There's no doubt about it -- being an entreupreneur means having to juggle a lot. You may have a full-time job, while your business is something you work on on the weekend. You may already be in business for yourself, and working as a one-man or -woman marketing department, customer service task force, production guru and the list goes on and on.
So how do you manage your time and still eke out a few moments for those things that are really important like family and, well, sleep? You have to become a productivity expert, too. Here are a few ideas to help you along.
Ask Yourself the Right Questions
Are you prone to getting lost in the minutia? Or do you like to make up grand plans without ever quite following through? The problem is that as an entrepreneur you have to have both big-picture vision and the ability to get it all done. "Make sure you're asking yourself the right questions at the right intervals…" says productivity expert and Getting Things Done expert David Allen. "What's the vision? What're the short term goals? How am I doing with all the hats I'm wearing? How're all my projects? What're all my next actions?"
This sounds counterproductive but all of the research seems to point to one conclusion: multitasking makes you slower and ineffective at getting tasks done.
You need to find ways of staying focused on one task. Some say the process of learning to meditate generally enhances their business activities by bringing about a sense of focus and calm. If you're not a meditator, consider a system like "The Pomodoro Technique" which encourages you to set a time and work on a single task for 25 minutes before taking a 5-minute break and then starting the process over again.
Want more ideas on focus? Find out why saying no, closing your email, and the rule of three are all fun rules you can learn to focus better.
Create a "stop doing" list
You may have an ever-growing to-do list, but have you ever considered developing a "stop doing" list? Use it to get serious about habits that are negatively affecting your business like task-jumping, joining too many groups, and winging it.
Follow the money
While entrepreneurs often have to make a leap of faith about the value of their ideas, we all have to eat. Are you sufficiently evaluating the value of your own time? It's a very simple calculation that can tell you where to prune back your efforts, even when you might be doing so to concentrate on a high-risk/high-reward venture.
Experiment with Kanban
Kanban is a system of "just in time" production that was pioneered by the Japanese automaker Toyota decades ago, and it's been successfully adapted to serve many contemporary business development tasks. The idea is to map out all of the tiny little tasks necessary for a large project on a board where you can see the flow of activity and where things are getting stopped. Kanban also encourages practioners to limit "work in progress" or loose ends that can stand in the way of successfully completing a task. Kanban is very easy to learn and you need no special equipment.
Popular in startup circles today is the "Lean Startup" methodology written about comprehensively by Eric Ries. Particulary important in a "lean" startup is the idea of the "minimum viable product" which involves creating something workable that you can move into the market as a vehicle for understanding your customer and the opportunity for growth. By compressing the cycle of learning, production and evalution, the "Lean Startup" model offers an efficient model for anyone trying to capitalize on a market opportunity -- and be more efficient in the process of doing so.