Here’s the thing: We all have limited time. Unlike money, you can’t make more of it. Time is finite for all of us.
And we all have the same 24 hours in every day to get down to what’s really important.
If you don’t control your calendar, it will control you. And you will spend the majority of your time on defense, reacting to whatever you get hit with when you check your phone or walk into work in the morning – meetings, fire drills, people issues, investor requests, etc.
For founders and other executives we work with, our biggest piece of advice is: get back on offense.
Nearly 30% of employee’s time gets wasted on email. Another third gets spent in meetings. Add on a percentage of time sunk into social and news feeds, and you don’t have much time left in your day. How can you only have 20ish% of the day to actually do your job? You can’t, so managing your time and removing distractions is critical.
Practice Ruthless Prioritization
Strategically choose 3 big rocks (this is a strategy the CEO of YouTube uses) – what are the three big things you need to accomplish this week? The three most important tasks that will move the business needle forward. Identify those three items and prioritize them first. Make sure that your days this week are inching you closer to getting the three big rocks accomplished.
If you are goal-setting with priorities like this in mind, you will reach your personal and company milestones much easier and faster. As Stephen Covey touts in 7 Habits of Highly Efficient People, “Put first thing first.” All other tasks can wait.
So ask yourself this Sunday evening, what are the three big rocks you are trying to tackle this week? How will you make them your priority?
Your New Email System: 3 Times Only
To most people this sounds crazy, but we advocate for paring back your inbox being open on your computer all day long. It causes a major distraction to the work you actually need to get done (remember those three big rocks? – every time your email inbox lights up or sounds off with a new message, your attention is taken away).
You really shouldn’t get any emails that need to be answered in under 3 hours.
If there is an emergency, people should know to text or call you.
So choose a 30-minute period in the morning to check email, a 30-minute period just before or after lunch, and one 30-minute period at the end of your day. That’s it. Putting structure around your time spent in your inbox is a key step toward moving yourself from defense back to offense.
Get Rid of Distractions
You need to have a clear, focused mind to do your best work, and too often social media notifications on your phone are buzzing distractions at you every few minutes. Each ping or number count provides you with a dopamine hit and serves to fuel our addiction to checking apps.
The solution: Turn off notifications on your phone (you don’t need an update on Facebook and Instagram comments every few minutes).
Another helpful suggestion is to change your phone screen to grayscale to make it less distracting.
In terms of your desktop work, all the open tabs on your computer are also distracting. How many do you have open right now? Even subconsciously, all those tabs are pulling your eyes and mind in different directions.
Just about every founder we know claims to be a pro multi-tasker. This is a pretty foolish claim since science has found that multi-tasking actually slows down our productivity.
It turns out our brain isn’t really capable of doing a handful of things at once. Instead, it is switching back and forth between tasks, which can actually decrease productivity by as much 40%.
Multi-tasking also leads to more mistakes, which you then have to go back and correct.
Getting back on offense means eliminating mult-tasking and staying present and focused on the task at hand.
Say “No” More Often
You may have heard the phrase: If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.
Use this idea as you get more invitations to do more things – speaking engagements, conferences, networking events, etc. Of course, the more successful you are, the more your inbox will overflow with invites. Which ones are really necessary to your success? Which ones really amplify you and your brand? Which ones have an ROI?
Be careful not to confuse activity with productivity.
Too often, we overextend ourselves by trying to please everyone and stretching ourselves too thin. The goal is to ruthlessly prioritize – and say yes to – things that move the needle for your business.
“No” is a powerful word and, in many cases, it can safeguard your most precious asset: Your time.
Perhaps the most powerful statement on time protection comes from billionaire Warren Buffett, who said: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say ‘no’ to almost everything.”