Time Management Secrets Every Entrepreneur Should Know

By Dr. Mani
37 Comments

At a recent college reunion, twenty-five years after we first entered medical school, I met many old classmates and re-learned one important lesson.

Being Time Efficient Is HIGHLY Profitable!

One theme kept popping up over and over again in our conversations.

“Our kids rarely get to see their dad, he’s so busy!”

“I go to work at 6 a.m. and get back around 7 in the evening!”

“My son WON’T be a doctor – because he sees how crazy our schedule is!”

And invariably, the next question is: “As a heart surgeon, you must be working very long hours, right?”

They were all surprised when I said my average ‘work day’ at the hospital is 2 hours – except when I’m operating, when it is 7 hours (or longer, depending upon how complex the surgery is).

How do I manage this? How do I have so much “free time” when everyone else has “No Time”? How am I juggling so many exciting projects in ADDITION to my regular work?

It’s really quite simple. Let me explain.

Too often, we struggle, rush and get stressed because we don’t know what we want.

Oh, you probably do in a very general, broad way.

“I want to be rich.”
“I want to be fit and healthy.”
“I want more family time.”
“I want to travel the world.”
“I want to help charities.”

But that won’t do. You need to first get specific. Very specific.

And then, you’ve got to identify the best way to achieve those goals.

Now, this may not be a quick fifteen minute exercise. It could take days, even weeks or months before you discover what you really want and come up with a workable plan, before you can set out to get it.

It is time well spent (or rather, invested) – because those plans and action steps will guide you towards the highest and best use of your limited time.

In essence, the powerful time management secrets boil down to four different things.

1. Prioritize

We all have a ‘to do’ list. Some of us have it written down. Others carry it in our head. But for most of us, it is pretty long. And often, we’re stressed about how we can’t get through it…before it grows even longer with new things to do.

The trouble is, we don’t accept the reality that our ‘to do’ list is never going to be ‘done’. As best-selling author Richard Carlson says in his book, “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”, you’re going to die with your in-tray full. The key is to get used to that idea and decide which of the many things clamoring for your attention are going to get done!

Setting priorities can be a tough task. Without a clear idea of what you want to do, where you want to get, how quickly you want to reach your goals, and what your biggest dreams are, you will find it practically impossible to decide which tasks to work on.

But once you’ve attained clarity on your goals, it is much simpler to pick and choose the things to pay attention to. All it takes is the answer to a question: “Is this taking me closer to my goals?” Whenever the answer is ‘No’, you know it is NOT a priority.

2. Focus

Setting priorities is the first task. Once you know what matters most, the next critical thing is to focus on getting it done.

It is far more common to see ourselves fluttering from one crisis to another, in constant ‘fire-fighting mode’, putting out one conflagration after another – busy until we retire to bed, tired and worn out, only to awaken the next morning to a repeat of the previous day’s sequence.

Not surprisingly, whenever we review progress after an interval, we find we’re nowhere closer to our goals than a few months (or years) back!

That’s disturbing – and depressing. The solution is to remain focused on what we’re doing, ignoring other distractions and drama, pushing aside the less important jobs until the important ones are finished.

Brian Tracy’s excellent short book, “Eat That Frog”, uses a powerful analogy to showcase the benefits of turning your attention towards the single most important task on your list every morning – and not letting go until it is completed. That’s an approach I can vouch for, as I follow it myself. Very rarely do I allow something to distract me from the three important things I set out to finish every day.

The benefits that come by way of a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction of moving towards the goals you set for yourself will energize and inspire you to keep going the next day, and then the next – until, before you even realize it, you’ve made substantial progress towards hitting your targets.

3. Be Organized

Creativity thrives on chaos. At least, that’s what I tell myself whenever I glance at the cluttered mess that’s my desktop!

But while that may well be true, it is hard to argue with the benefits of being organized. Even amidst my clutter, I know exactly where every important piece of information, every tool, every file, every document, and every contact number is located – and have arranged things in a way that I can lay my hands on them with little disturbance or delay.

This means that work on a project can proceed smoothly and quickly. In the past, I would waste hours searching for my notes, or hunting for a pencil, or moving around the office to access things I needed. It did take a period of planning and thought to set things up, but at a conservative estimate it has saved me a few hours every week in wasted effort…making it well worth the time invested into the organization.

Sadly, being organized is not a one-time effort. You will find yourself needing to stay on top of things, filing and sorting stuff periodically, and steadily revising and improving and tweaking your arrangement to fit your changing needs. But once it becomes a habit, you’ll just keep doing it automatically – and enjoy the advantages of an organized work space.

