Why Entrepreneurs Need To Invent Their Own Time Management Systems

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Time ManagementThis is a guest post by Blog Mastermind graduate student, Francis Wade, who you may recognize as the time management expert with the Jamaican accent from his testimonial video. You can read about Francis and find more of his time management tips at his blog – http://2time-sys.com.

Managing your time = Managing your money

This simple equation has driven entrepreneurs from one time management class to another in search of tips that will transform them into ultra-productive professionals.

Most courses on time management run for two days, where you learn a new system of habits developed by someone who has invented a way to be more productive. The new system works so well for the inventor that he/she decides to package the approach into a detailed prescription to be followed by everyone.

The problem is, why should a time management system that works for the “expert” in their New York corporate world work for your internet business run out of your bedroom in Hawaii? You live a different life, with a need for flexible hours (i.e. midnight shifts included), and you don’t have the luxury of a secretary, IT support and real vacations away from email.

Plus there’s that habit that you have of taking a mid-afternoon nap… which you are sure helps you…to say nothing of the difference between the culture of Honolulu and Wall Street!

Instead of telling you to “follow me,” why can’t they tell you how to do something similar to what they did, so that you can also invent a time management system of your own? Did they follow some kind of method that you could use, and is there a process to follow, or were they just very smart or extremely lucky? You are a different animal, and you know that your habits are different from theirs, so why should you be expected to be successful following their system?

The fact is that most people who take time management courses have a hard time implementing a whole bunch of new, foreign habits all at once. Habits are hard to break, and the 101 new habits and 66 new tips in the new system they are learning are just impossible to learn overnight.

But, you give it a good try and it works – for a while – until the first crisis hits and you do what we all do — go back to what’s familiar. We feel bad, and we wonder how something that seemed so easy in class could be so hard to do in reality.

But in the back of our minds, we still want to be more productive and need to find a way to harness the insights that exist in all the programs out there… but who has time to attend them all?

The Solution

The solution is not to give up, but instead lies in taking charge of the problem. This we can do by owning up to the fact that our needs as entrepreneurs in our particular niche, in our geography, within our industry, are unique. Even our competitors can’t copy us because we are special in wanting to create a new business in the specific way that WE want to do it.

We need a time management system that is customized for us – not only for the next few months, but for years to come – ideally something that can grow and help us change our habits as our business expands. I know this well, as I am also an entrepreneur.

After 12 years in business in the U.S., I moved to live in Kingston and had to re-build my time management system for this brand new environment. I felt frustrated to see that no-one was offering this kind of help – all they had were canned systems that weren’t built with Jamaica in mind.

I had to take this journey myself, and in the process created a way for anyone to invent a time management system for themselves, with a little help. The best analogy I could think of was to consider my role as a (very) amateur cook.

When I come up with my own recipes (rarely!) I have to follow certain rules like “not mixing up the salt and sugar.”

I don’t want or need to hear that I must follow someone else’s recipe, like a slave, but I do know that I need to follow the fundamental design rules of cooking in order to make the dish turn out right.

A custom time management system is the same way. It doesn’t come from a catalog, and it can’t be copied from any other other person. But there are certain design rules that need to be followed.

How Top Entrepreneurs Design Time Management Systems

Three things are needed for a great design:

  1. A knowledge of some definitions
  2. An understanding of the fundamentals
  3. The willingness to test and re-test until something clicks

Some Definitions

Time demands – stuff we have to do. They all start with internal decisions in which we choose to act in a way that consumes time.

Fundamentals – all expertise starts with the practice and mastery of some key fundamentals and this is easy to see in the sporting world. Imagine trying to be a top golfer or basketball player without a commitment to practice the fundamentals to perfection. “Cool tips” are MUCH less important than fundamentals!

Peace of Mind – all time management systems are designed to produce this goal, otherwise they are simply useless.

The Fundamentals of Time Management

There are 11 fundamentals to be found in all complete time management systems. When any of of them is missing, it’s likely that a time management system will simply fall apart, destroying our peace of mind.

(Note that each of these are practices to be perfected by doing them over and over again, looking for small improvements. Imagine Michael Jordan sinking hundreds of free-throws, by himself, on a court – looking for small improvements.)

1. Capturing: placing time demands in reliable places for temporary storage, using as few places as possible, and never using one’s memory! These “reliable places” are called capture points.

