Time wasting is one of my favourite bug bears. I am as guilty as the next guy of spending precious moments checking emails and Twitter a little too often than is strictly professionally necessary, and it's a huge drain on a workday.
We live in an age of technology. With the internet filled with articles and information that relate to your industry, it's very easy to convince yourself that browsing that tech-site is relevant to your work. Then before you know it, the day is done and your desk is still full of jobs that, realistically, should have been cleared long before you shared that fascinating article about Steve Job's top ten tips for success on your Facebook pages. Especially us entrepreneurs... We're the worst, aren't we? Always getting swept away on a tangent.
But it's time to stop stopping. Ploughing through your day needn't be a chore, just so long as you focus and follow these Golden Rules to become an effective executive.
1. Block Off Time In Your Calendar To Think
Block out time in your calendar to think every day. Because, let's face it, your mind is buzzing most of the workday anyway, and this gives you a chance to concentrate this energy and get the most out of your ideas. In a previous life, thinking time was the first thing to go if my work-load becomes unmanageable. It seemed ridiculous to just kick back, turn off your gadgets and think. But I'm not suggesting you stare longingly out of the window or begin oil painting - This is about exploring those seeds of ideas so they can grow, and tidying the branches of those that are already flourishing.
Scheduling 15 minutes each morning to get my day in order makes me feel more organised and ready to face any of the plethora of things a day at PeoplePerHour might throw at me. Above all, it makes me feel calmer. It sets things straight, and becomes the springboard of my work day. Plus it's a great excuse to finish that first cup of coffee without getting carried away and letting it go cold.
2. Delegate Wisely
Seems obvious, doesn't it? While this is unlikely to go down well with my many an excitable entrepreneur, I am convinced by his logic. As head of a growing business, you will need to delegate to avoid an unmanageable workload. Try and outsource any tasks that are draining your energy and stopping you concentrating on what really matters to your business.
Delegating is one of the most simple solutions to free up time, but my key advice here is to do so wisely. Who do you trust? Do you need someone in house or is there better talent out there? When I have a few bits and bobs that I can drag off my desk, I make sure I throw them out there as quickly as I can. The trick is to do so wisely.
At first, handing over parts of your workday to someone else can feel like letting a 12 year old boy drive your Mercedes. You flinch and flutter, and it can put more stress onto you than actually getting rid of it in the first place. When someone once told me to delegate more, I literally had to drag those jobs out of my hands, but it's essential. No entrepreneur can really be an island. But spending some time finding the right person is worth it.
The last thing you need is to delegate and then have the finished result back on your lap with errors. So spend your precious time delegating wisely. Ok, so my day to day running needs to be done in house, there's no question about that. My team know me, they know my ethos. But write ups, marketing, data analysis... That can all be sent out to grateful freelancers who spend all day doing what you need doing, and will do it a damn site quicker and better than anyone you have in house. And, if you're ready to admit it, better even than you yourself.
3. Take Breaks To Eliminate Personal Distractions
OK, I admit it, I am a social media addict. Not just social media. I love my industry websites, I love checking up on the latest practices and innovations. But remember... If you spend your time watching other people change your industry, then you aren't doing it yourself. Nor is sharing that picture of your cousins cat going to increase revenue. So focus.
Equally, it's important to remain calm and clear during the day, and we as a community are increasingly moving online. Keeping up with friends and family is soothing and fulfilling, and an important part of your work/life balance. So instead of trying to pretend you're not distractible like the rest of the world, do it. Just at the right time.
Taking breaks is essential. Those of you who claim they go through 14 hours per day without stopping are basically writing your own ending. You can't go on that way forever, and the best way to ensure longevity in the quality of your business, and yourself, is to take breaks. Schedule in half an hour for lunch. Spend that time catching up on your apps, and you won't be tempted for the rest of the day. In fact, you'll actually look forward to it.
So although it may seem mad to suggest taking time off to save time, I guarantee this is the best way to save your time in the long run. Build these 3 golden rules in to your every workday, and you'll become an effective executive in no time.