The 5 Simple Steps Every Entrepreneur Needs to Finally Own Their Time
No matter what stage of business you’re in—whether you’re the hopeful founder in the early stages of building a startup or the seasoned entrepreneur, thriving but still struggling to delegate, here’s a simple truth:
People will take as much of your time as you’re willing to give. If you don’t own it, someone else will gladly take it and spend it for you.
After surviving the initial grind of getting a new business off the ground, entrepreneurs usually fall into two camps, either they’re: a) owning their time in a real way, prioritizing between clients, team, and vendors, etc. and the natural self-discipline that requires, or b) still driving themselves crazy running in circles trying to be all things to all people at all times.
The great differentiator?
Their ability to own their time.
When you proactively own your time, you’re in charge of how you spend your days and the subsequent business (and life) you create. Instead of just letting the day’s requirements unfold, you’re putting intentional structure and scaffolding around the most valuable and non-renewable resource you have: your time. The results? A life that works better in all areas.
If you want to gain productivity, limit distractions, and create a life you’ll love in and outside the office—we’ve got five simple steps to help you finally own your time.
1. Really understand that you (and only you!) can set boundaries around your time.
While it’s inevitable—you’re going to be juggling a lot as an entrepreneur (this ain’t no clock in/clock out affair), if you constantly find yourself pulled in too many directions, not knowing where your day has gone, and failing to accomplish what you’d envisioned for the day, you’ve likely got a boundary problem.
Boundary problems with time are sneaky and can take many forms, but you know you’ve got one if you struggle with:
- Setting internal limits with yourself (the feeling of having to be constantly “on,” inflated fear of disappointing others, inability to ever turn off)
- A lack of discipline to limit distractions (hello, Candycrush, Facebook, that squirrel out the window)
- Saying “no” to other people (“No, I can’t mentor you during my only 30-minute block to eat in peace all day, Janet.”)
2. Identify how you’re currently spending your time.
Take five business days and jot down how you’re really spending your time. Next, categorize it and internalize it.
Once you’ve picked yourself up off the floor (13 hours on emails alone?!), take a hard look at where you’re currently investing the most time. Which categories in your day are bloated worse than a night of bad Chinese food? Which are starved for attention?
Pro tip: Watch any transitions during your day. This is where time can evaporate into The Void. A “quick” 5-minute email can chew away 20 minutes or more as you struggle to get back into the flow of your previous task. Do that enough times in one day, and it’s no wonder you struggle to get anything done!
3. Identify where you want to be spending your time.
Identify what you want to prioritize vs. de-prioritize. What’s missing from this list that you want there? Are you spending the time you want with your family, on self-care? Maybe meditation, a daily run, reaching out to potential clients, or 1:1’s with your team is on your list of “wants” but is not actually getting done.
4. Proactively create the space to spend your time the way you prioritized.
Now comes the hard part. Here is where you’ve got to proactively block your time, or nothing will change. Remember Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity? “Doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.” Ouch.
These four actions will help you create the environment you need to be more productive:
- Mute distractions. Get in the habit of pausing notifications, texts, or anything that dings when you need to be head down working. Your brain is hardwired to want to look and immediately respond, but unless there is an actual fire, most things can wait until your block of time is finished.
- Block it out. Create set times for tasks you routinely have to keep on top of, or they’ll pile up (such as email, sales calls, bookkeeping, etc.). It can be wildly helpful to know that 10 AM and 2 PM are your set times for replying to the day’s new inquiries. When it’s built into your day and blocked off, you know it’s going to happen.
- Get away. Sometimes a different physical space is needed to reach your goals. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book, re-design your website, or start a company blog, and for whatever reason, it’s just not happening. Instead of trying to work on it when you find the time at home (hint: it probably won’t happen, there’s something called Netflix), how about a standing time once a week at a local coffee shop or co-working space where you focus only on those goals?
- Carve it in stone. Make dates with yourself! Put time on your calendar for the things you need or want to make happen. When time is visually blocked off for others and yourself to see, it’s more likely to get done because it’s no longer nebulous, it’s become a commitment. Let Google calendar be the messenger with that handy auto-reject option for when people try to schedule over it. It’s like a free bodyguard for your time!
5. Effectively Communicate your boundaries to others.
Finally, no one can know your limits if you don’t tell them. Let your team or clients (when applicable) know if you’re restructuring your availability in certain areas.
Believe it or not, most people are not waiting by their computer for your email to fly in within 90 seconds of every request. You’re doing everyone a favor by providing that clarity.
The final takeaway? Owning your time is your responsibility. It’s up to you to craft a life that works and has balance.
We’re rooting for you, and you can do it—just maybe not all in one day?