It’s funny how we talk about time – we spend it, save it, buy it. Time is money, and even when we have “free time,” well, it’s not really free is it?

As a business leader, time is your greatest asset – and probably your biggest challenge as well. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. And while I realize there’s a boatload of information out there aimed at helping you better manage your time, I want to tell you what works for me – and what I’ve seen firsthand work for other business owners.

Ok, so I’m not an expert in practice. I’m actually struggling with time management right now; “Should I write the blog, should I contact prospects, reach out to existing clients, walk the dog, eat some lunch? At any given moment there are 43 different tasks I could – and should – do. It boggles the mind!

I’ve seen (and practiced) the age-old tips: make a list with your A, B and C priorities, create an Eisenhower matrix, eliminate all your distractions, etc. Those are all good, but I’m adding my own ideas in hope of helping you approach your time a little differently,

  1. Prioritize with a “growth first” objective: Of the 100 things floating around your brain that you “need to do,” about 98 will incrementally improve your situation — but two have the potential to significantly increase growth (whatever that means to you). Focus on those, and the rest of your worries will begin to take care of themselves.
  2. To-do & To-don’t: Business leader or not; everyone has a to-do list. I believe a “to-don’t list” is just important. Every time you find yourself doing something easily done by someone else, write it down. Over time you can find the right people to whom you can offload these tasks.
  3. Do the hardest thing first: It’s against my nature, but I’m always trying to make this happen. I’ve found procrastination isn’t really about being lazy; it’s more about avoidance; we naturally avoid things we don’t want to do. So, try this: whatever you don’t want to do, do it first! That way you eliminate that nagging dread that saps your energy and makes every other task more difficult than it needs to be.
  4. Associate a $$ value to your time: Like I said, we always talk about time in terms of cost, so why not take that idea literally? Put a price on your time – for me it’s about $350 an hour. With that in mind, any time I’m on a task I have to ask myself how much it cost and whether I got an appropriate return on my investment.
  5. Exercise Discipline: So, this one’s definitely a struggle for me, but I’m guessing many of you will also relate. As an entrepreneur, you really can’t afford to spend all your time doing things you enjoy at the expense of mission-critical tasks. Make sure you remain focused on business-related duties when you know you need to.
  6. OUTSOURCE!: So many people are afraid to invest in help, but just about everyone has tasks that should be outsourced. You have a specific skill set, and chances are, your ROI is much higher for hours spent on the tasks that utilize them. If someone else can do a task faster and better, let them! A quick calculation of the cost of your time vs. the cost of outsourcing will help you determine which tasks to let go. (refer to Step #4)

One last thought: priorities, while necessary, need to also be realistic. If you “prioritize” 25 hours-worth of tasks, however important, you still won’t finish them in a day.

On the flipside, when you prioritize your work properly and realistically, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy even the most work-intensive day. When you can hit the end of the day and see some important work knocked out – that’s an amazing feeling.

But cut yourself some slack; some days that’s just not possible. Tasks often take longer than you think, meetings run over, phone calls go long and at some point, the dog has to do his business. But if you can prioritize your most valuable work, while being realistic about your schedule and capability, you’ll find your groove.

Believe me, I should know. After all, I just finished a blog.