10 Time Management Tips Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know
When we ask entrepreneurs what they are struggling with, it’s incredibly common to hear, “I want to get more done.” This comes to us as no surprise; the ability to use time wisely is one of the most valuable skills an entrepreneur can have in their productivity arsenal.
Whether you’re already working on your business full-time, or trying to squeeze in a few effective hours of work after the kids are in bed in the evenings, it’s crucial you make well informed decisions about what you are working on right now.
Far too often entrepreneurs allow themselves to be distracted from doing the work that really matters. Or, worse yet, we allow ourselves to slip into patterns of working on what’s easy, instead of what’s important.
But to build a successful business, you’re going to need to focus on the work that actually moves the needle forward.
That’s why, in this article, we’re going to share with you 10 time management techniques that will allow you to confidently identify what work needs to be done, and then carry out those tasks to completion.
After reading this article, you’ll be able to undertake tasks with the confidence that your activities will provide value for the time invested, gain you better traction with your target audience, and move you steady closer to achieving your business goals.
So, let’s get into it.
1. The “Brain Dump”
When you have dozens of different tasks and ideas floating around inside your head all at once, it can swiftly become overwhelming. That’s why the simple process of getting those ideas down onto the page can be hugely cathartic.
Cathartic: providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions.
Whether you’re jotting the ideas onto a scrap of paper or typing them up in a to-do list app, the simple process of engaging in a brain dump will cut through the feelings of overwhelm, calm your mind, and allow you to begin the process of analyzing, organizing, and prioritizing the ideas, projects, and tasks you have on your slate.
You can’t organize and prioritize effectively until you’ve dumped everything in your head onto the paper.
This is the process David Allen recommends in his massively popular productivity best seller, Getting Thing Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity. Allen argues that by writing down everything that needs to be accomplished and then tackling small tasks immediately, rather than avoiding them, we can prevent the brain freeze that results from trying to juggle too many ideas at once.
You want to be more productive and get more done? Stop trying to keep all the balls in the air at once. CAPTURE your ideas on paper… all of them… every damn one of them. You’ll be stunned how much this task alone can clear your brain for the necessary prioritization that follows.
OK, on to the next one.
2. The Ivy Lee Method
The desire to be more productive and make better use of your time isn’t a new pursuit. As James Clear explored in his article, The Daily Routine Experts Recommend for Peak Productivity, the concept of “productivity hacks” goes back over a century to when consultant Ivy Lee helped transform productivity levels within the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1918.
The Ivy Lee Method that Clear recommends in his article involves the following six step process:
Step 1: At the end of each work day, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. Do not write down more than six tasks.
Step 2: Prioritize those six items in order of their true importance.
Step 3: When you arrive tomorrow, concentrate only on the first task. Work until the first task is finished before moving on to the second task.
Step 4: Approach the rest of your list in the same fashion. At the end of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
Step 5: Repeat this process every working day.
It’s very simple: at the end of the day write down what you want to accomplish first tomorrow. Literally couldn’t be easier because at the end of the day you may have the wisest clarity about which tasks are the most important next.
To be honest, in practice we’ve found you only need to write down 2-3 tasks (depending on the kind of work you do), which makes it even easier.
We discussed this topic in-depth in episode 99 of The Fizzle Show, when we spoke with two experts about the value of productivity journaling. Highly recommended if you want to learn how to make this tactic a part of your every day life.
Identifying in writing what you need to do first thing tomorrow only takes a few minutes, but it can lead to some incredible results.
3. The Eisenhower Method
This might be weird, but I want you to say this out loud even if there’s someone nearby that will think you’re weird:
“There is a difference between URGENT tasks and IMPORTANT tasks, and I will become an expert at telling them apart.”
The process of prioritizing tasks demands entrepreneurs have an understanding of the difference between important and urgent tasks.
In an address to the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1954, Dwight Eisenhower famously noted, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” The former president characterized this paradox as representing “the dilemma of the modern man.”
These thoughts led to the creation of “Eisenhower Method” of time management, which is discussed at length by Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill in their bestselling book, First Things First.
