwise dead time and frees up later hours for other work or home activities. The same applies for time on planes, trains etc. - the time is best used to "clear the decks" so that on arrival at your destination, you're closer to that elusive "inbox zero".

In summary, there are so many distractions in our daily lives nowadays that it's important to build systems or routines to help us keep focused on the job at hand. Even small habits like I've mentioned above can really help to make every day enjoyable, productive and stress-free.