How do you manage your time?

Shahab Layeghi Software Professional

June 30th, 2013

As entrepreneurs you're juggling many things at the same time, obviously so if you've already started your company.  It's still the case even if you're working full time and also working on your next venture, building your prototype, raising money, looking for co-founders, not to mention the personal life! 

How do you manage your time to tend to most urgent items of the day, while also not losing track of longer term, more strategic goals?  Do you just set aside some time each week for certain non-daily tasks?  Any recommendations or methods you've found working well?

Leonid Tunik

June 30th, 2013

With a job, a business, and two young kids this is a challenge that's very familiar. I can't say that I've mastered it but can offer up things that seem to work. If you have a family - first off, make sure that your family's expectations for your availability are in line with reality. If these are not met, results will be bad. If they're not in line, then either the expectations or the reality must change. It's always best to set expectations a bit low and then exceed them whenever you can. 

Then, make decisions about your daily priorities quickly and don't look back. Identify your personal demons and face them head-on (whether it's procrastination, indecision, distractability, etc.).  If possible, stick to a regular weekly schedule, it makes it easier to plan things. Sleep less and take supplements. I also find that the high-level strategic stuff works much better when I am by myself and have time to mentally dig into them, rather than when I am with coworkers or others. This may be different for others, but it's good to identify that "space" and use it consistently.  Finally, I found the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" to be very helpful. I hope this post is.

Priya Prakash Designer-Founder, D4SC-Changify

June 30th, 2013

Hi Shahab-

I use Rescue time to track and monitor where I am spending time
https://www.rescuetime.com/

Eisenhower matrix to prioritise tasks | http://www.eisenhower.me/

Basecamp for project management or light weight Teux-deux https://teuxdeux.com/

Also I chunk my time in sprints (being a designer- developer) need to focus to get stuff done, so work for 120 mins with no email/FB etc etc and then use that as a break.

Also having a system that integrates across you calendar etc and syncs with your phone - is key.
Going for a morning/evening run with a shared to-do list on Google Calendar with your partner - also helps co-od personal activities (started this, but keep missing out on filling it!)

Hope that helps
Priya



David Achkar Co-founder at Nyle

July 1st, 2013

A recent change I'm toying with - that I've found quite useful so far - is planning my days ahead of time. So every evening before wrapping up the day, I will look at all my todos, emails, priorities, etc. for the following day and do 3 things:
1) Prioritize: what can I reasonably accomplish in one day? And what should I focus on?
2) Schedule: slot in hard work time - deep work - in increments of 1.5hrs-2hrs to complete all activities identified in #1
3) Don't overdo it: I'll leave myself reasonable free time during the day, for serendipity purposes :)

This approach takes me 5-10 min on evenings, and helps me avoid many problems associated with leading a busy and/or stressful lifestyle:
- Less procrastination because I have clear deadlines and schedules I have to stick to every day
- Less wasted mental energy on scheduling and prioritizing on the go - I know I have 5-10min dedicated to this at the end of each day. This has been very useful in my case, I used to spend significant time in a day questioning what I was doing, changing directions, switching between activities too frequently (affects productivity) etc.
- I'm more likely to be satisfied about what I accomplished in a day - rather than think there's still more I could have done from my never ending to do list.
- etc.

This came out of a recent experiment I started. I'm tracking my time (what I'm doing every single minute of the day) then running some cool analyses to flesh out patterns and figure out behavioural improvements. You can check it out here: http://david.achkar.com/new-experiment/
I'm releasing a follow up post on results so far in the next 1-2 days

Trevor Collins Crowdfunding Entrepreneur & Co-Founder of 100 Danish

July 12th, 2013

Hi Shabab, there are some great answers written so far.

I really like how David mentioned planning his days ahead. There's a powerful system I use that is a twist on that, for getting work done day-to-day.  It's called the Pomodoro Technique.

What makes the Pomodoro technique beautiful from an organizational standpoint is having the 'Activity Inventory' and the 'To Do Today'. You can chalk your 'Activity Inventory' full of worthwhile tasks that will eventually get transferred into the 'To Do Today' and completed.

From a productivity standpoint, the technique works well because it leverages focused and intense work (sprinting), followed by resting. This is how high-performers naturally operate.

At the beginning of each day of work, you take 20-25min to organize what you will work on by listing what you want to tackle in the 'To Do Today'. For me, this organizing session is like my Zen part of the day where I'm drinking English breakfast tea and getting ready for battle.

