Mastering time management

How to get more done by doing less?

Most people do time management completely the wrong way.

I started my business career by developing websites and doing online marketing for local clients in Finland. I remember meeting some of the other web developers and digital agencies at the conference, talking with them and realizing that I can do the same thing that they do, and decided to start. The only difference was that the people I met were all doing all the work by themselves. At that time, I was studying computer science at university and could have taken some courses on web development to learn how to do it everything myself, but I chose a different path. I decided to hire freelancers to do all the tech-word for me and then sold these services 3 times higher to my clients. This gave me more time to focus on the most important part, which was sales and marketing. Structuring the business this way was the first smart decision I made, and it gave me the possibility to grow beyond my abilities.

Outsource, outsource, outsource

I cannot emphasize this hard enough. The key to successful time management is not doing everything by yourself. And this is the area where most people fail.

For example, I only do decision making, governance, creative and strategic planning, HR and PR. And this is also what you should never outsource, unless of course, you suck at that, in which case you need to outsource that to someone like me.

Everything else I outsource. I never do any IT, development, tech work. I do only little of actual physical work and only what I really know well and can do effectively. I also do a lot of advising and consulting, but even this is usually telling the client how to do things, and rarely doing the actual things by myself.

Don’t chase the big guys; let them chase you

There is a thing called importance hierarchy or importance level, and it basically goes like this:

If Elon Musk decides to contact someone most likely everyone would reply to him, no matter if it’s a president of another country. This is because the level of importance of Elon Musk is extremely high. But if you try to contact even a CEO of some mid-sized company, he will probably not reply. Why? Well, because you are not that important nor well known.

Most people overvalue themselves, and this applies to overvaluing their importance as well. Therefore if you contact someone as important as you are, he will most likely not reply to you. You have to exceed him in importance or otherwise be a well-known person for him to reply to you. Of course, there are exceptions of people who do not reply to anyone, because they suck at time management so badly that they don’t have time for anything, and then there are people who will reply to everyone. I myself try to reply to all messages which are not obvious spam. Of course, I have good time management skills, and therefore have time for that. Still, it’s also because I have discovered that the contacts that at the beginning seemed to be most uninteresting ones, turned out to be the most valuable for the business.

Trying to get in touch with people who are not replying to you, is one of the biggest time wasters when it comes to working. And it’s usually totally pointless. It will take a huge amount of time to get someone to reply to you if they don’t want to, and when they do there is 50/50 chance that they will just be pissed at you for bothering them.

Instead of chasing the big guys, make them chase you. Of course, it will not happen overnight, but eventually, if you work on your personal branding, you will get noticed by important people, and they will accept you in their club.

This does not only apply to people but companies as well. For example, if you are producing some goods and want to sell them in shops, contacting the biggest, the supermarket chains will be a waste of time. They will never accept you, and will most likely ignore you. So instead of chasing the big ones, get yourself into all small local stores, and after that, the big supermarket chains will start calling you.

Instant messages and emails are by far more effective than phone calls or personal meetings

A huge amount of time for every working person is wasted on interacting with other people. Sure it’s important since you don’t work completely alone, but it can be improved dramatically. I never do phone calls, and I rarely meet people in person, and if I meet them, it’s usually after we have done business together for some time and it’s a natural follow-up to get to know each other.

A great number of people when contacting me suggest me to jump into a phone call directly without even checking in advance if I’m interested in their proposal. This type of approach will only lead into me wasting 15–30 minutes of my time when if they sent their proposal in writing I could check it within couple minutes and understand if there is any potential. Considering that 90% of all contacts will not lead anywhere, spending that much time and energy on them is just stupid.

Other advantages of written communication are:

  • Faster, easier, more effective.
  • You don’t have to reply instantly, but have time to think.
  • If you don’t speak perfect English (or another language), writing is easier for you.
  • You don’t need special ambient conditions, like when talking on the phone.
  • Writing does not occupy your time 100%, and you can do other things while communicating with someone.
  • There is less chance of misunderstanding.
  • It’s all written down, so you in case you forget something, you can always check later what you agreed on and thus avoid conflicts.

Don’t work all the time, but be always available

When it comes to work, people think that they need to work as much as possible to get as much as possible done, when in fact all they need to do is to be available. I work only 20 hours per week, but I’m available 100 hours per week. This means that whenever there is a situation that requires my attention, I’m available, and I can deal with it fast. With this kind of approach, all the work is done instantly, effectively, and it does not accumulate over time.

A person who respects himself should have a 12 hours response time at maximum, which can be temporarily lifted to 24 hours. Everything above 24 hours is purely bad time management. There is no bigger mistake than to take a weekend off or especially a whole week and expect that nothing will happen while you were gone. Most likely by the time you get back, everything you worked for has been demolished. But don’t get me wrong. No one is asking you to work on your weekends or holidays. Just check your emails and messages couple times a day and if it’s needed spend that 30 min for solving a problem when it appears; instead of letting it go and then shovelling the damage for few days after finally deciding to get back to work.

BONUS: Be direct and straightforward

If you don’t like a business proposal or don’t want to work with someone, say it like it is. There is no bigger stupidity than making excuses of being busy and avoiding that person. It will just create more work for you and waste the other person’s time. Sometimes you may have to be harsh, but have the courage to say what you think, or otherwise, no one will ever respect you.

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