The Eisenhower Method involves organizing tasks into one of four quadrants and then taking action to address them accordingly:
- Important/Urgent Quadrant – Tasks are done immediately and personally
- Important/Not Urgent Quadrant – Tasks get an end date and are done personally
- Unimportant/Urgent Quadrant – Tasks are delegated
- Unimportant/Not Urgent Quadrant – Tasks are dropped
Running your task list through this matrix will certainly help you spot the tasks that simply don’t need to be done right now.
The reality is that most people spend virtually all of their time working on urgent items, instead of what is important, so the Eisenhower Method can be a real game-changer for many entrepreneurs.
4. CEO / Worker Bee
While striving to be more productive is, of course, an admirable pursuit, one needs to be careful about how much time is spent doing WORK ABOUT WORK. We want to be working on our business, not just in it.
That’s why in our Fizzle Course, “Productivity Essentials”, we focus exclusively on the productivity systems and work-flows that are going to be effective for online business builders.
As entrepreneurs, we have two critical modes of being; in the course, we call these CEO Mode and Worker Bee Mode. Identifying these two modes and catering to them allows us the leverage the strengths of both.
CEO Mode involves the planning and strategy work. This is where you get creative, think big, and solve complex problems. It’s in this mode that you think about what needs to be done next. (When you’re implementing the Eisenhower method or the Ivy Lee method, you’re in CEO mode.)
Worker Bee mode involves doing the actual work of taking action on the tasks the CEO has identified as most important. You’re no longer thinking about what needs to be done. Instead, you’re actually doing it.
The goal is to establish a clear delineation between these two roles. If you’re working as a member of a team, this can be fairly easily done, but for a solopreneur in particular, it will take conscious effort to resolve the tension between the two demanding modes of being.
You’ll likely find yourself wanting to fall back into CEO mode while in the midst of doing the, perhaps less fun, tasks of the Worker Bee. As such, you’ll need to resist the temptation. You can’t operate in both modes at the same time and, at the end of the day, execution is everything.
The best laid plans are meaningless if your Worker Bee never executes on them, so delineate specific time in your schedule each week for both your CEO visioning and the Worker Bee tasks that need to be completed.
Learn more about CEO/Worker Bee modes, the ViNO method for writing tasks, and more in the Fizzle course Productivity Essentials with Chase Reeves. Signup today and get a free trial.
5. Reverse Engineer Your Blueprint
Many people building an online business have only vague idea of what they want to build and accomplish. Without a clear path to follow, it’s difficult to confidently commit to what actions should be taken next.
Whether you’re starting a blog, launching a podcast, or building online store, it’s important to have a clear understanding of how something similar was developed in the past and then grown over time.
When a filmmaker decides to make a horror film, they understand intimately the elements of that kind of story. Instead of reinventing the genre, the smart filmmaker can use the commonly known elements of the genre (monster, suspense, unsuspecting group of college kids in a cabin, “don’t go in there Julie!”, etc.)
It’s the same with your business! There’s a GENRE your business is an extension of and you need to understand what it is and how the successful business builders who came before found success.
Think of it as reverse engineering what came before. The same exact tactics and sequence may not work, but there’s patterns and principles that can absolutely help create a plan for your business.
If you aren’t clear on where you should be spending your time, ask yourself, “What proven patterns already exist in my chosen field? Are there mentors I can model, or existing blueprints or roadmaps I can follow?”
Here’s an idea: find someone who’s further along than you in your industry and go back to the earliest things you can find from them. This is especially easy with podcasters, YouTubers and bloggers. Compare their first articles, videos and episodes to their most recent and ask yourself: what have they learned between here and there?
When you reverse engineer what came before, you can find insights that save you years and get you ahead of the pack. This is one of the reasons we built The Fizzle Roadmap. Our roadmap deconstructs the process of building a successful online business, and then lays out the work-flow in a step-by-step system you can follow confidently because you know that the next step you take will be the right one.
To get started on the roadmap and begin your free two week trial of Fizzle today, click here.
6. Reconnect with Your Why
It’s not always at the beginning of a project that we find ourselves confused about how to best use our time. In fact, often it comes once a project is already well underway.
Sometimes we put our heads down and focus with such intensity that when we finally take a moment to look up and take in our surrounding, we discover we’ve gone way off track. It is in these moments, when you’re struggling with self-doubt and making decisions only to second guess them moments later that you should reconnect with your “why”.