2. Emptying: moving time demands from capture points into other parts of the system frequently.

3. Tossing: deciding not to do certain items that don’t make sense, after further consideration.

4. Acting Now: immediately executing time demands that can be completed within 5 minutes.

5. Storing: placing information that needs to be used later in a safe place (such as a filing cabinet or Outlook folder).

6. Scheduling: deploying time demands into a calendar as a set of appointments.

7. Listing: sorting numerous time demands into lists that are too detailed to be scheduled in a calendar (e.g. a grocery list).

8. Interrupting: using physical or audible reminders to stop working on a task.

9. Switching: deciding which task to do next.

10. Warning: sending a signal when the time management system is about to break for some reason.

11. Reviewing: checking over the time management system to figure out how to effect continuous improvement.

Each of these fundamentals can be broken up into levels of expertise (I use a martial arts belt system to show how the Capturing that a White belt does is very different from that of a Green belt, for example.) Each entrepreneur must decide for themselves how they should implement each fundamental, based on their current habits, the demands of their company, the plans they have for their business, etc.

With a baseline of today’s time management system is established, it’s easy to set up an improvement program that is made up of the progress that one wants to make in each fundamental.

Top coaches do this in sports all the time. Usain Bolt, who just broke three world records in the Olympics, had the same potential he has now when he was 16. When I saw him then here in Jamaica, his start was slow, his head would lean back and his feet were never straight. His coach developed a plan for all the fundamentals, and it took six years to correct them. Hard work on his habits produced the results we saw in Beijing – and no, it wasn’t the shoes!

Testing and Re-Testing

Unfortunately, not every improvement you try will actually work, and it’s crazy to try to change too many habits all at once.

Instead, it’s a better idea to focus on 2-3 new habits across ALL the fundamentals, and to schedule a date (e.g. in 30 days time) by when the habit should be ingrained. Then the entrepreneur can work on the next habit, and the next, and with a good enough plan they can continue to improve their time management system for as long as they want, and stop only when they are satisfied that it is working for them, for that moment.

Caveat: whenever there is a big life-change, such as the purchase of a new company or the arrival of a new baby, a time management system is likely to require an upgrade. At this point the entrepreneur goes back to the fundamentals, the same way Tiger Woods does from time to time, in order to craft a new system that fits the new reality.

This is how top entrepreneurs use their time management systems as a tool to assist them in their success. They can be flexible and focused, regardless of their life circumstances, and ensure that their time management and business results are giving them the peace of mind they want.

Entrepreneurs with mastery over their time management systems have found the keys to their success.

Francis Wade
Learn more about The 2Time Management System

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45 Comments

  • Great guest post! I am going to check out your blog.

  • I already do a couple of these 11, but not consistently. I tend to be re-active rather than pro-active which means I end up flitting from one thing to another as they turn up.

    But now I am getting busier with my web development day job and my almost ‘second’ life as a blogger – I know I must adopt some better techniques.

    A very ‘timely’ post for me ;)

    Ian

  • A useful post here. I think the tips mentioned will really benefit internet entrepreneurs. Often they are tasked with so many things to do and sometimes one can lose focus and do stuff that are meaningless causing time loss. I will implement the tips to help me gain that “extra hour” per day.

    Cheers
    Vincent
    Personal Development Blogger

  • Yaro,

    Thanks for the opportunity to be a guest-poster. I have enjoyed your blog since finding it last year and have enjoyed BlogMasterMind (and referred to some past lessons from the course on SEO just yesterday.)

    If anyone is wondering, that’s not what I look like (although I have felt like that from time to time!)

    Helping people to create, manage and master their own time management systems is a passion of mine — and putting all of us squarely in charge of this important part of our lives is more fun than it sounds — LOL

  • I definately need to manage my time much better. I am getting married in 5 DAYS!!! But when I get back I will start implementing solid goals and solid time management strategies for my entrepreneurs blog.
    Thanks for all the tips. Great post

    • Congrats!

      5 days huh… this is definitely not the time to work on a new time management system!!!

      I read someplace that the key to a successful marriage is to spend 15 hours a week with your spouse… when both of you are awake, not watching TV, can talk, can listen…

      I know this might sound easy to a newly-to-be-wed, but the people who have been married over 3 years often respond by saying “that’s impossible for me to do!”

      Big changes in life that come with a new job, wife, baby, promotion, project, business, relocation, etc. often require an examination of one’s time management system in order to deal with all the new stuff that comes along.