4. Effectiveness Trumps Efficiency

This final point is very important. Too many guides on the subject of time management focus on being efficient. But mere efficiency will not help you get closer to your goals. It matters more that you are effective.

What’s the difference? Efficiency is getting things done in a more streamlined manner. Faster. With less effort. In a better way.

Surely that’s a good thing?

Yes, it is. But let me explain with an example. Let’s say you’re very good at climbing up a tall ladder, and can reach the top of it very quickly and with little effort. Will that skill help you – if the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall?!

Even if you’re slower at climbing it, if the ladder is against the right wall, you’ll eventually get to where you want to be. It is more important that you are doing the right things, than doing whatever you are doing more efficiently.

That’s where the initial exercise of knowing exactly what you want, and devising a plan to get there, becomes so crucial. Effective action will take you closer to where you want to be. Efficiency in that action will help you get there sooner, easier, and at lesser expense.

I understand that this outline seems broad and general. But the principles are powerful and you can adapt them to your own circumstances, however varied they may be. There are specific things to do at each stage and they will depend upon you, your work, your goals and several other factors.

Recently, I wrote a short 20-page report titled “No Time? Read This!” which goes a little deeper into the four steps I outlined above. The ebook sold for $27 – but if you would like a copy, you can download it for free from this link for a limited time.

If you have any favorite techniques of your own to manage time better or enhance your effectiveness, please share them in the comments below. There are bound to be some amazing ideas that crop up in discussions about this vital subject, and what you share might benefit hundreds of entrepreneurs like you who are struggling to fit everything into their over-crowded 24 hour day!

Dr. Mani

About Dr. Mani

Dr.Mani is actively engaged in spreading awareness about congenital heart disease (CHD) and fundraising to sponsor heart surgery for under-privileged children in India.

An ardent group of volunteers and donors have embraced this noble purpose that is bigger than any individual or group, and grown it into a global movement that has touched and saved the lives of 87 little children. You can help too. Learn how at http://www.DrMani.com

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37 Comments

  • Nice presell Dr. Mani! My weak point is focus once I apply my skills I’m very proficient and effective.

    White comment sniper singing off.

    Rock, Rock till you drop
    Rock, Rock never stop…

    Def Leppard makes me deaf and gives me spots. I must be sick. Dr. can you help me? :)

    • “Pre-sell”, Dennis? Nothing’s for sale :lol: Focus *is* tough (and used to be my weak spot, too!)

      As for the Def Leppard issue, I hear you. Unfortunately, the ‘treatment’ is out of my area of medical specialty (I’m a pediatric heart surgeon) ;-)

      Dr.Mani

  • The last point is a good one. You can efficiently do a ton of things that don’t get you any results, or you can do just the things that are effective, thus making your productivity more valuable!

    • I’m with Kristi on this one.
      Good tips, especially that last one

    • It’s that good old 80-20 rule at play – 80% of the results you seek come from 20% of the things you do. The key lies in identifying the right 20% – and focus in on it. :-)

  • Being organize is the best thing you can do because it gets you on track and you know exactly how to tackle your day..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • I am also one of those who whine because I always felt that I have so many things to do but have so little time. Now that I think about it, I lack prioritization. When you prioritize you actually get something done. It’s not all about crushing out all items in your list as fast as you can, it’s not a race after all, but learning to arrange the items starting off with the most important to the least.

    Thanks for sharing this. Very insightful.

    • I’m with you. For YEARS, I struggled to catch up with my ‘to do’ list – and kept losing. Then, shifted to deciding to do a few things on it… and get ‘em done! Boy, was I more productive as a result! :-)

  • Dr. Mani thanks for this post. It’s really helpful for me to read this because I struggle with effective time management. I have very little extra time to blog and write so the time I do have needs to be used efficiently. However, more over often than not, I’m getting distracted by other things. I feel like I have the attention span of a 5 year old when I’m on the internet.

    • You, me, and who else? :-) Another thing, as a time-strapped writer, that you’ll benefit from is ‘content leverage’ – which is getting more value, benefit and exposure from the same amount of writing. A topic for a future article, perhaps?

  • I find that you MUST have a written to-do list. Actually its better to write out a full schedule that guides you through out the day with written out time limits.

    Time limits are important so you don’t stay on one task for too long.

    What do you think? Yes? No? Maybe so?

    • Maybe so. :-)

      For myself, I prefer a written list for long term goals, but with only 3 things to focus on a daily basis, I can (sometimes) do just as well carrying it around in my head!

  • Hey doc good post, time management is really important because its what differentiate from a successful and not successful person.

