A business owner recently asked for time management strategies for busy entrepreneurs. Aren’t we all insanely busy running our businesses? Most of the people that I work with – my clients, my customers – are solo entrepreneurs which are one-person businesses or very tiny businesses that have less than 10 people in them.

My first response is that I gave up on the concept of “time management” a long time ago and I decided that I needed to re-frame that in order for me to have the most productive days that I possibly could.

First, I’ve re-framed by not calling it “time management” and I referred to it as “me” management because that’s really what we’re doing during the day. It’s figuring out how to manage ourselves in light of whatever else is going on so that we can remain the most productive we can be.

What would you like to succeed at tomorrow?

The first one is trying to decide the night before what your successes are going to be the next day rather than what your tasks or your projects are going to be the next day. We’re all focused on creating successes in our lives, in our businesses. So those tasks better be putting you on your path to creating your success.

Decide what your top priorities are and what your highest-impact tasks or projects are to be able to experience success the next day. Deciding this the night before seems to be better for me because I now look forward to the day. I know exactly what I’m going to accomplish. I know exactly what I’m going to focus on.

Write it down

My second tip is “don’t just decide that in your head.” We as entrepreneurs walk around with a lot of stuff in our heads and the more you write it down, the more committed you are actually in getting it done, so write it down. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. I write down my top 3 priorities everyday on plain old yellow post-it notes.

Focus on your top 3

Now, there are a multitude of other things that you need to get done. I’m sure we all have lists of 40 or 50 things we need to get done. But of all of those 40 or 50 things, what are your top 3? And when you focus in on your top 3 try not to make them in broad categories. Make them very specific.

Break it down

If it’s a big project then you want to break it down and you want to pull out the top 3 things that you want to get done for that project. If you make labels like “write a book” then what happens is you sit down in your productive hours,(we’ll touch on that in a second) and you try to write a book.

You’re not really being productive if you sit down to accomplish that task and you’re asking yourself “Okay, what’s the next step for writing a book?”. You’re just figuring out what you need to do to get the task done. So the more you can make it as specific as possible, the more quickly you move into productivity when the day begins.

Save the date

It isn’t going to get done until you schedule it. Take a look at your calendar. Are the highest priority things actually scheduled in your calendar or you’re just hoping that it fits into the day? I say schedule it.

For me, my most productive hours in the day are the first one to three hours of the day so that’s when I sit down. I shut off the phone. No internet. No excuses. Just quiet time where I’m focused on getting those top 3 things done before anything else.

For most people, their productive hours are the first thing in the morning. Some people are night owls and for them it’s the last thing at night. If you’re a night owl, write it out, schedule it, and make sure that those are the things that you’re focused on getting done on that day.

Learn from your mistakes

If your day wasn’t productive, at the end of the day the best thing you can do is to reflect on what didn’t go well and make sure you make those corrections the following day. Sometimes you have to manage people if you’re working with them. Otherwise they’ll eat up all of your time.

When I don’t manage things in that way, my days aren’t productive. It’s when I do those key things I have the most productive days possible. So give it a try. It really does work.

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