I'm asked all the time how I juggle running a nearly $100 million company along with also having time for my wife and six kids at home. Looking back a few years, it was a question I dreaded because I wasn't exactly doing the best job juggling everything.
After coming to the realization I had to do better (after some not-so-subtle prodding from the family and my co-workers), I decided to get to work. The only way to effectively juggle everything was to get smarter about my time and how I was using it. That meant taking inventory of everything, and making some painful decisions about what was really important on a day-to-day basis.
It wasn't an easy undertaking, but making it out the other side is incredibly rewarding. For entrepreneurs struggling to reclaim their lives, here are five daily habits that will help get you across the finish line. Just keep in mind that even with these tips, the struggle never goes away. It's always a constant battle, but these tips will definitely help smooth out the bumps along the way.
1. Control your calendar
Entrepreneurs (and any professional, really) need to create rhythm with their calendar. If you don't, you'll never shake that chaotic feeling of constantly running (usually behind) from one appointment to the next.
Consistent planning ensures you have as few surprises and unscheduled activities as possible. In addition, calendar consistency not only helps you manage your professional time, but it can also be used within your own family. Like a family financial budget, schedule time to review your family calendar on a regular basis to coordinate your busy schedules and plan quality time together. Lock in time and don't stray from it.
2. Just say no
Instead of making daily "to-do" lists, shift that way of thinking and make a list of things you're simply not going to do anymore.
If you develop a list of tasks you must say "no" to, it will help you refine what activities go (and do not go) into your calendar. For example, do you need to have a lunch meeting every day? Doubtful.
If you create your "no" list, you'll soon find that there's less wasted time in your calendar each day and more time to say "yes" to other, more important priorities. Remember, every time you say yes to something of low priority, you're taking time away from something of higher priority.
3. Get your priorities straight
Prioritization is one the most important aspects to successfully managing your time. If you don't know what's most important to you, how can you set aside the appropriate time for it?
Discipline yourself to take care of higher priority issues first and then work on issues of lower priority. If you find you're agonizing over managing your time, think about how you can better prioritize your calendar.
I often reply to people asking to meet for coffee or lunch to imagine we actually met. I then ask them what their "ask" would be at the end of that meeting. This allows me to save more time for the people on my team and the things I need to make progress on while also allowing those wanting to meet to ask me for whatever it may be they need.
4. Be smart about delegating
If you find yourself drowning in email or taking phone calls, it's likely time to hire an assistant to help filter your flood of incoming communications. You can only fit so many hours into a day and so many appointments into your calendar. Delegating responsibilities and tasks helps you get more done in the same amount of time.
A word of caution: Executives often forget that delegation is a two-way street. The executive delegates to others, but he or she also needs to ensure that the staff being delegated to are prepared to properly respond to and execute on the tasks you give them.
5. Automate everything you can
Technology can be a savior when it comes to more effectively managing your time on a day-to-day basis. One example comes from Google, which features a "canned responses" template, which helps you easily reply to emails with pre-written text. Another small but effective way to save time is to have a pre-programmed conference call number in your phone so you don't have to hunt through email for those elusive dial-in numbers.
These little uses of technology take the thinking out of simple tasks so you can focus on big ticket items and bring more time into your day. With some smart planning and a commitment to staying focused, you can fit more--and more important items --into your day.