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Respecting Time

New entrepreneurs often feel like they are drowning in lack of time. No quality of life, no time for family and friends. No time to stay healthy and on top of outside the office interests (socializing with family, home projects). Seasoned entrepreneurs learn that time is your friend and you can find lots of it. You need to know how to control time and use it efficiently so it works in your favor.

Managing time effectively is one of the most important things you can do. You would naturally think that the more time you apply to the success of your business, the more likely it will become successful. This is a fallacy as it would say that if you and your competitor could spend 24 hours per day on your respective businesses, you would be at best tied. So how you use time becomes the important factor, not how much time you spend. Time is not something everyone uses equally well, in fact, most people are very poor at spending their time in truly productive ways.

This section is really about understanding some key aspects of how to be a leader so time is used effectively. How to use the team around you to get important things done. Unless you are a one-person company (or acting like one (not a good thing)), you should be able to maintain quality of life and still build a successful business.  This section explores time from a variety of perspectives, hopefully providing some insight into how time can be a friend.

Managing Time

How does a business leader get the most out of the work day? Not an easily answered question, but busy business people seem to be increasingly running out of time. With a work day that is so easily interrupted by email, phone calls, meetings and ad-hoc tasks that come up, combined with the ever faster pace the world around us seems to be moving, it's a wonder the entrepreneur survives even a few months starting a new business. How to find time for vacation is one of the last things achieved, yet often overwork and the stress it creates is cited as one of the major reasons people give up pursuing their business ideas (or fail trying). At the very least, they fail to enjoy any of the rewards as there is no time to do so.

There are many places you can go for formalized time management workshops -- this is not one of them. Instead, a list of some common sense approaches to getting the most out of available time is presented, hopefully a few of them can be applied now to your situation, and others perhaps in the future.

The points above talk directly about how you manage your business, not just your watch. How the senior team follows your lead and how everyone picks up better time management habits over time. The more you set a positive example, the more people follow your lead. If you are late and use the "I'm the CEO" excuse (or let others do it for you), then others start being late using their positions of authority as an excuse. Before you know it, you spend 15 minutes in each meeting waiting for everyone to show up and another 15 minutes organizing what the meeting is about. The challenge falls to the CEO, the leader of the business, to set the example and to make sure everyone gets the message -- let's not run out of time while trying to achieve our goals of excellence.

Tracking Time

Knowing how long things take is actually very important. The primary benefit is to improve your ability to predict how long the next activities or projects will take. In product development, like sales, forecasting completion of new deliverables is almost as important as raising money. If the predictions are off by even a few days, it tends to create a cascading set of changes all over the organization (e.g. marketing activities are delayed, partner communication is set back, customers are annoyed, etc).

Using formalized time tracking systems is not for everyone. They are very tedious for the most part and often people end up fabricating their input because they either do not have the patience to enter it properly or have not actually kept detailed records to input it accurately. Nonetheless, in certain areas of the company, it is of paramount importance to implement formalized time tracking -- typically product development (e.g. for grant applications, product planning) and consulting services if you offer them.

Regardless of whether you formalize time tracking, it is always beneficial to at least review how long key projects took, perhaps in a post-mortem debriefing, so that you carry that knowledge forward for the next project of similar scope. Forecast accuracy breeds increased confidence in the ability of the business to run faster -- faster than the competition.

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