    • Fazal, I prefer to think of them as not YET successful people :-)

      And yes, it’s not about what you’ve got – it’s about what you do with it!

  • It really is beneficial to prioritize out time better. We all have 24 hours in a day but how we use it is up to us.

  • I love how you presented the four elements to make time management as easy as it can be. Thanks Dr. Mani it is surely a great help. :)

  • Jan

    Dr. Mani, good point: ToDo lists never get complety empty – one should realize that and focus on priorities.

    Jan

    • Realize – and then accept, Jan. That’s the hard part (at least for me). We all like to think that with just a little more effort, we’ll wipe that ‘to do list’ slate clean – but we don’t, do we? :-)

  • Time management is something so many people struggle with and really does affect quality of life. I’ve been like those people at your reunion never had enough time for anything but work.

    And as you pointed out it’s definitely something that with a few simple steps you can radically change your life. I came across this time management action challenge thing which goes for 14 days and talks about the same things you mention in your post. I found it really great! There were a bunch of things like setting a goal and working out how to prioritize that I’d never really done properly before. As soon as I knew how to do it, I made it happen and then suddenly I had all this time one day at work and it wasn’t even as if I had less work. It all just got done and I got to go home early.

    For anyone reading this blog post. Listen to Dr Mani and do what you can to do what he tells you here. It will change your life.

    • Amy, it was very much like that for me. Afterwards, you see how simple and easy it can be. But before then, wow… it seems impossible, eh? :-)

  • MG

    Great article Dr. Mani! I believe time management is key with anything you do in life. It’s not just for entrepreneurs, I think everyone can benefit from it.

  • Very deep and useful article Dr. Mani.

    We all have the same time a day, being organized is not an option is discipline we should train every day if we want more time to do the things we want to do.
    .

  • Good article Doc ! As always very inspiring ! For me I schedule the most important stuff for the mornings till the first half and do the less important ones for the evenings. And you know late nights are the best for writing important articles as well as learning new things when there is no distraction or disturbing noises around.

  • Thank you very much for a such good article, Dr. Mani!

  • Once I started blogging, I knew I would need some sort of schedule to stick to at first, or at least until I found out what where my best times for maintaining my blogs. I actually do still refer to my schedule to help keep me on track when I don’t know what to do next. It keeps me focused and moving forward, and I actually see results from being scheduledly oriented, at least for the moment!

    Thanks,

  • Great article. I know so many people, not to mention myself, that have the same goals and face the same obstacles. I was curious to see what your solution was. The concept of ‘Effectiveness Trumps Efficiency’ is very important – you have to draw the line somewhere.

  • Great tips. Its all about being effective.

  • It’s very interesting to track our time in the course of a week and find out where we are really spending our energy. We may find, surprisingly, that we had hours for watching our favorite TV show, playing certain video games, or doing nothing at all! We can then take some of that time and direct it toward our most important priorities, once we’ve figured out what those are.

  • Great post. “Time management” is very important in ones life it is the key toward to success. Thanks for the share. Keep it up. Good job.!

  • That was a very good read. I just downloaded your ebook and it’s reading time. :)

  • Another great and informative article. These tips can really help me manage my time better.

    Thanks for sharing and give away for free this valuable ebook.

  • […] Time Management Secrets Every Entrepreneur Should Know (entrepreneurs-journey.com) […]

  • Joy

    Thanks Dr Mani,
    Time management is something I still struggle with, always have done. It is only now though, that as I am trying to build a business online as well as work part home plus run a home, that I really feel the need to kick it up a gear and get myself better organised.

    Some really great tips here for me to work on, especially # 4.

    Cheers
    Joy

  • Definitely some great lessons here.

    Prioritise according to where you are going and then just focus your time. I eleminate 80% of things on my client’s to-do list using similar principles – they don’t believe it’s possible but it’s really not that hard! Take a good hard look at your list and see what you can knock-off before tomorrow.

    Cathy

  • […] In search of productivity, it’s important not to confuse being busy with being productive because, being very efficient at something unimportant is not productivity. For example: … say you’re very good at climbing up a tall ladder, and can reach the top of it very quickly and with little effort. Will that skill help you if the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall? Even if you’re slower at climbing it but the ladder is against the right wall, you’ll eventually get to where you want to be. (Dr. Mani) […]

  • […] matter how fast you put up a ladder if you don’t put it at the right place… (Dr. Mani) Related Posts:The flipside of productivityAre you being ridiculously productive?Leadership is not […]

  • Great tips – so true and so important!
    and I would add plan – if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!

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