You aren’t building a business just to pay the bills. There is a deeper significance to the work you’re doing and the contribution you want make in the world.
In his book Start with Why and his popular Ted Talk of the same name, Simon Sinek presents what he calls the “Golden Circle of Human Motivation”. The Golden Circle is three concentric rings organized like a bulls-eye, with each ring encapsulating one of three concepts: What, How, and Why.
Sinek argues that while many successful companies and leaders know what they want to do, as well as know how to do it, they are at a loss for why they want to do it. The organizations and leaders that are able to inspire a passionate following are those that are intimately connected to their why.
Jamie Tworkowski, who is featured in one of our Founder Stories within Fizzle, created the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms in order to bring hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, and thoughts of suicide while also investing directly into treatment and recovery.
That’s his why. What’s yours?
Successful business leaders know the foundational reason behind why they do what they do, so when you’re wondering whether a certain task is worth your time, ask yourself whether it supports your why.
This step might sound cheesy or whimsical to you, but it can and will help you make incredibly powerful decisions in your life and business.
7. Chunk Up Projects into Scheduled Tasks
Many of the tips we’ve already shared encourage you to get ideas out of your head, but there’s an additional benefit to having tasks written down that we haven’t yet addressed in detail: it allows for chunking and scheduling of work.
Sometimes the weight of everything we want and need to get done can be overwhelming, but when we break them down into a series of small, manageable tasks, we realize the challenge we have before us isn’t nearly as difficult as we originally thought.
There’s a real art to chunking up your tasks into the right size chunks. If a chunk is too small it can feel unimportant. But if a chunk is too big you can get lost in it.
(By the way, hearing the word “Chunk” this many times makes us want to curl up with a blanket and watch The Goonies, but we’ll keep going because you’re worth it. We’re hoping at least 🙂
Here’s a simple example of chunking. If your big project is to “Publish the new website,” then maybe you can chunk that project up by the pages to make or stages of the work. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than: 1. finish the home page, 2. finish the about page, 3. finish the blog page, etc.
Chunking up your projects like this will have a massive result on not only how much progress you make, but also how you feel about your work because you won’t get lost as much and you’ll get to mark things off the list more often… don’t underestimate how good that can feel and how much your project needs you to feel good every now and again.
Here at Fizzle, we like to use a couple different tools to help with the chunking, organizing, and scheduling of tasks and projects.
We’re fans of Asana, a team-based task tool that helps us keep track of what we’re each working on, and what everyone else is working on. We use Asana to organize meetings, set weekly task lists, keep track of upcoming features, and plan our editorial calendars. It’s incredibly simple and flexible, and it’s free for up to 30 team members.
In addition, as we identified in 7 Essential Productivity Apps for Entrepreneurs to Keep You Focused on What Really Matters, for the past couple years we’ve been using Trello to plan our quarters, review our progress weekly, and review our company progress twice a year. This app (but more importantly, the review and planning process we use) is responsible for so much of our company’s progress.
Both these tools help prevent overwhelm by allowing us to chunk projects down into manageable systems, so that we can focus our efforts on what really matters.
8. Time Box Your Projects
Let’s face it… for the vast majority of us, there’s practically nothing more motivating than a deadline.
Regardless of whether its three weeks out, or three months, contractually mandated, or self-assigned, a deadline is usually the kick-in-the-pants we need to get our butts in gear.
Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” You can use this law to your advantage by assigning yourself deadlines and using the ticking clock as a motivator to push through resistance.
You’re never going to be able to accomplish everything you want to accomplish, so analyzing your work within a specific box of times will force you to focus in your efforts on what can be realistically achieved in the assigned time-frame.
Let me say that again because it’s important:
You’re never going to be able to accomplish everything you want to accomplish, so analyzing your work within a specific box of times will force you to focus in your efforts on what can be realistically achieved in the assigned time-frame.
Need to write a blog post? Give yourself a day to get it done. Want to a write a book? Give yourself three months or three years. The time-frame isn’t as important as the fact that you’ve established a deadline. Not only do you now have a great motivator to get the work done, but also a metric that you can use to measure progress towards your goals.
9. Identify the Stakes
Much like deadlines, stakes can be an incredible motivator to get work done and use time wisely. Stakes are the consequences of not doing the work, and/or the rewards for accomplishing your goals.
