As a teenager, I worked summers as a groom at harness racetrack, taking care of horses and shoveling manure. A lot of manure. Every workday started at 5:oo A.M, stopped around 1 P.M., started back up about 5P.M. to get the horses that went racing that night ready, and finished after the races, 10:00, or 11:00 P.M.
During the day, I worked in aluminum –roofed barns that absorbed the sun’s heat and cooked us pretty well. I dilled wicker baskets with manure, about two per stall, anywhere from three to a dozen stalls, hauled the baskets the length of the barn, hoisted them up, and emptied them into the manure wagons. I fed, watered, and groomed the horses. I worked on their sore legs and feet. I walked them. I stacked bales of straw and hay.
All of it was hard work. Looking back, I have fondness and nostalgia for it all. So much so I’ve returned and now own about two dozen racehorses, even drive some in races at a major racetrack. But I do not shovel the manure. I’m not that nostalgic.
But no matter how hard you have worked in previous jobs, you’ll discover that running you business is even harder, more intense work. The pace and pressure of being the person in charge is unlike any other, and it requires masterful organization, control, and use of time, it requires that you have the ability to do many things at once. The multiple demands on the entrepreneurs to match these demands.
Time is the most valuable asset an entrepreneur possesses.
Time to step aside and think. Time to network. Time to solve problems. Time to invent sales and marketing breakthroughs. The use or misuses of your time-the degree with which you achieve peak productivity-will determine your success as an entrepreneur.
Time may be the biggest problem business, and the biggest societal concern of the moment. The fortune 500 companies spend millions annually on time management training and productivity analysis. The market is clogged with time management systems and seminars. Despite all this, most businesspeople I know are still woefully disorganized, behind in their work, running faster and faster trying to catch up. One research study I read about some years ago concluded that the average corporate CEO actually logs less than 90 minutes a day of genuinely productive time. Lee Iacocca told me he doubted it was that much! And I suggest entrepreneurs have evener bigger problems with time than do corporate executives.
Imagine-in an eight to ten hour workday, being able to count just 10 minutes of it as productive! Clearly, you can give yourself a tremendous competitive advantage of you can make more of your time productive.
Why Is Time Such A Problem?
To achieve peak productivity you’ve got to know what it is, when you’re hitting it, and when you’re not. Most people have no clue. Most people work harder and faster without the ability to determine whether they’re really getting anywhere.
I have devoted quite a bit of thought to defining what productivity really is-and what it isn’t. I’ve developed this definition:
Peak productivity is the use of your time, energy, intelligence, resources, and opportunities in a manner calculated to move you measurably closer to meaningful goals.
Once you understand and accept this definition, you’ll be better able to choose what you do, what to delegate, and what to leave undone.
Why “Do It Now” May Not Be the Best Advise
The favorite affirmation of the late self-made multimillionaire and success expert W. Clement Stone is “Do it now!” Given that something should be done, and should be done by you, then “Do it now!” is good advice. Procrastination is insidious.
But many people erroneously accept the do-it-now idea as a prison sentence requiring them to try and do everything now. Some things shouldn’t be done now. Some things should be deliberately assigned to next week or next month. Some things shouldn’t be done at all. And, the busier I am and the older I get, the more I conclude that the greatest wisdom of all is astutely choosing what not to do.
It’s interesting how obligated most people feel to answer a ringing phone. They’ll interrupt whatever they are doing to pick up the receiver, even if they are in the shower! When somebody calls the office and leaves a message, people feel obligated to call back, even when they don’t know the caller! Now, with cell phones people put themselves “on point” 24-7, without even a moment’s peace. In fact, lately seeing men in airport restrooms, standing at urinals, peeing and talking on their sell phones. Sad and pathetic. If you can’t even pee in peace, you’re not Mr. important: you’re Mr. Idiot.
The same is true for faxes and e-mails and correspondence. When people receive these in the office, they fell obligated to reply, quickly. Because someone appears in the office doorway, they fell obligated to acknowledge them, to invite them in, to talk with them. And on and on.
You have to shake off the shackles of ordinary and customary obligations and feel free to do whatever assists you in achieving peak productivity.
