Entrepreneurs and business owners are under tremendous stress in the best of times. "They must grapple with uncertainty and being personally responsible (and liable) for any decision they make," The Conversation said. "They have the longest working hours of any occupational group."
You can find plenty of advice for how busy business leaders can make the best use of their time. Google "time management for entrepreneurs," and you'll find all kinds of articles with advice about how to increase your productivity.
The problem is that most of the time management tips take a lot of, well, time.
Nearly all popular systems require significant upfront planning and careful consideration of if and when you should any new task that comes up.
Other tips point to time management tools like time trackers that tell you how you're spending your day (in case you didn't notice), reminder apps, motivational pep talks, music thought to boost concentration, project management work-boards, and self-scheduling calendars. Then you have to learn how to use them all.
You get the idea. It takes time to manage your time better.
Time Management is a Logistical and Psychological Challenge
Time management for business leaders is a problem that is logistical and psychological. Logistically, it is impossible to add time to the day. Time is finite. Psychologically, "more often than not, techniques designed to enhance one's personal productivity seem to exacerbate the very anxieties they were meant to allay," said business writer Oliver Burkeman. "The better you get at managing time, the less of it you feel that you have." Hence the stress.
Many executives also struggle because time management goes against their natural intuitions.
Successful entrepreneurs and executives "have one 'critically' important trait in common," according to CNBC. "They pay attention to detail." At the same time, the Harvard Business Review explains "why entrepreneurs don't scale." It's because "excessive attention to detail" can cause a business "to lose its way."
Balancing attention to deal and time management is an age-old problem that has faced business leaders, especially entrepreneurs and owners, for generations. Often, a founder's brilliance is his or her ability to track to all aspects of the business with exceptional mastery of every function from accounting to Zoom backgrounds, insisting that each is flawlessly executed. That might work fine for a company with two people in a garage. But, as HBR says, it doesn't scale.
The Solution: Delegation
If you're a business leader who struggles with time management, the best thing you can do is delegate tasks to free up your time.
Though effective delegation requires some upfront investment to figure out who you're going to offload work to and how, it will dramatically boost your productivity in the long run.
Productivity expert Jordan Cohen interviewed execs at 39 companies and found that they spent 41 percent on tasks that others could easily handle. "We've been socialized with the idea that completing a task is an accomplishment," says Cohen. "But in today's business world, an entrepreneur's time can be better served by doing the tasks that matter most to the success of their business and delegating the rest."
An important factor to keep in mind when delegating, however, is that you don't want your busy work to distract employees who have their own strategic projects to tackle. If you don't have someone on your team who is in a supporting role, you need to hire an assistant who can take on these responsibilities.
Resistance to delegation also comes from fears of the cost and hassle involved in recruiting, hiring, and managing more employees and their work. And if a new hire doesn't work out, that money and time are lost. Also, finding help if you don't have enough work for a full-time employee can be difficult.
Virtual Assistants as Time Management Tools
Many business leaders resist hiring an assistant because they don't have enough work for a full-time employee and/or they're reluctant to invest in hiring, training and managing one.
Hiring a virtual assistant can solve those challenges and improve your time management:
- You get your time back without having to spend more time managing it.
- You don't have to do the hiring —a virtual assistant business handles that.
- You get help from someone trained and experienced with tools and apps--CRMs, marketing automation, scheduling/calendaring apps, project management, bookkeeping--used to support your business.
Without time management support, many entrepreneurs wind up stressed out and married to a business that doesn't necessarily love them back. Delegation can be scary but starting with a virtual assistant removes much of the financial and qualitative risks.
Beware, though, that not all virtual assistant businesses are created equal. If you want to maximize your time, opt for a managed service like Prialto. We handle all management and training so you can leverage an assistant without the hassle.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.