I had the good fortune to look at my calendar this morning and see that I had zero scheduled commitments for the day. I generally try to keep my schedule light, but it’s rare to have a weekday where nothing is scheduled. I tweeted my excitement, and my friend Harper replied asking me how I did it. I thought it was a red herring at first, but looking through my schedule over the past six months I realize I’ve done a better job managing my time.
I thought it’d be helpful to make a list of changes that have helped me better manage my time. Maybe these will help you too.
1. Don’t respond to every email
As a startup founder, here’s an example of an email I frequently receive:
Email #1: “Hi Jeff, I run X software development firm that helps companies likes your supplement their team with additional resources. We specialize in Ruby, Python, Java, and .Net development and are available immediately for your most challenging projects.”
Email #2: “Hi Jeff, I haven’t heard back from you. Just wanted to send a reminder that I run X…”
Email #3: “Jeff, I haven’t heard from you. Your response is requested. Please let me know your thoughts.”
I use to respond to that first email to thank the person for contacting me and and let them know we didn’t need their services. 100% of the time this led to more email.
Lesson learned - don’t respond to email that is a waste of your time.
2. Clear up the clutter
On that topic, you no doubt receive a lot of email. When going through it, take action as quickly as possible. If there’s no action to take, delete it. If you need a copy for your records, archive it. If a response is required, provide a brief response. Take action and take it quickly. Using a tool like The Email Game makes this even easier.
Of course this behavior applies to more than just email. If you manage projects, move these to a tool like Trello. If you need to manage and collaborate with clients on a project, move it to a tool like Basecamp.
You need to break things up into chunks of effort and move them to the right system for processing.
3. Reduce your commitments
At some point you realize the unfortunate paradox that time has an inelastic supply, while you do not. The solution here is to simply commit to less. I prioritize my time around my family, my business and my health. By no means am I perfect at time management, but I make it a point to spend the bulk of my time on the three things above and cut everything else out. This means saying no to grabbing beers after work, and yes to heading out for a morning ride.
Be judicious with your time and prioritize wisely.