You may want a bigger company, larger prominence or more customers, but the closer you get to your goal, the more conscious you have to be about managing the business of your business. Time is perhaps your most important commodity. Without mastering time, any progress you have will be short lived. There is a reason why Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and other well-known leaders say "No" way more than they say "Yes".
There are three smart ways to maximize your time every day.
Set your intention with every chunk of time
If you don't plan your life, then life will plan it for you. Gaps in your schedule will naturally be filled with other people's needs, random detours and wasted pursuits. You may be fine with that, but this isn't the route you need to take if you're going to make any impact on the world.
Nir Eyal talks about this issue in his new book, Indistractable. Eyal recently shared with me why Slack employees don't seem to be distracted by their own tool.
In Indistractable, Eyal talks about being OK with wasting time. The real issue comes when we don't actually decide to waste time. It is trouble when wasted time "just happens."
For instance, I may decide to take a nap this afternoon - an actual daily practice of mine. However, I schedule in the nap just like a dentist appointment: No meetings are set at that time, I plan on doing it for a set time and I make sure a priority doesn't conflict with my intention. This is vastly different than me randomly dozing off at the computer or staring off into space when I'm on deadline.
Figure out how you spend your time
The average American spends about 90 minutes a day watching television. You don't want to know how much time is spent on social media.
The rub isn't that we decided to spend this time in often passive activities, but that most of us didn't choose. We just do. We aren't even aware of how much time we spend consuming rather than creating.
Time management expert Laura Vanderkam talks about tracking your time. Try it for a day: On an spreadsheet, break down your day into half hour pieces. How are you spending that time? It helps if you fill out the action as soon as it is done.
You will likely be amazed at the time you spent looking at your phone, struggling with a simple tech problem or even working well past your office hours. The point isn't to shame yourself into change, but rather to make you conscious of how you spend your time.
Accept that you can never catch up time
Feeling like you're on the verge of burning out? In working as a coach, I find most people are stressed because they are trying to make up for something in the past rather than building something in the future. We're trying to "catch up" on lost time. The problem is that you can't catch up on lost time. It's gone.
Worse, working twice as hard now to make up for the past makes you more susceptible to overwork, mistakes and fatigue.
Instead, value the next steps and treat them as precious as they are. Artist Tim Urban has an awesome take on the passage of time:
I'm 34, so let's be super optimistic and say I'll be hanging around drawing stick figures till I'm 90. If so, I have a little under 60 winters left... I read about five books a year, so even though it feels like I'll read an endless number of books in the future, I actually have to choose only 300 of all the books out there to read and accept that I'll sign off for eternity without knowing what goes on in all the rest.
This fact isn't anything to be sad about. If you're reading this, then you still have time left. If anything, use your misused time as a reminder of how you want to be present today.