If you're really smart about it, you 'eat the frog first'. What this means is to pick the task that is the scariest, requires the most creativity and probably is the most important thing that you could do in the day. By prioritizing and scheduling it first thing, all the following tasks in the day are relatively easy and subsequently get taken care of. 

Here's a few resources for the technique:

2 min intro video - http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/get-started/
The free PDF book (more in-depth) - http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/book/
A good 25min timer - http://www.focusboosterapp.com/

Hope you find something helpful here! Cheers, Trevor

p.s. on a more macro-level, you can't go wrong with a NeuYear wall calendar - http://www.neuyear.net/products/2013-calendar-uncoated

Ray Dollete Tech Lead at PHENOMENON

June 30th, 2013

One thing I'l add is that having the right set of tools that help you manage everything helps a whole lot.  My current set is a cocktail of Google Calendar + Fantastical (iOS version, I don't like the OSX version), Reminders, and EverNote (leveraging WebClipper and forwarding from email).  Reducing the ramp-up required to shift between your various "lives" makes the juggle a whole lot more manageable.

Also I make sure to keep things prioritized in order by risk factor.  There is a subjective definition there obviously, but it keeps me from getting overwhelmed by things that have minimal impact.

David Achkar Co-founder at Nyle

July 4th, 2013

Thanks Shahab! I'll check Rachota out, I've found Google Calendar to be surprisingly painless and easy to use.

And, the follow-up post is out :) http://david.achkar.com/life-log-early-results/
For 42 days, I’ve tracked 923 activities over 998 hrs or 59,865 min as part of my life log. I'm back after weeks of big-brother tracking to share results.

Shahab Layeghi Software Professional

July 2nd, 2013

Thank you for all the responses and great suggestions, specially since as Abby mentioned email is what many are spending so much time on, yet you're taking time to respond to other people's questions!  

I've been using Asana, it's good for some team task management, but I don't really use it for personal projects or daily tasks.  

David, I've been using a simple time tracker called Rachota, to keep track of how much time I spend on some tasks.  It's a Java app and I think it's open source and saves the results as XML files.  - Looking forward to read your follow up post.

I'll check out some of the tools and try the suggested approaches (one at a time!).  

Shahab

Balki Kodarapu Experienced Software Engineering Leader

June 30th, 2013

Great question!  And some awesome answers / tools so far.
I have to make time to check out all the tools now :)

My 2 cents...
Philosophical perspective on time management and decision making: I am in a similar situation like Leonid above.  So early on when I jumped into entrepreneurship, I told myself one thing.  I would make every decision that requires some time based on one question.  Is this task/meeting/event/feature/call so important that I need to forego my precious time together with my two little kids?  If the answer is no, then I defer or decline that task.  If not I proceed making sure I get the full value out of the time I spend away from my kids.  I definitely admit to many decisions I made that weren't worth my time but I always try to follow this one rule.

Tools I use: I manage most of my personal tasks within email using features like defer, convert an email to meeting or task etc.  I am old-fashioned and still use hotmail account but that integrates well into outlook.  And I use clearcontext for the above features.  Didn't find a comparable tool yet for gmail.

Anyways hope that helped.




Tools

Matt Monday Partner at STRV

June 30th, 2013

Hi Shahab,

Great question(s).  

I use a combination of Email, Evernote (new notes for new projects), Calendar, Google Docs (as personal task list).  I also have OmniFocus, which I was using for a while but fell off the wagon and ended up using a Google Doc for task management instead.  Also for projects/contact management, I was using Insight.ly to manage sales funnel flows. 

I've also tried using Asana, both for personal tasks as well as project management, but I have never quite fully integrated it into my daily/weekly planning.

What would be extremely useful for me would be something that better integrates email, calendar, and tasks.  Have you seen anything that works well as a single system?

-Matt

Jill

June 30th, 2013

In lieu of all of the aforementioned time management tools (which are a must) I try to make two lists with my top 3 priorities - list one has the top 3 projects / tasks I will be spending the most time on that day (executing), and the second list has the top 3 projects / tasks I will spend the most energy on (organizing, thinking about). I know this is not the most intuitive, but it helps me differentiate executing vs planning. I then set a time limit for each project / task per list and compare it to my calendar to see what I can actually get done. This really helps put things in perspective so I can rearrange priorities or the amount of time I can spend on a certain task if need be. It also helps to set milestones for longer term projects and then break them down into smaller deliverables / tasks. This works really well for personal agendas as well. Email is usually where I lose the most time so I try to be conscious of that too.