After missing yet another self-imposed deadline on an Arbor Day piece (in the interest of full disclosure I also work for a printing company.
We use recycled, SFI-certified stock, if that sort of thing interests you) I got to thinking about something my dad practically burned into my eardrums.
“If you don’t have time for anything, you’re not busy.”
This was something I heard a lot from my dad, growing up. It wasn’t something he came up with either. He was quoting Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Whenever your folks start quoting Reagan-Era Southeast-Asian dictators, you know you’re in trouble. Probably. My Google Fu has failed to help me get to the truth behind the axiom. Regardless, there are a few things I found really intriguing about that what Marcos allegedly said.
Sam and Melo, the guys I report to, would probably find this post amusing since proper time management at work is something I continually have problems with. But I know for a fact I’m not alone. For sure you’ve come up against these problems too.
Time management for small businesses and new enterprises takes a more serious tone. They often lack the economies of scope and scale to safely absorb the missed opportunities and shortfalls that would come from wasted time.
I’m not going to BS you with specific tips or anything. You’ve got to find your own way of doing things, unique to your own situation. But the following are things that are absolutely real to me. These are time management concepts that I absolutely guarantee everyone who has gotten anywhere in life followed – whether they knew it or not.
Set REALISTIC goals and prioritize accordingly.
It doesn’t matter what your time management techniques are if you’re bad at making realistic estimates. We often set unrealistic goals for ourselves in an effort to impress someone, be it bosses, or investors. Or ourselves.
Simple rule of thumb: If it’s your first time to do something, imagine what you think you could realistically achieve, then set your goals just a tad higher than that, or if you have some historical data on past performance, look at the average and set your goal just a bit higher than that as well.
Next, the Pareto Principle (you’ll probably want to look into this a lot more, since it keeps coming up) reliably demonstrates in the majority of situations that 80% of tasks can be completed in 20% of the allotted time. The remaining 20% will take up 80% of your time. Therefore, you should see which tasks give the most returns with the least effort and do those first.
Understandably, you probably should check your ego at the door before you set any goals (hard for most entrepreneurs to do, admittedly). Otherwise you might bite off more than you could chew. To avoid this, you should…
…Learn to say NO.
We discussed this in depth in a previous piece, but a lot of the time, we forget just where our limits lie- making this worth a lot of repetition. If you can’t do your best on things you’ve already committed to doing, it normally makes zero sense to add more to your plate. Just learn to give things up… because you can never have everything. Opportunity cost will happen regardless of what you do. But if you’ve got a good team with you:
While it’s nice to try to be the best at everything you do, the keyword here is “try”. You will never be the best at everything you do. It’s that simple. Jacks-of-all-trades tend to be masters none because we’re only human. For instance, while immensely talented, no one expects Jeremy Lin to be a crack sous-chef. Even Teddy Roosevelt and Leonardo Da Vinci had to have sucked at something, right?
If there’s something you’re not particularly good at, or have no time to be proficient in, ask someone in your team who could do it or find someone from the outside who can. Again, failure to check egos and acknowledge reality sets the stage for failing to meet goals.
Speaking of failure…
Prepare for failure, and learn to fail efficiently
Failure is a fact of life. It also teaches us a lot more than success. We will all fail to meet our goals at some time or another. Funny thing is, we often see it coming, but we often try put even more effort than is logical into something we know has little chance of succeeding.
If failure seems a likely scenario, don’t waste any more of your time on it than absolutely necessary. Unless the end result is your venture’s (or your own) demise, just accept it and do enough so you have more resources for any upcoming challenges.
Unless you learn how deal with failure efficiently, you’re in for a world of hurt in the long term.
Take BOTH personal and work spheres into account
While you should try to keep them separate as much as possible truth is, that ain’t happening for most of us, and you’re probably less special than you think. If you’ve ever felt bad at work because of a problem at home, or vice versa- well this will keep happening. Be realistic about how much you could separate and work it out from there.
Everyone has their own tips and tricks to make the most of the time they have. But without these five overriding philosophies, you will not get as much out of any time management activities as you hoped.
If you don’t have time for anything, it probably means you’re not getting anything done. Which is all too true for a lot of us.