Most productivity books are written by professional writers, not entrepreneurs. If you can achieve your goals by locking yourself in a room by yourself, then great, do everything the professional writers say about time management. However, if you own a business and have other people who can do work for you, read this first:
Typical time management advice
I’ve read thousands of pages of time management advice through books and blog posts. I’ve tried a lot of the productivity systems available from Getting Things Done to Tony Robbins’s RPM to Traction for our entire company. There are good tips in each of those systems and in a lot of the popular books and blog posts on productivity.
The typical advice includes:
- Block out chunks of time to work alone
- Shut everything else out to focus
- Avoid meetings and people as much as possible, they’ll slow you down
- Wake up earlier
- Don’t check your smartphone
- “Chunk” or “batch” your digital communications
Some of this makes sense. Multitasking, unless you’re doing a repetitive, routine task, isn’t effective. You need to focus on one thing at a time to perform at your best.
But, if you follow this advice to build your business, you’ll miss out on the biggest productivity booster available to you as an entrepreneur: leverage through people.
The secret to productivity for entrepreneurs
If you lock yourself away in a room, avoid everybody, listen to mind-boosting brainwave sounds, and boost your productivity by 20%, that’s good. Instead, if you spend an hour with someone on your team and double their productivity for two weeks, that’s better.
I don’t like a lot of meetings. However, meetings can be good. They’re a medium of communication. If used well, meetings can be a great way to boost your productivity by boosting the productivity of everyone around you.
One of the best uses of my time is one-on-one meetings. I use the approach by Andy Grove, the famous Silicon Valley CEO, detailed in his book, High Output Management. For only three to four critical leaders on my team, I meet with each of them one-on-one every one to three weeks. They prepare the agenda and send it to me in advance. I am there to give feedback, learn, and nudge them in the right direction. One hour of my time can create a ripple effect of productivity throughout the company for weeks as they take our discussion and use it to guide their decisions as they work with everyone else in the company.
Even meeting with multiple people at once can be a better use of time than hiding in a room writing if you’re an entrepreneur. Meetings are a way for you to influence those on your team, quickly learn what’s going on, and help make good decisions. If you can spend one hour of your time to boost the effectiveness of three members of your team for one week, or 40 hours each, that’s good leverage: one hour of your time for 120 hours of improved productivity (3 people x 40 hours each).
How I try to be as productive as possible as an entrepreneur
- I try to do a one-on-one with each of the three to four key members of my team at least once a month
- I spend the mornings before most people are working on my more individual work such as reading, planning, and writing
- I make myself available at almost anytime during the normal workday to discuss issues and solve problems with my team
- I check email and text messages at least once per day to see if anyone needs anything from me – if so,
- I try to talk with them via phone or video call
- When meeting and talking with others, I try to be as present as possible and put away anything that might distract me. If the discussion is worth me being there, it’s worth me being there fully.
The main point here is, unless you’re a full-time writer or creative professional, your best way to be more productive is likely through other people. Jeff Bezos didn’t become the wealthiest person in the world by listening to brainwave music, sniffing nicotine, and installing time management software on his computer (yes, I’m calling out you biohackers out there). Bezos built his wealth by leveraging the energy and brainpower of other people.
As an entrepreneur, CEO, or manager, use leverage to become more productive. Aim to make the people you work with as productive as possible – it’s the best way for you to produce far more than you can alone.