There’s really only one life hack you need to sit up and pay attention to when building your business: time management. It’s a ridiculously vital skill, yet many of us are guilty of falling behind. I think entrepreneurs are easy to label with this false image of rolling out of bed whenever they want, scheduling meetings ‘whenever’, as if being your own boss means you’re the boss of time itself.
That’s not how I grew BusinessNET, and it’s not the path to sustainable wealth. Ask anyone who’s ever grown a company. Being your own boss doesn’t mean you stop punching time cards - it just means you make the cards.
I committed early on to wiping out distractions and managing my time with laser focus, and I am 100 percent positive that if any one thing made me a millionaire it’s having a system in place to manage my time. Here are the four steps I found most effective:
1. Command an army of gatekeepers.
I haven’t taken a direct phone call since I got members of my team to screen all incoming calls. Hearing a different voice on the end of the phone forces callers to do two things: they have to justify why they want to speak to you, and they have to leave a concise message. By having a trusted assistant vet the importance of your incoming calls you can schedule a follow up when it suits you, letting your client know your time is precious without lifting a finger.
Immediately after I began screening my calls I saw my own productivity explode, and I also got more value out of real life conversations instead of burning out after an over-chatty client call. Gatekeepers are worth twice what you invest.
2. Stop checking your email.
Just stop. Put down the phone, and step away from the screen. Get someone else to do it for you (see number 1) or schedule half hour slots into your work week (not work day). Respond to emails in order of priority, to make sure you take care of vital matters first and cut down on irrelevant exchanges.
In my case, I got my team to monitor my inbox and flag up anything that needed my immediate attention. It freed up 15 hours of my work week - what else could you accomplish in that time? How much could you grow your business? The answer could be worth millions.
3. Make a To-Do list, and stick with it.
Discipline is the core of time management. As luck would have it, self-discipline becomes easier when you free up your time and your focus. So, when I started to delegate more and my schedule began to clear, for the first time in my life I actually managed to cross everything off a To-Do list. Doing less allowed me to do more.
When your time is optimised, you see what’s important rise to the top: high-concept core tasks which can be explained in three or four words on a Post-It. As it turns out, those are the ones you need to focus on as a leader and a business owner.
4. Eliminate face-to-face meetings.
There is nothing you can say in a meeting that can’t be said on a plane, in your living room or in your comfy home office. Meetings are perhaps one of the most stressful and unnecessary phenomenons of the business world, and when I went cold turkey people were appalled. As it turns out, my physical presence was not required as much as anyone thought - if I had messages, I could pre-record them. If I absolutely had to input, I could do so via Skype, and if I just wanted to know what was happening I got a member of my team to go along and take notes.
Having no meetings freed up my time to take care of running my business, improved my mental and physical health, and reduced the number of meetings in my company overall - which as you could probably guess, went down pretty well with everyone else.
Time management boils down to three steps: focus, prioritise, delegate. You need to have your business’s short and long term plan nailed down to complete tasks in the best order, and have a world-class team behind you to take care of the paperwork. I built my multi-million dollar company on a foundation of time management - I believe the only productivity ‘hack’ you’ll ever need is a to-do list. Let go of your task-crowding mindset - the results may surprise you.