Tim Ferriss calls stakes “the carrot and the stick” of personal productivity, and putting them to play in your business just might give you the boost of motivation you need to move your business forward in a significant way.
A great approach to establishing stakes for yourself is through community interaction, accountability partners, and mastermind groups.
We had the power of community in mind when we built Fizzle. We included not only a vibrant forum but also a sub-forum specifically dedicated to connecting Fizzler members with others looking to join mastermind groups, and another dedicated to sharing successes (because nobody is going to celebrate for you!).
You may not need to join Fizzle to have this kind of support, cheerleading and accountability, opting instead for putting together your own mastermind group or weekly hangout with friends to talk about what the week’s been like.
Human beings are great at telling ourselves excuses as to why we didn’t do what we said we were going to do, but it’s a lot more difficult to get on the hot seat with your mastermind group and tell it to them. Accountability partners tends to be great B.S. detectors, so reach out to others in your niche as so that you benefit from the power of a group accountability and stakes.
10. Manage Your Energy
Perhaps ironically, our final tip for getting more work done is… do less work.
Despite the cult of hustle that has sprung up of late, the fact is that we all need to recharge our batteries from time to time.
As fun as it can seem to go on a caffeine-fueled no-sleep euphoric work sprint, you’re eventually going to pay the price for that approach. The Silicon Valley ideology of work until you drop rarely leads to long-term success, and we want you in this for the long hall. (Watch our video: 3 Reasons Why Hustle is Hurting You.)
The older you get, the more you realize that exercise, meditation, relaxation, and nutrition don’t just promote a healthy body and mind, but also serve as the very fuel you need in order to get your work done.
After three years of working 80 hour weeks, our own Corbett Barr experienced complete burn out. It was only after he took a long sabbatical that he found himself re-charged enough to found the website that eventually grew into Fizzle. If he hadn’t been willing to take that time away from work, you wouldn’t be reading this article today.
While a months-long sabbatical may not be a reality for you at this time, taking small chunks of time each day for relaxation and play is immeasurably valuable. Turn off the phone, unplug from the Internet, go for a walk in the woods, have cocktails with friends, or watch a movie with your family. How you recharge will be different for everyone, but the point is that you need to live your life. Time away from the business can be as important as time in it.
Too many entrepreneurs believe the lie that they are not good enough or successful enough, and that they have to do more in order to become someone worthwhile. Not only is that a lie, it’s a sure recipe for burnout. As Parker Palmer puts it:
“Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess.”
You must manage your body’s resources wisely. You have a finite amount of energy and focus, and when you are running yourself ragged day after day, those levels will begin to diminish at an increasingly rapid pace.
Treat yourself with kindness. Listen to your heart, respect your body, enjoy your life and your family, and your productivity will only benefit.
Try Our Productivity Essential Course for Free
Enjoy this article and want more time-management tips from the Fizzle crew?
Check out Fizzle’s Productivity Essentials Course. (To see what it’s like click here to start a free trial.)
Why? Well, we all need a system to help us get things done.
BUT not a system so complex that we spend more time working on the system than we do on the work.
We need a simple productivity system that helps us stay motivated and focused without sidetracking our progress.
And, frankly, that means you might benefit from some insights from other entrepreneurs as they share some lessons learned.
Because, no matter how you slice and dice it, as indie entrepreneurs we live and die by our ability to get things done.
So, we made a course teaching what we think is the essential productivity system for indie entrepreneurs. You can find fancier or more complex systems out there, but chances are the ideas in this course are at the guts of all those systems. So, why not get the core right and customize he peripherals yourself?
As a reader of the blog here, you can try the course out for free in a 2 week free trial. We hope you’ll like this course enough to stay for our other courses and weekly group calls for entrepreneurs. (We have 40+ other courses and a scheduled group call every Friday.)
Go deeper with This Podcast
We recorded an episode of our popular business podcast about these time management tips. Here we each talk about our 2 favorites from this list. Enjoy!
I’ve taken a lot of courses and been involved in several paid communities since I started my business, but I’ve never ever felt like anyone CARED as much about seeing my reach my goals as the Fizzle Team. They show up for me as much as I show up for myself. Thank you SO much, you guys!
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