      In the first three years of marriage, I noticed that lots of stuff was falling through the cracks (and that my wife was very good at reminding me about the stuff I wasn’t doing. ) The key is to have a system that fits the circumstances, and to be willing to tweak or overhaul the current system right after the honeymoon is over. (Well, maybe not right after.)

  • Hey Yaro,
    I use gravatar.com for my avatar….how come it doesn’t work on your site. Is there another site I should use so it will appear?

    • Hi Ryan – My Avatars are powered by the myavatars plugin, which takes the images from the mybloglog blogging community.

  • Luckily, I do not have any problems managing my time. In my case, it seems to me that perhaps it is because I do much less than most people now a days seem to want to. For instance, social networks, twitter etc!

  • Great post Francis! I find that I have to break things down into a daily list and use whiteboards to line out my main focuses.

    I enjoyed how you broke down each step and compared it to athletic training–training is training no matter what the category is. I find that the more you practice the better you become and the more things become second nature.

  • This is a great post. I have always found that almost all of the time management systems focus mainly handling everything. I have found that one of the most beneficial things to do first is purge the things that just aren’t necessary.

    Your advice is practical, thanks…

    David J. Parnell | Communication Expert

  • Good post. Yeah time management is key. I usually take a little bit of this, and a little bit of that from popular time management systems.

  • Great Post, the descriptions of your fundamental are brief with enough information for us to develop to our own system. Thanks for the great direction, I’m sure it will be put to good use by a lot of readers

    Gary McElwain

  • I’m glad to see that you advocate waiting 30 days for something new to become ingrained – It really does take that long to become ’2nd nature’. While I’m sure there are few people that might be able to really make it work sooner, waiting 30 days will really make the new techniques stick.

    Great post!

  • Thanks Francis. I think i do a few of the 11 already- but it’s time to re-evaluate. I need to see how I can start doing the things I’m not doing…to be more efficient.

    • I do triathlons and when I get coached in swimming, I am always amazed at how much the coach can see that I can’t see for myself!

      But when I do see it their way, watch out … that’s when I can start improving rapidly.

      As you re-evaluate, you can use “the 11″ as a basis for strengthening your own system… while keeping in mind that it’s _your_ system that you are creating and managing!! (versus someone else’s that you are trying your best to follow.)

  • As Entrepreneurs, we MUST control our time because that’s why we are who we are in the first place. We don’t want to be controlled by anyone or anything and live by our own rules. Our success depends on how well we ignore distractions and work on the things that actually allow us to ACHIEVE our goals.

    If we lose any of our precious time to non-productive tasks, we lose ourselves.

  • In the current economic climate time management is so much more important. Cutting costs where ever you can will ensure that your business will survive. It’s not about doing things quickly, it’s about doing things efficiently.

  • Great post! As a Virtual Assistant working from home I’ve found that the usual cookie-cutter time management systems really don’t work for me. Throw in raising a family of five kids into the mix and you really can’t find anything that works! I love the idea of developing my own.

    • Marta,

      Funny enough — yesterday I actually found a site that addressed time management for type-a-moms. http://typemom.net

      They have an article on time management for busy moms, which I think would be quite different from time management for, let’s say, professional athletes, or bloggers, or surgeons.

      Unfortunately, there will never be a book on time management for each profession — the best bet is for each person to do what you are doing and to take charge of creating their own system, using all the inputs they can find.

  • I’m another one who needs to manage their time a lot better, cause there’s times were I don’t get anything done, and times when I can get a few things done!…

    So a fantastic post, that almost kicks me in the butt and tells me to start managing my time effectively! :D

    I do do a few things on that list, but definately not how they should be done. Have you seen my filing system, well you’d probably not want to see it then. It’s that bad, paper all over the place, sometimes doing nothing! (Opps!)

    Thanks
    Mark

    • Mark,

      You are in fine company! Most of us have challenges with too much paper.

      The question I ask myself is “What do I need to change to do “Storing” in the way that I want?” Creating my own version of “Storing” has led me to some pretty unique practices that I wouldn’t recommend to others…. but, they work for me in my time management system, and that’s the main point.

  • I too am in need of time management, It sounds so easy to set aside x number of hours to work on a project, but it is harder than one might think.
    I bookmarked this post for reference. Thank for the great post

  • My daily to-do list was all over the place, to be honest there was no list. Now I manage everything according to time etc, it has enabled me to do much more in a smaller amount of time. Great post Yaro as usual

  • I really like this time management post. I just did a training on Time Managment for a network marketing company. You have opened my eyes to some areas that I have may not informed them on. Thanks

  • Well written post. As a entrepreneur I can relate, there are just so many things to do that the standard 18 hour day is just not enough.

