Working nights, weekends and even on vacation becomes standard for people trying to make their startups profitable—and you’ve probably done the same. But how can you use your time efficiently? It’s one of the most challenging questions for today’s entrepreneurs. With a new year comes a new opportunity to make positive changes that last.
Below, we’ll review six time-management goals you might turn into New Year’s resolutions this year.
Make 2018 the year when effective time management stopped being such a struggle.
1. Participate in time blocking
Time blocking is a practice involving setting aside segments of your day to work toward short- and long-term goals. It helps avoid distractions, and can make you feel less stressed. If you use Google Calendar, it’s easy to start blocking out your time with that popular app.
You could set aside time for easing into your workday, reserve a half-hour of reflection time after a meeting and so on. The app’s color-coding capabilities let you check out what to do at a glance. Whether your goals are focused on sales or increasing gratitude, blocking could work for you.
2. Keep a time journal
Are you aware of the precise ways you spend your time each day and how the efforts pan out? Awareness is a critical first step to changing habits. 2018 is a fantastic year to start jotting those details down in a journal. It’s a practice executive coaches recommend.
Create each page in your journal with several columns. Make sure to include space for the start and end times of a task, plus what you did and the results it generated. You might also want to have a section to mention the task category if you spend your time doing numerous things on a typical day.
Feel like the average journal doesn’t speak to you? Try one that’s specifically for creatives, like Adam J. Kurtz’s “Unsolicited Advice 2018” (which includes notes of encouragement and a place to jot down rankings of pizza you consume over the year) or one from Blogilates Founder Cassey Ho that beautifies your standard planner with wellness goals and a rose gold cover.
3. Recruit an accountability partner
If you find it difficult to stay on top of your schedule despite the best intentions, it’s time to ask someone you trust to hold you accountable.
Think of that person as your accountability partner. Ask the individual to encourage you to stick to agendas, even when diversions tempt you to veer away from the plan. There’s power in numbers.
4. Set aside 20 minutes to plan the next day
Many startup founders get so overwhelmed with their ever-growing to-do lists that they spend more time figuring out which tasks to tackle first than getting stuff done.
If that scenario sounds familiar, use the last bit of your workday to arrange your responsibilities for the next one. Just 20 minutes of time should be sufficient, and this proactive strategy should pay off in noticeable ways.
5. Study how your mentors manage their time
Maybe you’re fascinated with how Jeff Bezos made Amazon into a worldwide phenomenon. Or, perhaps the person who inspires you most in the business world is the leader of a local networking group, known for singlehandedly growing the community’s formerly faltering economy with a thriving tech firm.
Regardless of the source of your inspirations, do what you can to discover how those people practice time management. That might require reading autobiographies or conducting face-to-face interviews.
In the latter case, it’s crucial to emphasize building a relationship with your mentor. Also, whenever you meet with the person—whether to learn about time management or not—pick three questions to ask. Taking that approach shows you respect the individual’s time and have genuinely thought about what you want to know most.
6. Get serious about minimizing distractions
Have you ever made the mistake of allowing someone to pull you away from a task and do something that’ll “only take a minute,” but the minute turned into a half-hour? Most of us have, and it’s easy to fall into that pattern if you want to come across as an approachable person.
However, the more unplanned time you give someone else, the more likely you’ll have to play catch-up later. In the year ahead, come up with a few polite, but firm, responses to give people who need your assistance when you’re in the middle of something.
Instead of merely saying you’re not available, offer specifics about when you can help. Setting up auto-responders on your email and mobile phone could also be beneficial in setting expectations.
Get started with the tips above, and adapt them as needed to fit the typical situations you deal with, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses.
You can make 2018 the year when effective time management stopped being such a struggle.