When we first started out, we were wrestling with some problems on how to build our personal finance website, NerdWallet. I got some great advice from my friend Drew Houston (the founder of Dropbox).
“It’s okay to have growing pains, as long as you’re prioritising correctly and working to address them. Every company looks messy from the inside,” he told me.
Am I prioritising correctly? There’s the rub.
When I was working on Wall Street, prioritisation was dictated by the situation. Compared to growing your own business, prioritising on a trading floor is easy, because you’re always putting out fires but you know what the fires are. But knowing how to prioritise to ensure your business makes millions of rands in the next six months – that’s a more difficult task.
Here are some lessons I’ve learnt so far.
1. Beware the seduction of task-based lists.
The elements of prioritisation are simple: Know what tasks need to be done and rank them in order of priority. Stephen Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame suggested ranking tasks across four metrics: important/not important and urgent/not urgent.
Obviously, tasks both urgent and important go first, issues not important or not urgent go last, and the rest fall somewhere in between. You’ve got your list.
This is fine, but the process can create a false sense of satisfaction: If I cross everything off this list, will I have done my best work today?
This might work for middle managers at a mature company, but for an entrepreneur this can be a Sisyphean exercise in futility. You’re never going to finish that list and would waste time each day revising it on the fly.
Galia Kerbel, founder of award winning company Greater Than PR
“Earlier in my career I worked for Marcus Brewster, who mentored me. He followed the Eisenhower Decision Principle, which basically states that what is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important,” advises founder of award winning company Greater Than PR, Galia Kerbel.
“Urgent tasks need your immediate attention, put you into a reactive mode and narrow your mind-set. Important tasks contribute to a long-term vision and mission. Operating in this mode puts me into a responsive mind-set that helps me to spot opportunities.”
2. Focus solely on themes that will drive growth.
Of the 100 things that crowd the entrepreneurial mind as things you ‘need to do’, about 98 will incrementally improve your company – but two have the potential for exponential growth. Focus on those few, and the rest of your niggling worries will take care of themselves.
A better way to think of prioritisation is not tasks but themes. What are the two or three principal things that will drive growth? You really have to understand the key drivers of your business and anything that doesn’t move those drivers isn’t a high priority.
For example, in the early days of NerdWallet, a key driver was getting the most amount of web traffic in the least amount of time. That became a filter through which we sifted every task and decision. If it didn’t meet this metric, it wasn’t a priority.
3. Forget perfectionism.
Entrepreneurs are often Type A over-achievers. It’s really hard to let things go unfinished and not be perfect. But if you’re serious about prioritisation, you need to be able to drop something midstream to focus on another task that has greater potential to drive results.
It may feel counterintuitive, but in the rough-and-tumble drive to start a company, perfectionism can be a problem. You have to be willing to do things half way just to get more done with the higher chances to yield strong results. A big ask for high performers.
4. Do the hardest thing first.
Procrastination isn’t a species of laziness, it’s avoidance – and we naturally avoid things we don’t want to do. Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, once said that the first thing he does in the office each day is the task he dreads the most.
Whatever you don’t want to do, do it first, and it eliminates the nagging dread that will sap energy away from other tasks as you postpone the inevitable.
5. Don’t plug leaky boat holes — switch boats.
If you’re spending your time spreading your fingers and toes across leaks springing up through the hull of a business venture, you may wish you had more feet and hands to cover the deck. But maybe the real problem is the boat itself.
As NerdWallet co-founder Tim Chen puts it: “Don’t spend your time plugging a leaky boat, spend your time switching boats.” Time spent bailing is time taken away from adding more profitable vessels to your fleet.
Prioritisation pressure never goes away. If things are going well in your business, something will always seem on fire. If you’ve got things under control, that’s a big red flag – it’s a sign you’re doing what’s urgent, and not what’s important.
How to Calculate the True Monetary Value of Your Time
As an entrepreneur, your time is precious. To protect it, you must know exactly what it’s worth.
Do you know the value of your time? Ken Segall, creator of Apple’s famous ‘Think Different’ ad campaign for agency Chiat/Day, said he got thrown out of a meeting once by the founder of his agency, Jay Chiat.