  • Each type of entrepreneur may have their own system to organize the use of their time because their time is being spent in ways that are specific to their profession. A professional piano player may have three hour practice blocks during the day, with musical reading as a break between the blocks. A graphic designer, on the other hand, might be better off designing in 20 minute blocks, with segments of the day off limits for graphic design work.

  • Wise counsel:

    “it’s a better idea to focus on 2-3 new habits across ALL the fundamentals, and to schedule a date (e.g. in 30 days time) by when the habit should be ingrained. Then the entrepreneur can work on the next habit”

    Also, when it comes to time management, I like Tim Ferriss’ ideas on simply focusing on what really matters and simply eliminating a lot of what doesn’t.

  • Francis,

    While it’s hardly for me to ‘breath easily’, with the pressing issues in my work and business (not mentioning blogging), finding what clicks in managing my time is key to everything.

    Cheers!

  • I think the biggest factor in time management for most people is laziness.

    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

    It’ll take you farther than you ever dreamed of.

    • Well said Steven, I will do it later, can turn into a big list quickly and all of a sudden nothing gets done. Do it now, finished.

  • If you are to use any time management softwares to capture and organize time management the digital way which softwares would you recommend?

  • I agree time mangement is very useful and if there was a program out there it would be very helpful to use

  • I think I have a medical condition which makes me immune to time management :P I’m all over the place, all the time. I’ll try the 11 tips but unless one of them is “handcuff yourself to your desk”, I think it will be tough.

    • I have a suggestion that might overcome the immunity!

      Instead of seeing the 11 fundamentals as tips, see them as habits to learn.

      Then, don’t try to learn more than new 1-2 habits at a time. If you check my site, you’ll find some coaching I give based on the latest research done with addicts on how to create new habits that stick.

      Most people fail by trying to change too many habits too quickly. It took you years to learn the ones you are using, and it may take months to train yourself to do things differently, so give yourself a break and make it easy for yourself.

      That might take away the need for the handcuffs!

  • Hi,

    great post on time management and what to do or do not. Personally I’ve discovered that speed-reading is a huge time saver too. Just being able to read 1000 o2 2000 words a minute is a great way to read trough huge piles of articles, papers etc.

    First as was really sceptical about being able to read so fast and still being able to remember things I’ve read. But after attending two or three training sessions and keeping up with this technique, I’m able to see I’ve joined the league of fast reading people. And o boy, what a time saver this is.

    Enjoy.

    George Purdy, speed-reading enthusiast

  • Very interesting post and something i can definetly relate to. There just isnt enougth hours in the day i find. Sometimes i stay up too late to make my days longer but that then effects my next day. So early rise early to bed is my key.

  • Thanks so much for your post! I often feel like I must be the one lost soul who can’t keep up with these systems people try to teach us. Esp. because I seem to be better at keeping paper lists than electronic ones.

    I’m definitely checking out your website and your ChangeThis manifesto to see if I can just create something that works for ME–not some type-A super-organized person who rarely needs the flexibility to turn on a dime when opportunities arise.

    Tracy

  • Francis, great post and thank you for taking the time to share all that with us. I’m really bad with time management and I’ve to get better with that. I definitely gonna work on that and I’ll checking out your blog.

    Daniel

  • I physically shuddered when I saw the title of this article!! My time management skills hae always, to say the least, been less than satisfactory!!
    Nevertheless, a great piece, which ahs given me quite a bit to think about.. Thanks

  • I believe time management is not necessary, if you are a self driven entrepreneur, as you will constantly be doing what is high in your priority list.

    It may be necessary for people that do to much of one thing more than others, ie, SEO more than blogging, or monetizing their sites for more profit rather than researching.

    Time management is necessary for gaming entrepreneurs, as you lose track of time when gaming. ;)

  • Great precision and a useful set of concepts.

    I like how they collectively support each other and many echo the practices I’ve learned from the project management and software engineering domains.

  • Time management became a real issue for me when I started work from home. Constantly getting distracted by emails, surfing etc. I found producing myself a daily work schedule helped wonders and made myself stick with it. Some great points.

    Chris

  • Hi there, I’m doing a project on time management for medschool and I was hoping you could give me permission to use that cool photo of the frazzled dude between the two clocks! I love it! It’s totally not for profit and just for our first years to learn how to manage their time from day one. I’d really appreciate your help.

    Thanks
    pinksushi

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