Managing your time effectively is just as important in a business context as managing money. Some might even say it’s more important – time is a finite resource that you’ll never get back.
The most important thing to keep in mind when planning out your hours, days and weeks is to prioritize. If you are not working on the single most important thing right now, you are working on the wrong thing. In my case, I ask “will this destroy the company if I don’t do it?” if the answer is yes, it made my list. If the answer is no, I delegate or back burner the task.
On a daily basis, I try to get into a routine of waking up early. This works the best for my family life, and lets me get several hours in to work on the most important thing before the interruptions of the day start. Today, for example, I was up by 4 and I got into the office at 6 am. I made a cup of coffee and sat down to work.
I start by making a list for the day. “What’s on fire?” This is the existential prioritization for the day. Often times I’ll just start going to work on the firefighting immediately. When I’m at my best and when things aren’t as high stakes, I’ll organize these tasks into achievable bite sizes – often 45- 90-minute chunks. I’ll then try to get those chunks on my calendar for the day. This means most days, I can only handle 5-10 big tasks. I try to put the rest into task management, using it as a mental clearing house for the things I want to do that aren’t mission critical (Much of this technique comes from Getting Things Done). If I don’t finish something on my list, it goes to my list for the next day or makes it into the software.
If I was doing less firefighting, I would take the time to regularly groom the task management list, assign tasks and review progress. I’d be tracking those tasks against KPIs and using regular communication structures to streamline decisions on key projects.
When I have my task list, I like to “bid” time against it by putting those tasks on the calendar. Saying “ I think this should take about an hour” helps me focus on getting the task done and set the right expectations to balance what I’m working on for the day.
When handling a calendar, I budget interruption time. I try not to be too interrupted, but I know that I’m going to field unscheduled calls and need to fight someone else’s fires. As we grow as a company, I hope to transition to an “office hours” approach – giving myself a certain amount of time that’s open to interruption outside of the blocked out Deep Work of the day.
I try to budget time for email and stick to that budget. Being in my inbox or slack all day is really unproductive, in large part because the mental cost of switching tasks frequently is very high.
I don’t Pomodoro, though I hear some people find that productive.
Hope this is helpful.