to-do list

The biggest excuse I hear for not implementing change is that entrepreneurs have no time. But when you examine your choices honestly, I’m sure you’ll find you made time for lots of things (lunches, golf, Mansbridge) that prove less important in the long run.

How can entrepreneurs manage their time better? I asked Guelph, Ont. entrepreneur Jim Estill, who founded EMJ Data Systems out of the trunk of his car and grew it to $350 million in sales before selling out to U.S. giant Synnex. Estill is now a partner in Canrock Ventures, an early stage active technology investment fund, and blogs about “time leadership.”

He offers these tips for getting control of your time:

  • Make a list of your goals, personal and business alike. Prioritize your top goals; review the list regularly so you know when you’re on track and when you’re off.
  • Track your time usage with a time log. Note all your activities every day for a week or so, and then review the list. Keep asking, “Why am I doing this?” Could someone else be doing it instead
  • Keep a to-do list, but prioritize it. Highlight the tasks that have to be done today.
  • On your to-do list, estimate how much time you think each task will take. That helps you calculate how busy you’ll be over the next few weeks, but also suggests which job to tackle when you get 15 free minutes.
  • Keep a don’t-do list to remind you to avoid time-wasting tasks better left to others.
  • Do the worst thing first thing. Doing the most difficult or annoying job first every day gets essential things done, whether it’s a tough sales call or personnel issues. Accomplishing these distasteful duties will also strengthen you to handle the innovative tasks that may currently seem daunting: hiring that new manager, exploring new markets or overhauling sales-force compensation. Again.

By definition, going beyond your comfort zone is never easy. But that’s where real work and real success lie waiting.

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