Mastering Time Management: Prioritizing Your Energy as a Founder
As a founder, your time is precious, and all of your energy needs to be channeled into getting your business off the ground. But with so much responsibility, you might feel like you're being pulled in a hundred directions at once. Your business can’t grow if your time is being sucked up by things that don’t matter, so ruthless prioritization is key.
To learn more about how founders can effectively manage their time, we sat down with Nick Herinckx, CEO of Bluefield. As a CEO coach, Nick has helped hundreds of founders navigate scaling pains, showing them how to reclaim their schedules so they can focus on driving their business forward.
The less-obvious benefits of time management
Many of the advantages of optimizing your schedule are self-evident - you’ll have more time for what really matters, and can apply yourself to the task at hand rather than trying to spin multiple plates. But there are also other, more underrated benefits of good time management:
1. It empowers your team to step up
Understandably, many founders want the final say on everything, but in practice this can mean they waste time double-checking their team’s output. If you take a step back and focus on the tasks only you can do, your team will take care of the rest - after all, it’s what you hired them for. Granting your team this independence will help them become more competent and build their expertise, which in turn means you’ll have less on your plate.
2. You’ll gain confidence and respect
Many first-time CEOs struggle with impostor syndrome, and feeling like you’re being stretched too thin and falling behind will only make this feeling worse. Once you take back control of your time, and are free to concentrate solely on executive level tasks, you’ll naturally start to gain confidence and feel like more of a leader.
Others’ perception of you will also start to shift, because appearing calm and collected tells people you know what you’re doing. This builds trust and credibility, which can go a long way in attracting prospective investors and customers.
Five ways to master time management
1. Shift your mindset
When you're taking on too much and struggling to balance your workload, it’s because you’re lying to yourself about your actual capacity. You're also not being honest to people on your team and external partners about where your priorities are, and about the distribution of work at your company. Understanding the dishonesty inherent to losing control of your time is a key first step to managing your time better.
2. Track your time
In order to evaluate how you're spending your time, the first thing you’ll need to do is measure it. Unless you’re actually monitoring how your workday is spent, it’s likely that your idea of where your time goes barely correlates with reality. Track your time like a lawyer to get hard data on how you're using it - there are plenty of free tools out there to help you do so, and you’ll probably be surprised by the results.
Beyond just tracking it, you can divide your time into categories for additional insight into where it’s being used. One category that could prove interesting to add up is interruptions - the hours where you’ve been pulled away from the work that is actually beneficial to your business.
3. Block out your time
One way to plan your day effectively is to group your tasks together and block out time in your calendar to carry them out. For example, a block for deep, focused work and a block for more administrative tasks like replying to emails. This comes with a downside, though, which is that you can’t predict what you’ll be in the mood for ahead of time, and external factors beyond your control might throw you off track. Get comfortable with moving your blocks around when needed, and trust that everything will get done.
To supercharge your productivity, you can combine this tactic with the Eisenhower Matrix. Start by deciding how urgent and important the items on your to-do list are. If a piece of work is:
- Urgent and important, do it now
- Urgent but not important, delegate it
- Not urgent but important, schedule it
- Not urgent and not important, eliminate it
By categorizing your tasks in this way, the only thing you’ll really need to schedule is a block for the work that is important, but not urgent. That’s where your long-term success is going to come from.
4. Get better at delegating
Stop doing your team’s job for them. Relook at the structure of your organization and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of everyone in your team, including you. Have these job descriptions written out or committed to memory, so that when someone asks you to do something that doesn’t fall under your purview, you can stop yourself. Schedule regular, specific conversations about workload to keep these responsibilities at the forefront of people’s minds and hold your team accountable.
5. Implement office hours
Allocate a time specifically for your team to come to you for questions or clarifications. Let your staff know when they should get your input on a decision, and what constitutes an emergency - anything else, they can handle themselves or speak about during office hours. For teams which are partly or fully remote, this can be especially helpful to stop the constant, disruptive drip of messages over Slack by encouraging productive dialogue in a constrained time window.
To implement office hours, you’ll need to learn how to say no, which is a major component of successful time management. People might get annoyed in the moment, but as long as you’re delivering on the important things, they’ll appreciate your assertiveness. By politely holding your boundaries, you’ll feel more like a CEO and be able to push the ball forward a lot faster.
Nick Herinckx is the founder and CEO of Bluefield, a 3-time fastest-growing CEO, repeat founder, angel investor and private coach for CEOs working to scale their business. His passion is helping leaders successfully scale their business beyond themselves and realize their full potential, all without sacrificing personal fulfillment along the way.