Time is money. It’s the manta every successful entrepreneur lives by.
One of the most common struggles entrepreneurs experience is a “lack of time in the day to get everything done.”
This comes as no surprise. After all, being able to use time wisely is an essential skill for every an entrepreneur, and a key part of accomplishing things.
While most entrepreneurs thrive with the freedom to work on their own terms, and being able to set their own schedules, the downside to all of this is that all too often, it’s easy to end up distracted –or failing to manage our time right, and falling behind on tasks that need to be done.
Even worse, we can slip into poor work habits like working on what’s easy, instead of what’s important. Taking the ‘path of least resistance,’ if you will.
The crux though, is that growing a successful business requires that you allocate your time to work that actually moves the needle forward.
If you’d like to take control of your time and find a way to map out your day intentionally –rather than being caught out at the end of the day, wondering where your time went, then this guide’s for you.
In it, we’ll take a look at some time management tips that will allow you to understand your scope of work and how to allocate resources appropriately –helping to ensure that all tasks are identified and carried out to completion.
Next, we’ll explore some strategies for delegating tasks and making sure that as an entrepreneur, you’re spending time on the tasks that are mission-critical.
Once finished with this article you’ll be able to take on tasks with the knowledge that your activities will provide a positive return for the time invested, increased traction with your target audience, and inch you closer to achieving your business goals.
So, let’s get to it!
Methodologies for Attacking Tasks
At its core, being a successful entrepreneur or business owner largely comes down to one thing: problem-solving skills.
Your ability to take a complex concept and simplify it into manageable tasks will go a long way in determining your effectiveness.
In this section of our Time Management guide, we are going to look at a few different methods for time management.
We recommend taking a week and trying each of these methods to discover which work best for you, and then applying it to your life.
- The Ivy Lee Method
The Ivy Lee Method is old school. We’re talking turn of the century stuff here. The concept of ‘productivity hacks’ is nothing new. They existed long before social media and the blogosphere.
Turn the clock back to 1918, to the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. This is where the famed Ivy Lee Method came to fruition. It is a simple, yet effective methodology to help you stay on track and prioritize tasks.
How simple you ask? Five steps simple. Check it out:
Step 1: At the conclusion of the workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish tomorrow. No more. No less than six.
Step 2: Take those six items and prioritize them in order of importance.
Step 3: When you get to work the next day, do your thing. Start your highest priority task and work your way down the list.
Step 4: Continue down the list. At the conclusion of the day, move any unfinished items to a new list of six tasks for the following day.
Step 5: Rinse and repeat.
Super simple. At the end of every day, write down what you want to accomplish the next day. It doesn’t get much easier than that. If you want to learn more about productivity journaling, The Fizzle has a great podcast discussing the topic.
Writing what you need to do first thing tomorrow only takes a few minutes, but it can lead to some incredible results.
- The Eisenhower Method
All too often we see entrepreneurs unable to distinguish between what is URGENT and what is IMPORTANT. The ability to prioritize task is an essential attribute and one that will save you tons of time and money.
Yes, again. You must understand the difference between important and urgent tasks.
Former president Dwight Eisenhower famously said, “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent is not important, and the important is never urgent.”
He characterized this paradox as representing “the dilemma of the modern man.”
From this observation, the “Eisenhower Method” of time management was born. Again, very simple, yet effective.
Using the model couldn’t be easier. You simply place each of your tasks into one of the four quadrants.
Essentially the method centers around categorizing and prioritizing your tasks or to-do list. You can see the matrix above. It organizes tasks into one of four quadrants and then taking action to address them accordingly:
- Important/Urgent Quadrant – Tasks are done immediately
- Important/Not Urgent Quadrant – Tasks get an end date
- Unimportant/Urgent Quadrant – Tasks are delegated
- Unimportant/Not Urgent Quadrant – Tasks are dropped
You may be asking who you delegate the urgent and not important tasks too? Well, hang tight, because in the next section we will address delegation in a bit way! (Hint: a Virtual Assistant is one of them!)
The hard reality is that most people spend too much of their time working on urgent items, instead of what’s important, so the Eisenhower Method can be a real game-changer for many entrepreneurs.
- The Pomodoro Technique
Funny name. Serious productivity.
This technique was named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer used by the creator Francesco Cirillo (Pomodoro means tomato in Italian).
This method claims to reduce burnout and overload by splitting tasks into 25-minute segments called Pomodoros. While you’re working in a Pomodoro segment, you should be hyper-focused –which means no procrastination or distractions whatsoever.
The Pomodoro Technique works in cycles of four, and after your first three Pomodoros, you’ll want to take a short 5-minute break after each one to recover and relax. After your fourth Pomodoro, you can take a 30-minute break for further recovery, before repeating the cycle.
