Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur


How to get from where you are to where you want to be


“You must master your time rather than becoming a slave to the constant flow of events and demands on your time. And you must organize your life to achieve balance, harmony and inner peace.” Brian Tracy

I have talked solely about how to manage time to become a more effective entrepreneur. Another dimension is how to manage  time more effectively as an individual. We need to strike a balance in our daily lives and give substantial attention to other areas which will have a direct impact on its quality. Key areas where I have been focusing on to have a more balanced routine are;

  • Health & Exercise: We all have very busy schedules and often find ourselves rushing to work in the early hours of morning and returning too tired at night to even think about what this routine is doing to our health. Schedule a weekly exercise routine to get yourself physically and mentally in better shape. Avoid eating fast food and other unhealthy stuff regularly, these have a severely damaging effect on our health. Make a conscious effort to exercise and eat right.
  • Family & Friends: When life gets busy this is an area where sacrifices are made regularly. The effect of this sacrifice is not felt in the short term, as time goes by ties are strained and you could find yourself alone. Make an effort to use your rest days to spend time with family and friends. These are the memories which will be cherished further down the road.
  • Grow yourself: We should be in a constant state of learning. Pick up a new hobby and dedicate an hour or two every week to develop it. Read a variety of material to keep yourself up to date and informed. If you do not make an effort in this department you may find yourself disconnected from life. Schedule sometime every week to make sure you remain connected.
  • Spiritual: This doesn’t necessarily involve formal religious activities. It should be a dedicated time in the week to make sure that you are connected with yourself. It could be in the form of walks, reading or conversation. This area will help us remain grounded and allows us to see the bigger picture.

A healthy balance is essential for us to manage our time effectively, efficiently and wisely. By setting yourself goals in areas other than business/career, will help us grow more. It allows us to become more self aware about life and our purpose. Make a commitment today to yourself that you will do your best to bring a more balanced approach on how to lead your life.

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Productivity Boosters

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. Bill Gates

The first Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) I got myself was in college. I still remember how frustrated I was when nothing changed after I got it. When I came across this quote by Bill Gates it all made sense, applying technology boosters to our own life will not yield the results we want if our life does not have structure. Today I rely on many productivity tools which help me organize my day in a much more efficient manner.

Contactizer Pro: This is a key program I use to keep track of my day, week, month and year.

Yep: Manages all my documents, receipts, invoices and bills

Yojimbo: Manages important information when I am surfing the internet

Marsedit: Manages all my blogging related activities

iPhone: Can’t imagine life without it

All of these tools have made a difference to the way that I manage information. These tools will only work when you have the discipline to work towards certain goals with perseverance and diligence. Those three characteristics will have a direct impact on how much these tools aid you in organizing your day.

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Time Management System

“Many people seem to think that success in one area can compensate for failure in other areas. But can it really?…True effectiveness requires balance.” Stephen Covey

When scheduling my week, month and year I use the following time management system. The system basically asks you to break up your week into three different types of days. The break up is:

  1. Preparation
  2. Best
  3. Rest

This system truly is very simple, yet, it is often overlooked by many of us. Examples of when this system is not used are days when you feel you are not giving your best to what you are doing, looking to find more time in the day to complete a critical task, thinking your life is purely about work and nothing else.These are thoughts which come to mind even though we have a goals list which is prioritized. By implementing this system I have been able to bring balance into my life and to make sure that I am in sync with all aspects of it.

To use the system effectively you need a prioritized goals list as well as clearly outlining  the functions or tasks you excel at and bring the greatest amount of value to. Once you have marked these, you need to categorize your week into preparation, best and rest days. For example, due to an excess work load I am experiencing this month, I have allocated 2 preparation days, 4 best days and 1 rest day.

Preparation Days: These are the days when I plan the critical tasks which need to be completed during the course of the week or month. These include research for proposals which need to completed, tabulating psychometric tests scores which have been conducted, set and plan agendas for meetings scheduled during the week and coordination which needs to be done for events taking place during the week. Everyone’s preparation days will be unique to the core tasks at which they excel.

Best Days: These days include a number of tasks which create the greatest value. These would include finalizing and sending out proposals, giving presentations and meeting prospective clients, consultations and feedback sessions with clients who have taken our psychometric tests and internal strategic planning meetings. These are tasks which are made easier when prepared for in detail and make my best days a lot more productive. Choose tasks which you have skills and passion for to ensure that you make the most of these days.

Rest Days: These days include tasks which are not related to business . With the advent of Blackberry’s and iPhones, these rest days are slowly becoming extinct. You should do your best to allocate activities or events where you can relax and unwind during these days. I usually spend time with friends and family during this day, reading the ever increasing backlog of unread books and catching up on some sitcoms and shows which I enjoy. These days are essential for a balanced lifestyle.

By targeting a number of prep, best and rest days in a month I have been able to allocate  time more efficiently and have become more effective at the tasks which I excel at. I hope this system can help you as much as it has helped me.

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” I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything…at least not at the same time. So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.” Dan Millman

If you have constructed a goals list and have broken it down into several sub goals it can be intimidating at first. We need to prioritize the list we create to manage time more effectively. Without prioritizing we will remain stuck in an over burdened state where we will not find the time to finish anything efficiently. Prioritizing goals is a critical step and needs to be done carefully to ensure that you concentrate on the activities which have the greatest return for your efforts. By focusing on the “right” things you will move towards your goals at a more effective and faster pace.

The Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule is an apt principle to describe the prioritizing process. You need to identify the tasks which you do daily and which result in the greatest output. Concentrating on those top 20% of activities will result in you working at your optimal. In essence the principle is very straightforward and logical one, yet we find ourselves bogged down everyday doing tasks which are not in the top 20%. For example if you are a salesperson with 100 clients on your roster, you should be focusing your efforts on the top 20 clients who are generating 80% of your revenue. This principle forces you to make choices between what is important and critical and what is not. When I look at a task sheet I usually mark it using the 4D formula which is;

  • Dump it: Tasks which are not relevant to reaching  stipulated goals. For example if I am swamped with work, going to buy myself a new TV isn’t essential at this time  and I will cross it out.
  • Defer it: Tasks which are important but not urgent are put into this category. For example if I am told that I need to select a new vendor for our air conditioning servicing contract for the next quarter I will file it away for a later date.
  • Delegate it: Tasks which are important but for which I may not be the best person need to be delegated. For example, if my company is looking to invest into a new web conferencing solution, I will delegate the research to an assistant so that I can have all the relevant information to make an informed and faster decision.
  • Do it now!: Essential tasks which I am the most efficient at doing should be done with the highest priority. For example if I am head of marketing and need to deliver our marketing plan for the next year to the Board I should be focusing my energy to make it the best I can.

By focusing on the important tasks and at which we are the most efficient, we will find ourselves completing and accomplishing  more during the course of the day, week, month and year. So if you haven’t prioritized your task and goal list make sure you do it as soon as possible to ensure that your time is allocated to those activities which produce the greatest amount of value.

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“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no direction.” Baltasar Gracian

If you tell yourself ‘tomorrow I will manage my time more effectively and get more done’ without any sense of direction of the why or how, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You will need to set S.M.A.R.T goals to ensure that you organize your time effectively and concentrate on actions which will help you reach the desired goals more effectively (Detailed goal construction is a topic I will cover in the coming weeks). Specific.Measurable.Attainable.Realistic.Time goals provide a structure which helps us reach our desired outcome in a more effective manner.

Specific – You will need to answer 5 basic questions when setting a goal:

  1. What do you want to accomplish?
  2. When do you need to accomplish it by?
  3. Where are you going to accomplish the goal?
  4. Who is going to be involved in helping you accomplish the goal.
  5. Why are you wanting to accomplish this goal?

These questions will cover broad goals such as “I want to setup a business” to something along the lines of “By Dec 1st 2008,I will establish a consultancy practice with Mark Allen to provide services related to recruitment process management to help companies recruit more efficiently in Singapore.”

Measurable – When you set a goal you need to keep constant track of its development and progress. You will need to ask yourself the following questions (questions relate to example goal stated above):

  1. How many partners do you want in the firm by Dec 30 2009?
  2. How much revenue do you estimate in the first quarter of 2009?

These questions will help you set up benchmarks for your goals to ensure that you continuously monitor your progress to stay on time.

Attainable – Any goal that you set for yourself is attainable if you work towards it. If the goal I set for myself is “I want to list my business on the stock exchange.” This is a stretch goal which requires many smaller goals to enable you to reach the final goal. Making sure you develop the competencies and satisfy the requirements of your stretch goals through smaller goals is essential in making them attainable.

Realistic – When you set goals they have to be based on the fact that you have the motivation and ability to work towards them. If you truly believe that you have what it takes to reach your goal then you should go for it. Setting goals such as “I want to go play tennis every morning at 6am” if your day ends at 3am on a regular basis will not be a very realistic goal.

Time Specific – Goals need to have a specific time frame to make them effective. A goal such as “I want to lose weight” compared to a specific goal such as “By Jun 1st 08 I want to lose 10 lbs which will be done by going to the gym 3 times a weeks starting from 10th Feb 08” is more effective . Such a goal will be much easier to process and implement than the broader unclear one.

I make goals for myself on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. These goals could be sub-goals of stretch goals which I set for myself. Working towards stretch goals on a regular basis enables you to allocate time more effectively to reach them in the stipulated period.

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Where did the day go?

“Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever.” Samuel Smiles

As an entrepreneur the biggest hurdle that I face is that I wish the day had more hours in it. This is a problem which I have attempted to overcome and have had some success in achieving. It all comes down to the fact that my brain is in a continuous processing mode. Somewhat like a computer which has not been reset for a long time thus slowing everything down. This is how I feel on the days when I know I am not doing my best. I have hence decided to use this week to remind myself on the importance of time management and in the process give some tips to others on what has helped me.

Time management is a vast topic and has been written about and discussed widely. Yet most of it becomes difficult to digest and implement. The reason for this is that most individuals already have too much going on in their lives and miss out on the bigger picture. Three years ago, I remember being in college, running a large students organization, operating my first startup company and occasionally hanging out with friends. Looking back, that period of my life was well time managed due to correct prioritizing . The first step for organizing time has to revolve around priorities . As an entrepreneur I ask myself questions such as; what is important to myself, what do I aim to achieve and how do I plan to achieve these goals? You have to bring focus to the key priorities in life otherwise they will get left behind. For example if you believe helping out the less fortunate is an important aspect of your life and you plan to support it through a particular NGO, how are you incorporating this into your schedule? Has life taken over whilst you have been talking about it? If it has you shouldn’t be too worried, this does happen to everyone at some point of their lives. Prioritizing and using time more effectively with greater focus will help you achieve your commitment.

You will need to allocate certain days and time to your goals to make them possible. Through this methodology we will be able to strike a balance and make sure we utilize this most precious commodity as carefully as possible. I would like to know from the readers where they would utilize an extra hour if they could gain it from effectively managing time. Comments will be much appreciated.

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