If you're like most of the startup CEOs I coach, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about leveraging your time, and wishing you had more of it. There are only 168 hours in a week, but there are simple habits you can adopt to get the most out of them.
1. Make quicker decisions.
When you start a business, you're faced with countless decisions. Should you hire this person for a critical position or keep looking? Is the product road map on the right track?
Although it's easy to react with uncertainty and try to get more data, the truth is being decisive is a key executive skill. Research shows you are perceived as a more effective leader when you make quicker decisions.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, agrees. "Most decisions should probably be made with somewhere around 70 percent of the information you wish you had," he wrote in his 2017 annual report. "If you wait for 90 percent, in most cases, you're probably being slow." And, he adds, "being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure."
Practice making small decisions based on incomplete data. Set strict deadlines when faced with a decision. Let your team know what you're doing, and that you might course-correct. If you do change your mind, remember to overcommunicate what caused you to do so. You may get more decisions wrong, but ultimately your company will move faster, which is the best way to ensure startup success.
2. Prepare for difficult moments.
Your day will always be filled with challenging meetings and calls, like when suppliers and customers take a tough negotiating stance. If you're surprised and act impulsively, you might escalate a situation without meaning to, or shut down and give in.
But if you plan for these moments, you will have a better shot at handling them more constructively. Think about your day or week ahead. I bet you can predict many interactions for upcoming meetings in advance. Who might challenge you? What might they say? What will you say in response?
Systematically planning for difficult interactions or tricky situations will let you respond skillfully in the moment rather than thinking of the perfect remark six hours later.
3. Schedule time to work on strategic projects.
When you're hiring a team member, closing a new customer, and trying to get through endless email all at the same time, it's hard to find time for the three-year vision and strategy or to revamp how you communicate to the team. And yet those are the highest-value things you can do as a CEO.
The best way to ensure you get long-term, deep-thinking projects done is to schedule them on your calendar, plan specifically what you will do in those time blocks, and work everything else around them.
Try these strategies to make the most of your time and ensure that you are prioritizing the most important things.