A big issue for entrepreneurs and most folks in general is finding enough time to do what they need to do. They start the day thinking that they have more than enough hours to get their work done, but it seems that regardless of what they do by the end of the day there is still a pile of unfinished work. You think that by staying later, or working longer you’ll be able to catch up, but finishing becomes a mirage that is always over the next hill.
I learned a trick on how to create time from an old boss I had when I worked in security. He had retired as an Army Colonel, and had spent his adult life waking up very early and starting his work day before most people’s alarms went off. He woke at 4am, and by 5am had started his day. (He also was done by 2-3pm). I asked him about this and he said the reason he started work so early was so he could focus on tasks without interruptions. When you do work at 10am or 2pm the phone is ringing, new emails are coming in, and people are asking for a minute of your time. When you work at 5am you get to work in silence.
So he’d start the day at 5am. He’d read all of the previous days security reports, and messages from our clients. Without having any distractions he’d then write memo’s, and email clients well thought out responses. So when 8am rolls around and regular employees start walking in the door he can then fully focus on them, determine whether they are presenting themselves professionally, have conversations, etc with all of his busy work completely done. By starting at 5am he can focus on the busy work, then at 8am he can focus on the people. There’s no magic trick to why he was efficient, always on top of things, and generally was a good boss. He simply setup his work day so that one type of tasks did not disrupt him from completing the others.
I spoke with our clients on a number of occasions and every one commented on the fact that when they walked in at 8am they already had an email from my boss explaining security issues from the day before, and what had, or was being done to resolve the problem. They never doubted his abilities or competence because every morning they had a briefing that answered their questions before they needed to ask them.
Starting the day early can be vital as a new entrepreneur. The fact is that you can only sell, and service your clients generally during regular business hours. So for planning purposes you can expect to be able to interact with clients from 9am to 4pm. If from 9am to 4pm you’re knocking on doors advertising your services, responding to inbound calls, fixing client issues, etc you’re more likely to be successful than if you’re ordering components at 11am.
Think about it this way. You can write documentation at 6am. You can order parts from NewEgg.com at 7am. You can fill out payroll at 7:30am. You can’t cold call clients at 5:30am. So if you don’t have the amount of work you want, and the number of clients you have is below what you need, why in the hell are you doing busy work at 11am? 9am-4pm should be devoted to either doing paid work, or finding paid work.
You may read this and generally agree, but think to yourself that you’re more of a night person so you’ll do payroll at 9pm. It seems like the same train of thought… The issue is that once interruptions start in your day they have a nasty way of not stopping. You plan to do payroll at 9pm, but then your spouse comes home and you have an argument. Once the argument is done you just can’t focus on tedious math and you put off the payroll till tomorrow when you’ll end up doing it at 11am. Or you come home and your neighbor is having a party. They invite you over. You figure you’ll just have a beer or two. The next thing you know it’s 11am, you’re popping a Tylenol, and you’re trying to figure out why in the hell an employee says they worked a 36 hour shift.
When you start at 5am it’s a brand new day. Your spouse isn’t awake. Your neighbor isn’t awake. You’re not being interrupted simply because everyone else is asleep.
Additionally if things go badly that day you can still work 13 hours and be done at a reasonable time. If you start the day at 8am then a 13 hour day ends at 9pm. Your spouse probably won’t be happy. Your kids will learn to live without you. Your friends will wonder what ever happened to the person they used to like. If you start at 5am on the other hand a 13 hour day ends at 6pm. You can still pretend to be a normal person. You can have dinner with the family, help your kids with homework, and maybe even grab a beer with friends.
I’ve found in life that every hour I work before 8am is worth 2-3 of the hours I work after in regards to paperwork and such. If you’re wondering why you’re not successful the first question to ask yourself is why in the hell you’re doing paperwork at 11am instead of knocking on doors..?