When building a business, there's an oft-repeated maxim that "it's all about the hustle." Many entrepreneurs take that to mean that everything to do with their business has a "life or death" urgency to it. No matter what your business, if you've got any sort of administration as part of your job responsibility, you need to start thinking differently about your role.

The 24/7/365 schedule is unsustainable. It's really dangerous to assume that what is urgent for you must have the same importance for everyone else. This feeds into the same sort of anxiety feedback loop that is associated with social media addiction. Unfortunately, that's not the only downside -- by spending all your time hyper-focused on every aspect of their business, you tend to lose a grasp of the big picture.

While I was working on my first startup, I was intently focused on providing the best customer experience possible. I was up late every night and worked on weekends. There wasn't a moment that I didn't spend thinking about how to make a better product.

Unfortunately, while I was making an awesome product, while I was down in the weeds with my customers I failed to notice that the economy had shifted -- and there was no longer a market for what I was selling. It was a multi-million-dollar mistake.

This is especially prevalent for solopreneurs. When you don't have a team, and you're doing all the work yourself, then you may not feel you have the luxury of stepping out of the weeds to see things from above.

Here are a few suggestions to help you clear a path:

1. Remove any daily scrum.

If you have a small team, daily standups are huge time sinks. They're useless: You should already know what each other are doing, and if you don't, you have bigger problems.

Instead, try to capture the information wanted by having your team use iDoneThis or Suttna. Set up a Slack channel for people to communicate in real-time and share information. Your daily scrum can be replaced with a daily digest for everyone on your team.

Even if it's just you right now, this exercise is still useful to track over time, especially for when you eventually hire new people. Anyone who cares to will be able to comment. Or not.

2. Stop the meeting madness.

Elon Musk has a theory that if you find a meeting unproductive, you should walk out. To that end, I suggest you have only one required weekly team meeting.

It should be no longer than one hour, with a set agenda. Make sure you all stick to the agenda, and don't waste time on giving updates -- only use the time for discussing things need input from other people.

Talk about what needs to be done this week and by whom. If there are any bubbling issues, bring them up here. Now's your time. At my company TWIP, we have one team meeting at the same time each week with a set agenda, and it works well for keeping us all on the same page.

3. Set "block hours."

Have specific hours where people can contact you. If anyone tries to interrupt you outside of those hours, ask them if it is an emergency, and if it isn't, refer them to your office hours. For myself, I set up blocks of time for phone meetings, in-person meetings, and leave the rest for dedicated work, with my phone and computer set in do-not-disturb.

4. Be polite, but firm.

Putting these rules in place doesn't always go smoothly, especially if you are on a team with people who don't have the same understanding of time management. Be clear about your definition of what is urgent, what is an emergency, and what is worth being interrupted for.

At Evernote, an open office floorplan, I had a simple rule for my team. If my headphones were on, I was busy. If my headphones were off, they could interrupt me. As a point, I didn't have my headphones on often, so they were encouraged to ask questions frequently.

With these simple rules you should hopefully be able to take back a little bit of your time -- and sanity.

Published on: Apr 27, 2019
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