A good idea, a success story of self-marketing, a large financing round, and even a winning team are all among the keys for a start-up’s success, but above all, the most important asset for entrepreneurs is time. Effective time management is the start-up’s tool for success. Therein lies the duty of the entrepreneur to plan the time devoted to his tasks to manage the start-up and the company he has founded, alongside his personal life. The “Globes”-Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI) Smartup2 program brought together experts to talk about the subject.
Paradoxically, to properly manage time requires time devoted to the task. The ways for proper management can come from creating a more productive environment, from prioritizing tasks, and removing distractions. Three years ago, “Globes” interviewed then-Ginger Software Ltd. CEO Yael Karov, who diagramed her daily time management ability, which made many waves. She talked about how she showered with her children, travelled only by taxi so she could work and to avoid wasting time driving, avoided small-talk, and, from a young age, she had a personal assistant to handle shopping and chores. The interview raised many eyebrows from people who wondered whether such efficient time management by an entrepreneur harmed her family, friends, and a normal life, at least as most people live it.
The debate over the interview and careerists, especially self-employed careerists, let alone in the case of a start-up that is constantly under the magnifying glasses of investors, the media, and customers, began and ended with time management. While showering with your children might be a bit extreme, entrepreneurs definitely can, and should, learn how to better manage their time.
“There are always more tasks than time. If you don’t know all your tasks at any given moment you cannot know which task to prioritize,” says serial entrepreneur and Aleph venture capital fund partner Eden Shochat. Long ago, he took to heart the book by David Allen, “Getting Things Done”, turning it, like many others, into a way of life.
Allen’s tips include writing a single list of all the tasks, because any unwritten task will take up time in the unconscious. He also suggests to immediately carry out any task that takes less than two minutes in order to avoid an endless list. Another suggestion is to put every task into context, so that even if you are outside your work environment, such as during a flight with no Internet, it is still possible to complete tasks that can be done offline.
Shochat decided to share Allen’s wealth of time management tips with the entrepreneurs he invests in. Every start-up that he invests in through Aleph receives a special Welcome Kit that includes Allen’s book.
Deal with the small tasks immediately
Shochat argues that to be efficient requires a set of habits of knowing what I must do, to be able to decide at certain points in time the amount of energy and concentration needed for my tasks, how much time I have, and even where I am at. Knowing these things, I can choose the right thing to do at the moment.
“Globes”: What are entrepreneurs’ main problems in managing their time?
Shochat: “The most important task at any given moment is for everyone who works with the entrepreneur to know what to do. This is a force multiplier. If a second man next to you knows what is the best thing to do the chance that you will all be more efficient is greater. The problem is that technology entrepreneurs reject this kind of task-saving authority and clarity for everyone to know what to do. If you make this issue a priority, you make your organization more efficient. The ideal time management is to take care of other people’s time management.”
Shochat also stresses one of the worst problems of wasting time. “The worst task to immediately fulfill is to reach zero e-mails in your inbox. At the end of every day, I reach zero, but the question is how to do it,” he says, explaining, “The best way is to be on top of the e-mails all day. That’s very satisfying. I get an e-mail, something new, and I answer it. At the same time, I feel that I’ve done something. But e-mails are the worst way for others to decide for you what you’re going to do now. It utterly contravenes the wish for efficiency, when you know what has to be done and what is the right thing to do at that moment.”
Shochat says that the first habit is to change how the entrepreneur manages his e-mailbox. “The ideal way is to read e-mails three times a day morning, afternoon, and evening - and to create a system of expectations with the people around you that if they want something dealt with immediately, they should send an SMS, not an e-mail,” he says,
The second stage for handling e-mails is to read each e-mail only once. “Most people fail at this. They read the e-mail, understand it, and then they don’t have the time to do what the e-mail says at the moment, so it stays in the mailbox, they return to it at the end of the day or the next day, and reread it to remember what it is about, and only then do they act on it.
“This is acute time-wasting. If you read the e-mail and all that you are doing is taking up to two minutes, it’s better to do it immediately. If it needs more than two minutes, add to the daily tasks, which are categorized and prioritized for where and when to carry out the task.”
Time management has no technological solution
Any.Do founding partner and CEO Omer Perchik is very familiar with time management, not just as an entrepreneur, but because that is what his company’s app does. The app allows the typing or recording of personal tasks, such as calling mommy, doing the laundry, or buying milk, and sets their priority. In this way, it is possible to schedule the tasks for today, tomorrow, or sometime in the future. One of the app’s features, Any.Do Moment, sends an alert at the start of the day, allowing the scheduling of the day’s tasks according to the time the user wants to carry them out.
“Our product works in a very customized way, so it won’t help you make a team’s work time more efficient or better manage employees, but it will improve personal time management,” says Perchik.
Perchik actually distances himself from Shochat’s methodology. Shochat invested in the company through Genesis Partners and is a director of Any.Do. “There are methods like ‘Getting Things Done’ or ‘Pomodoro’, but they are designed for people who really live by time management. It is only suited for certain kind of people, which is very geeky. The average person is less interested, and seeks simpler tools for his self-management,” he says.
Any.Do’s products are not alone. There are dozens of apps on the market which are trying to manage users’ time, including that of entrepreneurs. An example is Timeful Inc., founded by Chief Behavior Officer Prof. Dan Ariely and chairman Prof. Yoav Shoham, which recently raised $7 million. Giants like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) have entered the time management field in recent years. Google has invested in a notes and memos app, Keep, on one hand, while increasing the frequency of its Google Now service, which sits on the mobile search screen providing the user with information, such as where his car is parked, flight details in gmail, daily tasks in the diary, alerts about the right time to go to a meeting, and other items, on the other.
A few years ago, Apple launched Siri, inserting it in the user’s personal help service, which allows voice instructions and shorter procedures for checking the weather, searching for restaurants, and other things.
“Managers who have secretaries and personal assistants act much more efficiently in terms of handling their daily schedules. It costs a few thousand shekels or dollars a month, which is money that start-ups do not have. Beyond that, it is far from being perfect. In my opinion, it will take ten years to develop a personal assistant that really works. There is no contemporary technology or application that will allow you to ask a virtual personal assistant to buy a gift for your wife’s birthday, schedule a doctor’s meeting, or talk with National Insurance on your behalf. We’re very far from that,” says Perchik.
Putting aside applications and technology, Perchik has to deal with time management not just as a man who heads a company for which time management is its raison d’etre, but as the founder and CEO of a start-up. “As an entrepreneur, time is the most important resource. One of the subject’s difficulties is intra-organization communications. My ability to call people in the company greatly burdens productivity. The ability to obtain information from my team’s people when I as the CEO need it to do things is problematical,” he says.
There are various systems on the market designed to help employees manage intra-organization communications. They include Israeli start-up daPulse Ltd. and Slack Ltd., which are developing easy-to-use and flowing project management and intra-organization communications.
Rules of thumb for proper time management:
- Make a single list of tasks, because any unlisted task will take up time in the unconscious.
- Immediately carry out every task that requires less than two minutes in order to avoid an endless list.
- Put every task into context, so that even if you are outside your work environment, such as during a flight with no Internet, it is still possible to complete tasks that can be done offline.
- Read e-mails only three times a day.
- Read each e-mail only once, and add the subject to the task list.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 4, 2014
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