We sometimes view entrepreneurs as those born with creative genius or great business acumen, that are able to somehow magically transform their business idea into a successful and profitable venture.
However, as evidenced in a report, “Makings of a Successful Entrepreneur,” published by the Kauffman Foundation (November 2009), one factor that ranked as an extremely big challenge for successful entrepreneurs was the stress of running a business and maintaining a balance in life.
In addition, 93% of respondents interviewed in the report identified the amount of time and effort required as a significant barrier to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
An entrepreneur is often tasked with juggling many “hats”, or roles. On a given day, you might be designing a new business website or writing its content. Then there are other tasks to attend to such as monitoring website statistics, dealing with prospective customers, or dealing with a venture capital partner.
Setting priorities at work isn’t easy. A single project can keep you busy on a multitude of jobs, let alone two or more projects or a joint venture. Things can start to get complicated when you have to manage competing priorities and everything seems urgent and important.
Here are some some top resources to help you balance your work priorities as an entrepreneur:
Improving Your Productivity with Good Systems
David Allen’s Getting Things Done or GTD system, available in either book or audio format, is an invaluable resource for budding entrepreneurs starting their first business venture. He makes the point that you need to have good systems in place in order to collect and organize information, or what we often refer to as “stuff”.
Allen states that the problem is that a lot of “stuff’ stays in our head in an open loop, which can cause a lot of stress if not dealt with. It’s the issue of not having decided what to do with “stuff” that causes angst, rather than the aspect of information overload itself.
To achieve an efficient system, take action to decide what to do next with a particular task. Even if you don’t attend to the task straight away, it’s important to decide on its desired outcome and to detail your next steps with the task. Applying this approach will help you progress towards improved productivity and reduced stress.
Prioritizing Your Time
One of the common problems faced by entrepreneurs is not being able to find the time to do everything. One good way to prioritize your time is to spend the majority of your focus on business activities that will reap the highest return on investment.
Some high value activities that come to mind are marketing and product creation. Some low value activities are checking your email multiple times during the day and being constantly interrupted by social media tools to chat with friends.
E.ggtimer – is a simple little timer that tracks where your time goes and will help increase your productivity in leaps and bounds by making you more accountable for your time. Set the timer as you begin a task for an allocated amount of time. Then at the end of each day, review where you spent your hours. It may actually come as a big surprise to you which tasks you actually spent your time on, and whether they were high value ones.
Working in the Zone
The Wealthy Freelancer Book by Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage, and Ed Gandia is a book packed with practical advice targeted towards freelancers. However, the advice provided is equally invaluable for entrepreneurs.
The chapter on Mastering the Mental Game discusses the importance of being aware of your own performance and stress levels. Your work productivity levels will usually fall into one of four quadrants – representing combinations of low or high performance and high or low stress.
Depending on which quadrant you fall into, improving productivity or learning how to manage your stress can be achieved through specific activities. For example, finding yourself in a position of low performance and high stress might require you to invest time in improving your performance and reduce your stress level. Suggested strategies include investing in personal development resources to help notch up your performance and manage your stress.
The ideal quadrant to be in is the one of high performance and low stress. So whenever you find yourself in any of the other quadrants, identify appropriate actions to take in order to move yourself towards the ideal state.
Other Useful Productivity Resources
Google Docs – Google Docs is an online application for managing work in conjunction with others, whether you are managing outsourced staff, freelancers, or collaborating on a project with a partner. The application can be used to upload shared documents or spreadsheets online, so that you can share them easily with others.
Basecamp and Rescue Time are two popular paid project management tools for managing online projects and for coordinating virtual teams.
Basecamp is a popular web application developed by 37 Signals. It allows the management of multiple projects online through a shared dashboard, complete with milestones, tasks and a To Do list, and a very friendly user interface.
Rescue Time has the ability to track your time and that of other team members, with no data entry (a time saving in itself!) through a tracking application installed onto your computers.
Balancing the priorities of work through improved productivity and time management is a critical aspect to becoming a successful entrepreneur. There are a number of worthwhile productivity tools available to help you improve your performance and lower your stress level while running your business.
Popular search terms for this article:
work priorities, Strategies for how industry leaders balance competing values and priorities
One of the key issues I have had is when working from home as part of my business is the family.
My family think that since I am home I can run any errands when they come along, the problem there is that no errand is simple. And one thing leads to another and sometimes a few hours are lost.
I find that balance a challenge but you just got to lay downs some ‘terms’ [for want of a better choice of word] within the home.
Google Docs has been invaluable to me as an entrepreneur – I keep my basic to do list there (though I know there are standalone solutions out there that do this, it just is so easy to update, especially when I’m in Google docs for other reasons throughout the day). I also share a ton of idea lists, writeboards/brainstorming docs, and create quick graphs – all that I share with the other people I’m collaborating with.
Great post, and I can confirm stress plays a major role in any entrepreneur’s life. The GDT approach is indeed great but too often people think to apply it just by setting up some task application and using them in a very wrong way.
It’s one’s mindset that has to change, sometimes drastically.
So incredibly important to set strict boundaries in order to keep your sanity. Learn to let go sometimes and trust those that you have brought in to help you.
Hey there, love this blog but would love to know why in the RSS feed especially in Google Reader, ads are placed above the content? Do you know this is happening? It really cheapens and confuses the content as the ads are generally only loosely related to the text.
I liked this article, its great to share information to better our industry. Basecamp was a great move for our company. Once we got all of our projects into Basecamp our team had a much easier time communicating with our clients and with each other as well. Much better than hunting through hundreds of emails trying to find a logo 🙂 another great tool I have found that really helped us was freshbooks! We were spending so many hours a week before doing estimates and invoices for our clients that it was really becoming unduly to the point that no one wanted to do them but getting paid is nice as well so invoicing and quoting is a necessary evil. Freshbooks was nice because it lets you create profiles for clients so future invoicing is much quicker and it also keeps track of expenses which is nice for employees and contractors.
With regard to project management, Manymoon (www.manymoon.com) works for me.