The Yes or No Test
These days, when someone asks me to do something, attend a meeting, talk with somebody, read something, whatever, I silently ask my self: Is this going to move me measurable closer to a goal? If not, I do my best to say no.
I think in terms if investing time. After all, if time is money, then you must either be spending or investing it. Would you knowingly invest you money in, say, a stock that promised no gain or dividends? No. You might choose to spend some money on things offering no monetary profit such as tickets to the theater, flowers for your spouse, or a vacation. But investing time in activities unlikely to pay any kind of dividend is stupid. You must be very astute at making these time-investment decisions.
So, always ask yourself, is this demand on my time a wise investment? Yes or no?
One of the classic problems faced by new entrepreneurs is the absence of an imposed work plan. As someone else’s employee, a work plan is imposed on you by your employer. Tour adherence to that plan may be policed by managers and supervisors. You are held accountable for effectiveness in adhering to and accomplishing that plan. Deviations from the imposed plan are restricted, sometimes punished. That imposed plan causes you to behave in a disciplined fashion. For example, you get up at a certain time every morning to arrive at work at a set, acceptable time. Maybe you get all your expense reports in order every Thursday afternoon because you are expected to submit them on Friday. You get your monthly newsletter out to your customers because that’s part of the imposed plan.
Now you’re an entrepreneur. You are your own boss-you can smash that alarm clock with a sledgehammer and set your own hours. You decided what will be done, when, and how.
But for many new entrepreneurs, when they get free of the job, they don’t know what to do next. It’s too much freedom. They wind up paralyzed, looking around for somebody to tell them what to do.
You have to set up your own work plan. I am most productive when I operate under a self-imposed work plan that creates as much discipline as any employer-imposed plan would-preferably more. You have to be tough on yourself and set deadlines. If you wouldn’t accept an excuse form someone working for you, you can’t accept it from yourself. If you’re trying to set an example of leadership for other around you, you have to overdo it: more organized and more punctual than they need to be.
If I wrote only when I felt like it, when I was inspired, when the time was right, I’d be finishing last year’s workload in my next life. No, I wrote when I was tired when I was uninspired, when I was too busy, not just in my office but on my airplane and in hotel rooms. I put myself under self-imposed work plans and deadlines to create discipline.
John Carlton, a top direct-response copywriter, says the greatest of all inventions in all of recorded history is the deadline. Without it, nothing else would have ever gotten done with any of the other inventions.
Nobody’s going to do this for your. You’re on your own. You must impose deadlines on yourself.
Put a Stake Through the Heart of Every “Time Vampire” Who Comes Your Way
“Time vampires” are people dedicated to sucking up your time. In the process, they also suck out a lot of your energy, leaving you white, weak, and behind schedule. These are the repetitive, frequent drop-in visitors. Or these could be an employee whose favorite phrase is, “have you got a minute?” Or one who is infected with “meeting-itis.” They’re chronically disorganized. Each time one of these vampires’ drops by hangs out, picture him or her sinking teeth into your neck and sucking out a pint or two.
Suppose, for example, you want to make $100,00.00 this year, which means you work hour is worth about $36.00, which is about 60 cents a minute. So when a time vampire sucks up 20 minutes in a meeting for something that could have been handled with a four-minute phone call, that person just sucked more than $9.00 right out of your wallet. If that happens five more times in a week, you lose $45.00 over 50 weeks, that $2,250.00. If you have ten of these vampires hanging around, you’re down $22,500.00 before you get out of the starting gate toward the $100,000.00 goal. That’s nearly a 25% weight handicap; too much to overcome.
The Secrets of Getting Rich
Perhaps you think I’m overdoing this-beating this drum too loudly. But let me tell you why it’s impossible to overemphasize the deliberate achievement of peak productivity. It is the secret of secrets to getting rich.
Exceptional success in any business is the results of strategically directing ever-increasing amounts of you time to the activities you’re very good at and very excited about, to the highest value responsibilities, to the best opportunities. When you start a business, you do it all. The trick is to stay at that stage as briefly as possible and to grow out of it by directing increasing amounts of your time to those aspects of the business you have the passion for and do best.
You can never make this happen if your time is being abused, wasted, lost, sucked up by vampires and controlled by everybody but you.