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4 Time Traps All Entrepreneurs Face And How To Avoid Them

Having vague structure to your days can be as harmful as structuring too strictly with meetings. Avoid these common traps for entrepreneurs.

4 Time Traps All Entrepreneurs Face And How To Avoid Them
[Photo: Flickr user Sebastiaan ter Burg]

Starting a business is a huge undertaking, and there are so many tasks that need attention. But while entrepreneurs are often passionate and willing to work long hours, as a founder it’s vital that you spend your time working “on the business” and not just “in the business.”

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Here are four inefficient work practices you can alleviate or eliminate to get back to the important stuff:

1. Lack Of Prioritization

When you’re faced with 100 or more things to do each day, it can be difficult to separate the forest from the trees, but prioritization of company and individual goals is critical to success. Choose four to five company and individual goals each quarter and make sure they are SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time specific). As circumstances change, your goals and metrics will need to be revised accordingly.

I recommend using Verne Harnish’s One-Page Strategic Plan outlined in his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits to help identify the key long-term targets, as well as quarterly objectives for your company. Once these are set, each individual can set his or her priorities in support of the company objectives. These are set as priorities, or “rocks,” that the employee will be accountable for until they are achieved.

Get together as a team each quarter to review progress, update the goals for the ensuing 90 days, and reassess whether the longer-term targets are still appropriate.

2. No Clear Responsibilities

Depending on the number of employees in your company, team members may each wear several hats. That’s normal in an early-stage company, when you are trying to make operating capital last as long as possible. But don’t let this prevent you from establishing clear lines of responsibility.

Once roles have been established and responsibilities assigned, team members need to constantly report on their progress and be held accountable for achieving results.

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Having multiple employees working as a team on a project is fairly standard today and a great way to engender collaboration and produce better results. However, make sure there is a clear team leader who is responsible for keeping everyone going in the same direction while minimizing duplication of efforts.

3. Constant Meetings

It’s easy for entrepreneurs to find themselves in back-to-back meetings for an entire day. Some meetings are unavoidable, but too many meetings leave little time to get the actual work done. Being stuck in useless meetings can be mentally draining, while getting in the way of achieving necessary priorities.

Consider that each meeting is held for one of the following three objectives: to share information, to solve existing problems or to brainstorm new ideas.

Make sure that all participants know the purpose of the meeting and have set timeframes. Start and stop on time and get the work done. Also, as spelled out in the Rockefeller Habits, have a rhythm of daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings. While that sounds like a lot of meetings, these are very focused and, in the case of the daily huddle, short. The daily huddle should last no longer than 10 to 15 minutes, each person should speak for no more than two minutes and employees can have sidebars afterward if they need more time to discuss something.

Above all else, make sure that you don’t have those awful “throw everything onto the table” meetings that can drag on for hours and leave all attendees whipped and discouraged.

4. Not Blocking Your Time

This is the hardest one for many of us, but time blocking on a regular basis is a great way to accomplish necessary tasks. Whether it’s making prospecting calls, reviewing financial projections, or checking emails, put a set amount of time on your calendar each day to focus on the particular activity.

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Yes, we all need to be responsive to communications, but that should not entail constantly looking at emails throughout the day. Rather than constantly going back and forth in five-minute intervals between emails and other work, turn off your email notifications and, as you plan each day, set aside a few times throughout the day when you will focus on your emails. Despite what we think about our ability to multitask, emails often get in the way of strategic thinking time, and it’s hard to bounce back and forth.

Charlie Brock is CEO of Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership focused on supporting the development of high-growth companies in Tennessee with the ultimate goal of making Tennessee the No. 1 state in the Southeast for entrepreneurs to start and grow a company. He can be reached at Charlie@launchtn.org or on Twitter at @cebrock.

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