Start-ups are often very limited when it comes to budgets, people and resources. As a result entrepreneurs are forced to improvise and do more with less, having to wear a number of different hats and jump between different tasks quickly and efficiently. Whether that be conference calls, product development, marketing, or attending various meetings being able to manage your time properly is an invaluable skill. Ultimately, managing time effectively can be a start-ups biggest resource and a major factor in determining if that company is going to be successful or not. Conversely there is often not a lot of emphasis or attention directed to time management by entrepreneurs. There is not a universal, one size fits all, way to manage ones time, however, there are a couple of steps an entrepreneur can take to help increase productivity and positively impact their business.
The first step is quantifying how you spend your most precious resource, time. Although collecting data can sometime be a distraction, an unpleasant obligation and a lot of times in afterthought, it is important. Being able to track and quantify what you are doing with your units of time can be very powerful. There are a number of different programs available for download that track how much time you spend using a particular app or browsing a specific website. This allows you to obtain an initial picture of how you are allocating your time and provides you with a foundation to understand how you are spending your time. Utilizing one of these programs allows you to gain information about your habits, inefficiencies and go-to resources and allows you to create a plan to optimize them.
The second step is prioritizing your tasks so that you are getting the most out of your time. As humans we are all evolutionarily pre-wired to respond to immediate sensory stimuli like loud noises and flashes of light. In today’s society of constant information coupled with the expectation of immediate responses this evolutionary trait can be more of a detriment than an asset. In order to quell this constant need to respond to the latest notification or email at the top of your inbox, it is crucial to focus on task importance. The first step is muting or turning off your phone whenever possible. You can also utilize apps that allow you to close out browser tabs that you frequently use but are of low importance. Next you organize your tasks into categories based on importance and time constraints. This is called the “A-B-C-D-E Method”. Tasks in the A category are tasks that are vitally important that you must complete as soon as possible, and have negative consequences if put off. Tasks in the B category are important, but not as important as A tasks, and though there may be consequences if not completed, the impact is not as big. The C category tasks are nice to do but not as important as the A & B tasks and there are no negative consequences for not completing them. Tasks in the D group are tasks that should be delegated to members of your team. Then lastly, tasks in the E group should be eliminated whenever possible. After going through your list and marking your tasks A1, A2, B1, B2, etc. you have a list that you can start going through and knocking out. Making time each week to meet with your team and prioritize which tasks are the most important can be helpful in determining your true A tasks and then having a mid-week follow up meeting can be a good way to check up on the status/completion of those tasks. This can also be a helpful way to establish task importance and make sure that everyone on the team is on the same page.
Utilizing this method can help with time management however it is only effective if each task is categorized correctly. Therefore you have to be able to figure out your priorities in terms of importance. For startups and entrepreneurs the main priority is growth. Like Paul Graham said, “if you get growth, everything else tends to fall into place. Which means you can use growth like a compass to make almost every decision you face.”. Therefore the items in the A category should be the most growth-supportive tasks you can do for your startup. In theory this sounds great however in reality this is not always as simple as it seems, especially with how much is demanded from an entrepreneur on a daily basis. In the “A-B-C-D-E Method” there are four basic avenues for start-up value creation. They are acquisition, product, team and retention. Prioritizing time and resource investment around these four efforts and letting everything that does not support these efforts wash out of the bottom will ultimately aide in growth creation while increasing time management.
The last step an entrepreneur can take to better manage their time and increase productivity is to automate or delegate as many tasks as possible. Automation can be done for a majority of repetitive tasks on the computer. In today’s age often times some if not all of the repetitive task you are doing can be automated and someone, somewhere has probably already done it. If the start-up is lucky enough to have a team at its disposal, being able to decide as an entrepreneur what you enjoy doing most, or are best at, and what you can leave for your team can be very helpful. Entrepreneur are often times forced to sacrifice a lot of time and energy to bring industry-changing visions to life, and hopefully by utilizing these steps, these sacrifices can become easier.
About the Author
Connor Clark is an Associate at the Rebel Venture Fund and a Finance student at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Connor is involved throughout a number of different organizations and programs at UNLV which include being a Student-Athlete for the Men’s Baseball team and member or the Financial Management Association. Upon graduation, Connor plans to pursue a career in investment banking and other areas of finance.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RVF or UNLV. In addition, thoughts and opinions are subject to change and this article is intended to provide an opinion of the author at the time of writing this article. All data and information is for informational purposes only.