How to Delegate Like a Boss
As an entrepreneur, your role is to build and lead your business.
That means wearing many hats. At any given point with your business, there’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself taking on the role of an innovator, a salesperson, a leader, and a financial planner while still having to contend with routine micro-tasks throughout the day.
If this sounds familiar –you’re not alone! Most business owners pride themselves on doing it all, especially at first. But I’ve got news for you: running a business is a marathon and not a sprint. You’ll never make it across the finish line and enjoy the spoils of your efforts if you’re working long hours, nights and weekends.
Soon enough you’ll begin sliding backward, unable to make a dent in the ever-growing pile of tasks.
You’ve got to pace yourself.
This is where delegation becomes paramount. It is a key factor in entrepreneurial success, on both a personal and professional level.
With this in mind, here are a few tips to effective de-clutter your task list and ensure you’re focusing on what is important.
Common Sense Strategies for Task Management
- Force Yourself to Delegate
Self-ownership, typically, is a natural sense embodied by most entrepreneurs. An admiral trait no doubt, however, this can also be your downfall. At some point, you will need to off-load some of your responsibilities, even if you don’t really want to.
We recommend reading The Power of Delegation by Richard Branson, when he’s not busy waterskiing, he’s telling others what to do!
- Be Proactive
Rule number two is simple. Don’t let the grass grow under your feet. In fact, you should stop reading this right now and do some delegating! (Just kidding!) Seriously though, it is important that you are able to recognize when the work is piling up too high. When that happens, take action by organizing your tasks into lists, hiring someone new, or helping someone develop their skills to take on additional work.
- Know Your Team’s Strengths and Weaknesses
Before you assign a single task, you should have a good sense of your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Everyone brings something different to the table. In order to make to make the most out of your resources, you must cater to those individual quirks.
- Crosstrain and Prosper!
We hear it all the time, “I have to do this because I’m the only one that knows how.” Granted, that statement makes sense from someone who hasn’t developed their resources, but you’re certainly not that person, right? As they say, a high tide raises all boats. Take the time to invest in training; it will pay off in the long run.
- Establish Clear Expectations
It is imperative that you are as specific as possible when outlining your expectations. Convey your needs concisely to your teammates, and ensure that you have established clear responsibilities. It’s also a good idea to designate one person to serve as the lead for the project. Be sure to allow time for any questions, in order to address any points of confusion, reducing the chance of problems down the line.
- Trust, But Verify
Your role as head honcho is to trust your workers but to also be the last set of eyes on any work. After all, it is your name on the sign right? Always verify that a process is underway, and the direction is clear. Keep lines of communication open at all times and be approachable!
- Give and Receive Feedback
Finally, take time to give and receive feedback once the task is complete. It’s important to let your employees know how they have performed a task and if there is anything was handled it improperly in any way. This brings the process full circle. Be sure to acknowledge their hard work and dedication.
These rules will help you delegate your tasks and become more effective in your role as leader and entrepreneur. They will also benefit you by allowing you to maintain a healthy workload and helping to prevent burnout. You want to avoid spreading yourself too thin at all costs.
When to Delegate
“Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone else’s time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash. How’s that for incentive to be effective and efficient?”
Being able to delegate successfully, starts by knowing which tasks to delegate in the first place.
At first it may sound simple enough. Just find the most time-consuming tasks and outsource those, right? The reality, though, is that this isn’t always the best approach. It’s important to make sure the things that you’re delegating are things that actually add value in some way. It’s also important to ensure that these tasks aren’t things that can be simplified or automated in some fashion, before you start farming them out.
When considering delegating a task, ask:
- Is this task necessary or something that adds value in some way?
- Can this task be automated or simplified first? If so, which programs or solutions could you use to streamline this task before you outsource it?
Streamlining your tasks offers a distinct advantage over simply outsourcing. It’ll help you to save over the long term. It makes sense when you think about it, if a task is something that would normally require an assistant 10 hours a week, and you can streamline it so it only takes 2 hours, you’ll be saving money in the long run.
One of the best ways to determine which tasks to delegate, that I’ve found, is using a system that’s been developed by Todd Herman, creator of the 90 Day Year program. Start by writing down everything you do for a week to see where you’re spending your time, and then assigning a dollar amount to tasks; segmenting them based on how much value they bring your company.
You can do this two ways, either by asking:
- How much per hour would it cost to hire someone to do this task? Or by determining,
- How much value does that task bring to your bottom line?
You can think of it in chunks of $10, $100, $1,000, and $10,000.
If you’re anything like most of us, you’ll quickly realize that you spend a lot of time each day doing tasks that don’t add a lot of value –when really, you should be focusing your time on those big, valuable tasks.
Note: Not sure where you’re time is going? Download your FREE worksheet today, and start tracking what you’re spending time on every day!
