When you’re starting out on a new business venture, the volume of tasks you need to undertake is overwhelming. This is especially true if you’re still working your 9-5 job! However, there are ways you can save time and improve your productivity both in the day job AND with your new startup.
The first thing to do when setting up your startup is to treat time like a commodity. Imagine that every minute you spend on a task costs a pound. Whether on admin, on locating an office, or networking on social media – it all counts. Think of it like this, and set a limited budget for yourself: this’ll keep you on track and prevent you from stumbling into black holes of time.
There are some particularly common time traps that new entrepreneurs fall into. Here, we’ve taken a look at how you can avoid – or totally prevent – each one.
Problem: Getting Consumed In Too Much Information
Solution: Learn Only What You Need To Know At That Point In Time
This is a big one. How often have you started to research something, and ended up down the Wikipedia Rabbit Hole? What should have taken five minutes takes an hour or more.
While it’s really tempting to do this – especially if you’re coming up with tons of useful information for use in the future – stop.
Only read the blogs, watch the videos, listen to the podcasts, or browse forum answers that you absolutely need to know right now.
If you come across something that’ll be relevant later, don’t read it. Instead, bookmark it on your browser, pin it on a Pinterest board, or keep a working list of all resources you want to check out later.
If you’re an avid online reader, there are some great apps that let you do just this – and some will even strip out website formatting so that you’re not distracted by adverts or interesting pictures. Instapaper, Flipboard, and Pocket are all great examples of apps that allow you to reduce your rabbit-hole time by filing away things to read at a later – more relevant – date.
Problem: Not Having Enough Time To Devote To Everything
Solution: Segment Your Day
Set yourself time limits for every task you need to do in the next 24 hours. If you want, you can even extend this to other household chores such as cooking and eating dinner.
Break up your day into fifteen or thirty minute slots, and spend the first fifteen minutes of the day allocating your tasks. It may feel tedious to begin with, but the habit will let you focus on the day’s goals and achievements – and it will give you a daily To Do that you can tick off with satisfaction to really feel the progress being made.
If hyper scheduling doesn’t suit you, block out larger chunks of time with less specific tasks. For example, use 8am – noon to complete a month’s worth of sales emails, noon to 1pm for a lunch break, then 1pm – 3pm to cold call potential customers.
Breaking up your day into segments can give you extra focus, and help you realise where you do actually have time in your day for other tasks.
Problem: Multitasking Burnout
Solution: Regain Your Focus
If you struggle to focus, such as always checking your phone for messages, set a timer. Tell yourself you’ll do ten minutes of the task, and if you’re still unable to focus, it’s time to re-shuffle and take on something else. By the time your ten minutes is up, you’ll usually find yourself in the flow of the task and want to complete it anyway.
Remember to take regular breaks. It’s difficult these days to get away from a screen of any kind – most of us will pick up our smartphone to check Facebook or Whatsapp during our lunch break – but try to do so where possible. If you’re still at a day job, this is especially important as you’re likely to be spending even longer every day staring at a laptop long into the night as you work on your startup.
A simple walk to the kitchen to make a cup of tea can be enough to reset your brain, rest your eyes, and imbibe your creativity channels with fresh ideas.
Problem: Procrastinating Difficult Tasks
Solution: Do The Hardest Tasks First
It’s so easy to put off the most challenging tasks. However, doing this can build it up in your mind to become an even bigger, even scarier project that you continue to put off. You’ll have this feeling of dread hanging over you every time you snooze your calendar reminder to do it.
Instead, arrange your day so that the hardest things come first. You’ll feel a sense of achievement by lunchtime, and will have an afternoon of the more fun tasks ahead. If you’re working on your startup in the evenings and weekends, save the really tricky stuff for a Saturday morning – get it out of the way so it doesn’t ruin the rest of your weekend!
If you’re really stuck on something, ask yourself why. What is it about this task that makes it so scary?
- Do you not have all of the information you need to complete it?
- Is there the possibility of a negative outcome? (Could the client reject your pitch, for example)
- Are you putting off making a decision? Why?
- Will doing – or not doing – the task have an impact on other people that you don’t want?
Understanding your subconscious reticence to complete the project will help you find a way to be able to take action on it. If you need more information – find it. If you have to make a decision – do your pro and con list. If you risk a negative outcome – consider the positive possibility. If the task will have an impact on someone else, talk to them about it. You’ll feel like a weight has been lifted and that big scary task is actually very simple and easy to complete!
Problem: Being Too Busy
Solution: Be Productive, Not Busy
It is so easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of stuff you have to do, and that’s just in a normal job, let alone building your own business!
However, having a huge To Do list isn’t necessary. You need to take a step back and figure out what is actually essential to the progression of your startup.
Do you HAVE to get those branded paper bags now, or can it wait until you’ve found your shop space to rent?
Eliminate anything from your To Do list which has no significant impact on the growth of your startup. You’ll find that you have more time to spend on the essential tasks, and the weight taken off your mind about how much you have to do will allow you to focus more clearly, too. With this approach, you can be far more productive in less time – just only do what you absolutely have to do.