Getting your time-management right: Why time needn’t always be running out

William Berry on why time management is one of the most important, yet underplayed, business skills

When people think about the qualities that make a successful entrepreneur, they think of business sense, opportunity spotting, charisma and self-belief.

But since most businesses start with limited personnel and resources, finding a way to maximise productivity from small scale assets can be key to assuring smooth growth.

At the start of a business, it is likely that you will have to do most of the detailed work yourself, including financial statements, employee files and so on. Some people thrive on this kind of number crunching – lucky them! Unfortunately, I’ve always found this kind of work a chore – worse yet, a chore that I find any excuse to avoid.

But even if you’re like me, there are some basic ways that you can manage and organise your time so that you can preserve your entrepreneurial drive and do what needs to be done.

The to-do list and calendar functions within your email software are the basic tools for personal organisation, but are easy to misuse.

On its own, a to-do list can simply become a daunting mountain of tasks, and human nature dictates that you’ll probably spend most of your time crossing off the easy tasks and ignoring those that are urgent and difficult. Similarly, calendars can be useless if they are used erratically or incorrectly.

With calendars, the trick is to plan immediately (appointments on the day), daily (what’s on for tomorrow), monthly (repeated tasks, like accounting and monthly meetings) and yearly (major events, conferences, holidays).

When you are planning your day, give appointments and tasks free time on either side. If you plan your day back to back, something unexpected will crop up and you’ll soon be feeling stressed and disorganised.

For to-do lists, I recommend the Tasks function in Microsoft Outlook. It’s basically an upgraded to-do list, and can overcome many of the drawbacks of pen and paper.

Give each of your tasks a due date, but also a sensible start date – this will stop them from clogging up your task list until they need to be done. Tasks can also be given a level of priority, and then grouped by due date and priority – this will allow you to tackle tasks that are both urgent and important first.

Put simply, good time management is about more then simply completing necessary tasks; successful organisation gives you confidence and the freedom to think creatively. In fact, it can actually give you some of the very qualities – energy, drive and commitment -ascribed to the best entrepreneurs.

William Berry is a serial entrepreneur and in 2006 was named a Young Gun by Growing Business. He is the founder-director of accommodationforstudents.comconferencevenues.com, and Vincentbond.com. William is also CEO of the new video start up p6.com, based in California.

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