354: The golden rule of time management – How to be super productive

I’m reading a cool book, Call Me Ted by Ted Turner. Ted is a businessman who ran Turner Broadcasting and created the first 24-hour news channel. The book details the death of his father early on in life, and how Ted fought to take the company back from a pending sale and grow it into a behemoth. You can find other business books that I love on my Sweaty Startup book list, and I definitely recommend you check out Call Me Ted.

One of the books on that list is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, and it popularized the idea of the four quadrants of time management. You can think of all of your daily tasks falling into four categories based on importance and urgency:

  • Important and urgent: putting out fires and day-to-day deliverables
  • Urgent but not important: somebody else’s problem, or something to delegate
  • Not important and not urgent: video games, reality TV, and other time wasters
  • Important but not urgent: high-value tasks that aren’t time-sensitive

The important but not urgent tasks are categorized in quadrant two, and it’s where every effective business owner dedicates their time. This can be setting up a video training library, fielding reviews from customers, or setting up new systems and processes for your business. In 2013 at Storage Squad, we had direct contact with 70% of customers at some point in their life cycle via phone calls, manual emails, or customer service chats. That year we set up an automated email system that went out to customers at different points in their process that had a ton of detail on what they can expect, answering FAQs, and even linking to YouTube videos on packing instructions. By 2014, only 45% of customers ever spoke with us, almost 50% less than the prior volume. We had happier employees, we had happier customers, and we were able to grow more effectively.

Quadrant two is putting out fires before they happen. If you look back on your last year, what were your biggest stressors as a business owner? Dive in, sit down with a pen and paper, analyze the problems that took up your time, and think of how you can solve them. You won’t notice the dividends right away, but over time you’ll find that you have less stress, more money, and an easier, more scalable business.

This is the difference between the people who win and scale their businesses and those who make $60K a year and never get a break. It gives you time to work on your health, your relationships, your network, and your happiness, and this should be a key focus of your life as a business owner.

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I started the Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because I believe the Shark Tank and Tech Crunch culture is ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.