Entrepreneurs are well intentioned as a species, to a fault.
Two of my new coaching clients are serial entrepreneurs who expressed challenges with time management. One of them mentioned that she has cut back on two hours of sleep to gain extra productive time. The other simply said there aren’t enough hours in the day and has stopped exercising each morning and works through lunch to “get back” an extra two hours of productivity.
In my first meeting with each of them, each asked what I thought they should do. I simply drew them a graph and sat back silently. (Ironically, both were economic majors in college.)
For entrepreneurs, the law of diminishing returns refers to the point where the profit gained is less than the amount of energy invested. Until I put this graph on paper for them, they didn’t realize that by sacrificing their personal time and putting their business ahead of themselves at the expense of their health, it was actually hurting everyone around them. It’s a blind spot we are all often guilty of.
Think about it this way: If an athlete is headed into a game without a plan, and is poorly rested and poorly nourished, do they have any chance of winning? Now insert the word entrepreneur for athlete and week for game.
Often, when we aren’t as successful as we’d like to be, it’s not because we aren’t doing enough, it’s because we are doing too much of the wrong things. There are 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week. You either are investing in that time or wasting it. Invest it and it will feel like you have 26 hours, waste it and it will feel like a lot less than 24. A lot of people blow through their weeks without a game plan and then wonder why they feel stretched or like they aren’t accomplishing enough.
You need to game plan your week in advance to set up how you will invest your 168 hours. Every night you need to game plan how you will invest the 24 hours in your next day because measurement equals motivation. My clients all use my proprietary system, The Daily Game Plan. If you just execute this one aspect of it you will immediately become more productive by working smarter and not harder.
Begin by listing all the usual tasks that take place in your typical work week and then schedule them in a planner (online or off). A short list of non-negotiables are scheduled in first (recovery, fitness, nutrition, time with family, etc.). Then subtract each of the allotted tasks and appointments along with their corresponding times from the 24 hours in your day. Here’s a sample plan:
- 8 hours recovery (Go to bed and wake up at same time each day.)
- 1.5 hours nutrition
- 1-hour appointment with children (or friends/relatives if you don’t have kids)
- 1-hour appointment with spouse or significant other
- 9 hours work
- 30 minutes fitness or meditation
- 50 minutes commuting (average U.S. commute time)
- 30 minutes personal development (Reading or studying can also be done via audio during commute.)
- Total equals 22 hours and 20 minutes
This plan consistently creates almost two additional waking hours of productivity for my clients. Understand that you are your own most important client. Schedule non-negotiable appointments with yourself for the biggest life priority that drives all your personal and professional results: recovery. In other words, sleeping and eating.
Research indicates we perform best with a minimum of eight hours of sleep. I prefer to call it recovery. Sleep sounds ambiguous and like it’s a luxury, not a necessity for optimal performance. Eating or nutrition is also a form of recovery. Budgeting one third of your 24-hour day for sleep/recovery allows you to invest 16 hours towards the active portion of your life.
Normalizing your non-negotiables is a huge productivity tool because there is tremendous performance power in having routines. Ask any athlete and they will tell you it takes the emotion away from execution. Schedule a routine as closely down to the minute for your typical work day as possible.
How to execute your daily game plan:
- Schedule eight hours of recovery (sleep) into your calendar before scheduling anything else.
- Schedule one-and-a-half to two hours of nutrition (eating) into your calendar before scheduling anything else.
- Schedule benchmarks from the minute you wake up until you go to work. For example: wake up, work out, shower and dress, commute.
- Make a list of all the activities and events you typically have had to schedule (or should have) over the past week, month and quarter.
- Moving forward, schedule your work days, based on the list in number four. Drill this down into exactly what you’re doing in 15-minute segments every hour. Your final segment of the day should be finalizing the next day’s game plan.
- Schedule benchmarks from the minute you leave the office until you go to bed. For example: commute, time with children or recreational time, dinner prep, dinner, after-dinner recreation, time with spouse, bedtime.
- As the great American philosopher Ice Cube likes to say:“Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Enlist the help of a coach or accountability partner to ensure you execute and repeat your game plan daily.
The difference between you achieving your goals and someone else achieving theirs isn’t money, location, talent or connections, it’s the investment of time. The playing field is level, because everyone is given the same 168 hours in a week and the same 24 hours in day. Your competitive advantage is how your use them.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249704