Consider outsourcing the $10-100 tasks, assigning a manager to the $1-10,000 projects, and focusing your time on the big tasks. If you’re a startup or smaller company and don’t have managers or full-time staff, then you’ll want to outsource all of the tasks except for the big projects that require your attention.
According to Gregg Landers, director of growth management at CBIZ MHM –accounting and business services provider, the type of tasks that are best outsourced fall into three different categories.
- Highly-Skilled Expertise: This includes trained professionals who have knowledge in specific areas. Legal advisers and CPAs fall into this category.
- Highly Repetitive Tasks: Repetitive tasks are often time-consuming and include things like bookkeeping, data entry, inventory, scheduling, and administrative tasks –all things that a part-time assistant or virtual assistant (VA) could do.
- Specialized Knowledge: Sometimes, it makes sense to outsource to someone with specialist knowledge. You could, for example, have a digital advertising specialist create a plan, and then implement the plan through a (less costly) VA –saving you money.
Now, before we continue I’d like to mention one word of advice. Don’t make the mistake of diving in and outsourcing every single task that you have. Instead, a more strategic approach is always the best one.
Many business founders, for example, outsource jobs simply because they dislike them. But while you do indeed have the freedom to outsource tasks that you don’t enjoy, it’s important to make sure you don’t outsource anything that’s mission-critical –unless, of course, it’s to the appropriate professional! So before you say, outsource sales, simply because you don’t like them, you’ll want to outsource when doing so will give you the most value.
Now, many day-to-day or especially repetitive tasks can easily be outsourced or delegated. and Many other tasks, though, can easily be delegated.
With this in mind, here’s a look at some especially common tasks that many entrepreneurs opt to delegate:
Bookkeeping is one task that most business owners dread. But it’s important to keep a clear and accurate record of the books. Good record-keeping is essential for both ensuring that you’re on track with your income and expenses, for paying taxes, ensuring payroll accuracy, and for measuring the health of your business and the ROI of different strategies. By outsourcing this job to a bookkeeper –or virtual assistant, you’ll have accurate and up-to-date information that you need to make important decisions, and reduce the stress that comes along with performing these tasks.
- Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is vital for any company today, but with so many other pressing issues to attend to, it’s often pushed to the backburner. This is unfortunate, though, since many leads today are obtained via social media. Hiring an advertising agency to help you develop a strategy is a good place to start, but if you have a specific approach or two that you’d like to implement, why not outsource them on a case-by-case basis to a VA? It’s a cost-effective solution that can help to draw more customers to your website.
- Content Marketing
Content marketing is important as well –especially for web-based businesses. Consider hiring a high-level content marketer to help you create a solid strategy for drawing in visitors, or if you’re in the market for some specific articles, consider hiring an experienced writer who will be able to help you reach your content marketing goals.
- Administrative Tasks
As I’ve found myself, hiring virtual assistants can be an extremely cost-effective way to get routine tasks done –and to a high standard. A good VA can help you with scheduling, preparing email newsletters, publishing blog posts, invoicing, making appointments, and more. Outsourcing is one of the best ways to keep up, without having to run in circles.
- Customer Service and Support
Satisfied customers are key to any business’ continued success! But as you start to grow your company, the number of customer queries, support tickets, and emails will increase as well. One solution that many businesses use today is outsourcing customer support to a VA. A VA will be able to handle all of your customer support for you, freeing you up to focus on other aspects of your business.
Some common customer support tasks that a VA can take on include:
- Email Support
- Chat support
- Help desk support
- Other customer support
Plus as you scale your business, enlisting VAs allows you to effortlessly scale your customer support efforts as well.
No doubt there are numerous other tasks that you can outsource as well. If a task can be documented (turned into a standard operating procedure), taught, and repeated, then it can be outsourced –and often, to a Virtual Assistant.
Remember, as your business continues to grow, you will shift increasingly into the role of Chief Delegator. Your effectiveness in utilizing your resources at hand will go a long way in determining your value as a leader.
Now that we have traveled up and down the great road of resource allocation and time management, you should feel well-prepared to guide your team to victory.
We’ve seen time management techniques that will help you to claim back more time and get things done, looked at strategies for delegating tasks, and seen tasks that are especially good to delegate.
Remember, your role as an entrepreneur requires that you be proactive rather than reactive. You should be taking time every day to think ahead, and strategizing on how you can best allocate your resources. With a strategic approach, and a solution that includes making the most of your time by applying it to high-level tasks, and outsourcing many of the daily tasks that are needed to get you there, you can help to set yourself up for success –both now, and in the future.
All the best!
If you’d like to learn more about hiring a VA for your business operations, don’t hesitate to reach out to Sidekicks today! Claim your FREE complimentary 30-minute brainstorming session with a Client Success Manager, and discuss your current needs and see for yourself how Sidekicks can help you scale your business.