Entrepreneurs are a funny lot. As the most passionate, energetic people in the room, they are attracted to big ideas and often pursue businesses because they like to build. This desire to chase ideas and build is a requirement of getting a business off the ground.
But, once that business is up and running, the same instincts that built it can become a hindrance. Now, the entrepreneur has to focus, forgoing lots of “good” ideas to stabilize and grow the one he has already invested in.
A college friend of mine was considered the guy most likely to succeed in business. He was way ahead of the rest of us in social media, technology, and online marketing. He split his time among all his ventures, while he could have been devoting the most of his time to the venture that had the best chance of success.
He had ambition without focus or a concept of the time he spent on each cause, which landed him in an ad agency, building someone else’s business. Without managing your time properly — using tools such as time logging — your chances of success are very slim. My friend found out the hard way.
The Startup Killer
When you chase every idea, you and your business run the risk of becoming a “jack of all trades, master of none.” A business doesn’t make money by launching projects. The money comes when you optimize a successful project.
Also, when a founder jumps from project to project, morale plummets. Want to know the quickest way to demotivate and eventually lose the great team you’ve built? Constantly put your team members on projects that never get finished. The simplest way to fix this is by implementing a personal time log.
The Startup Savior
Maybe it sounds overly dramatic, but that personal time log can save your startup. It’s the same psychology that goes into food logs for those trying to lose weight. While there is a lot of disagreement about the best way to lose weight, everyone agrees that accountability is key.
Time logs work the same way. They put — right in front of your face — what you are actually doing each minute.
For entrepreneurs, wasting time is akin to sneaking snacks while on a diet. You might spend a few minutes checking email, a few minutes on this project, a few minutes on Facebook, or a few minutes “learning” by reading useless articles. Before you know it, you’ve put in a 10-hour day accomplishing nothing.
The solution? Keep a time log for seven days.
The time log should include the start time, end time, duration, and description of everything you do (except, maybe, going to the bathroom). Track everything from personal activities like eating breakfast to every little thing you do for your business, even changing the coffee filter.
For example, say you want to work on your main money-making project. Record in your time log what time you started and what you’re specifically doing.
Want to check Facebook for no reason? Put a stop time on your main project, along with how long you worked before deciding to waste time. Then, start a new line with your Facebook start time.
The work involved in keeping this kind of log could stop you from wasting time in the first place.
The seven-day log isn’t just good for curbing time wasters. If you find yourself pulled in all directions on different projects, you can use the log to track the amount of time you’re spending on each one. After seven days, you should be able to see how your time is used most effectively.
Startups thrive on ideas, but money is made on execution. It’s your job as a founder to focus yourself and your business on the money-making venture. A time log can protect your startup from the very thing that made it possible in the first place: your ambition.