“Why are you here?” he asked Segall and the art director, who’d shown up with everybody else. “We’re just responding to the invitation,” said Segall. Chiat told them to get lost. “Go create something,” he said.
Jay Chiat knew the value of his creative people’s time. He knew it wasn’t worth it for them to go into that meeting when they could be putting together the next big ad campaign. They were more valuable to the company doing the creative work that made it run than attending a meeting.
That’s what knowing the value of your time can do for you; it tells you what’s most important. Time is the one resource all of us have, but it’s also painfully finite in nature. You can’t bank it — all you can do is invest it wisely.
As an entrepreneur, if you don’t know the true monetary value of your time, how are you going to prioritise your business and your life? What does it take to find the monetary value of your time?
Invest your time
Be aware that your time is likely to appreciate in value. If you’re a founder or running a successful business, your time’s value will increase as your business does. Sooner or later, the monetary value of your time is going to surpass the importance of money. It’ll be more important for you to invest your time in moving the business forward because your time is going to be worth more. So, invest your time on process early, lest you spend it later putting out fires.
Crunch the numbers
Entrepreneur James Clear decided to approach this problem systematically — he talked to everyone from poker players to executive coaches to figure out what the optimal method of measuring his time’s value was.
Then, he sat down and tracked every hour for three months. The upshot of that time investment was a very clear process that you can use to lay out what your time is worth.
First, figure out the amount of time you spend to earn money. That’s not just time spent working. Are you commuting? That’s time you’re using towards work that’s not going elsewhere. School? That counts. Drop the kids off at school? Add it on.
If it’s related to the time you spend earning money, add it on. Clear’s estimate guesses that most full-time employees and entrepreneurs spend around 2 500 hours a year on this (his exact estimate for himself came out to 2 742).
Then, figure out how much you earn in take-home pay per year. That calculation should be pretty simple, though if you’re a business owner, it’ll be a little more complex as you figure out taxes and withholding.
Divide your total earnings by the hours you spend to earn it. That’s your time’s value.
Surprised? It’s probably lower than you expected, especially if you calculated the extra hours devoted to things like dropping of kids at school or commuting accurately. We don’t often think of our work value in terms of total hours spent.
Create a system of checks and balances
You don’t want to just rely on that, though. Maybe you’re being underpaid (or underpaying yourself, if you’re an entrepreneur — don’t laugh, it’s more common than you think). Maybe another factor is throwing it off, or your math has an error.
Consider a few other factors:
- What do other people make to do your job?
- What would you pay someone else to do your job?
- What could you make on the open market if you were to go find another job?
Run those numbers against each other to determine an average. For entrepreneurs, this changes everything. Once you understand this number, it’ll change the way you approach everything in your business and your life.
Know what your own time is worth. Remind yourself of it constantly. If you do, you’ll find yourself more productive, more efficient, more satisfied, and more successful.
So, what are you waiting for? Invest wisely.
(Infographic) 9 Productivity Mistakes You’re Making In The First 10 Minutes Of Your Day
From setting goals to drinking coffee, these bad morning habits might surprise you.
There are a number of things you’re probably doing every morning that are actually hindering your productivity.
If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you might be surprised to find out that drinking coffee between 8 and 10 a.m can make you more stressed throughout the day. That’s because caffeine early in the morning interferes with the time that the stress hormone, cortisol, is peaking in your body. It’s best to get your fix between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
When you get into the office and try to jump right into the top of your to-do list, you might find yourself confused and not very productive. When you don’t let your brain empty and refresh before starting a project or task, it loses a sense of control, becomes overwhelmed and ultimately, makes you less productive. Something else to avoid is checking email or social media right when you wake up. Typically, after checking your inbox, it takes a person at least 25 minutes to get back into a productive state. If you start your day off reading and responding to email after email, it will take you a long time to get back on track.
Another surprising mistake is setting self-imposed goals. Setting goals and deadlines for yourself might seem like an obvious productivity hack, but it turns out, that’s not the case. Instead, share your deadlines with others and you’ll feel more pressure and responsibility to get things done.
Check out resume.io’s infographic below for more productivity mistakes you’re likely making in the first 10 minutes of your day.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Workflow And Business Efficiency – 5 Strategies You Ignore At Your Peril
Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. You’re not still depending on email, are you?
An inefficient business can cost you a lot more than just growth – it can affect your revenue, too. According to a report by IDC, your business runs the risk of losing 20 to 30 percent of your revenue due to inefficient systems.
Unfortunately, many companies still struggle to implement the right systems to improve their workflow. Others have it worse, because they have no systems. In those situations, projects take ages to be completed, more time is spent on menial tasks and teams never seem to get enough done during work hours.
If that describes your company, your company’s profits may start to plummet, too.
Every successful business, then, has clearly defined systems to help the business run like clockwork. Improved workflow, better management and business efficiency save time, increase the bottom line and ensure a higher profit margin.
In fact, in an article on ContractZen, Tim Cummins, president of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management, wrote that, “The average corporation could boost its bottom line by almost 10 percent if it invested in improving the quality of contracting.
For many companies – especially those in more complex, project-based industries – the prize could be much higher – perhaps as much as 15 percent.”
Related: Become A Life-Hacker
Unfortunately, some companies fail to provide systems that put users first, taking a negative toll on those companies’ workflow and efficiency. The good news is that they’re only five strategies away from turning this around:
1. Automate all you can
From email lists, bookkeeping, invoicing and contract management, to social media posts and payrolls, almost everything can be automated. For a business that aims to be more efficient, automation is a must.
Automation doesn’t just save you time, it can be the one strategy that can guarantee explosive growth and higher conversion rates. According to this Lead Generation Marketing Effectiveness study, 63 percent of companies polled that were outgrowing their competitors said they had automated their marketing.
Automating monotonous tasks that have to be repeated several times during the day helps you be more productive in tasks that require your personal attention.
2. Invest in customer-relationship management software
It’s not uncommon to find businesses that are barely able to keep up with their leads. Some waste hours hunting the low-quality leads instead of focusing their energy on those ready to buy. Here, a customer relationship management (CRM) solution linked to these businesspeople’s network phone system is a great way to enhance customer communications.
Customers value businesses that provide excellent customer service. A CRM solution increases the ability to keep track of customer information, monitor leads and provide efficient delivery. Businesses can provide for their customers’ needs faster and make effective business decisions. With CRM, businesses can also keep their focus on quality leads that will drastically improve conversion rates.
3. Set up a task-management system
Emails alone don’t cut it as an efficient way to communicate with team members. Email makes it difficult to carry everyone along. However, setting up task-management software like Slack, Trello or Asana makes it much easier to have everyone’s tasks in one place and ensure that everyone is carried along in the project.
Task-management software helps members of a team track their progress and ensure that everyone is working on their tasks.
4. Sync your calendar with that of everyone else on your team
How many times have you had to reschedule appointments because you didn’t know you had other meetings lined up for the day?
Aside from leaving negative impression in clients’ mind, this error makes you less productive. Having to go back and forth until you have settled on an appropriate date can be cumbersome especially when different time zones are involved. So, do this instead: Sync your personal calendar with your work calendar, and make sure that everyone in your team is synced to the latter, too.
This will ensure sure that everybody is “on the same page” in terms of appointments and deadlines. Google Calendar can help you do just that. Once everyone is synced up, any change in the calendar will be seen by everyone so they can manage their own appointments.
5. Block out chunks of time
Constant interruptions hamper your workflow. Imagine having to deal with turning over a project on a deadline while you’re stuck in a series of meetings throughout the day. It can get very difficult to focus on completing your most urgent tasks.
Block out chunks of time on your calendar for uninterrupted work. It’s better to schedule a series of meetings in one day than to spread them throughout the week.
If you’re creating content, block out one day to create all the content you’ll use for the week. That way your business will run more efficiently.
Related: 3 Reasons You Should Embrace Change
Wrapping it up
With the right strategies, you can turn your business around to make it efficient and lucrative. Automating your processes, setting up the right software and remaining focused on the tasks at hand will go a long way to help you do this. But just as with every good strategy, you need to remain consistent and give it time to do its magic.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.