Time is ticking away. Isn’t it? It does not stop for anyone.
How many hours did you spend being self-aware and intentional in the last 24 hours?
The answer is not at all acceptable on most of the days for many, and it is more puzzling for the entrepreneurs who are always in the hustle mode. The ability to say NO to most of the things that come entrepreneurs’ way and strategically focus on where to invest time comes with practice and discipline.
Saying NO leads to effectively leveraging your time. Think, each time you say YES to something, you are basically saying NO to everything else.
My thoughtful one year of break from the corporate life to transform as an entrepreneur is coming to an end in two months and time just flew by. In the last 10 months, I have written many business plans, created multiple financial models, wrote a few pitch decks, enhanced professional network, advised startups, interacted with many investors, shut down one company and opened another one. I have gotten better at saying NO to many opportunities that come my way but still far from what it needs to be. Reflecting back, I did learn a lot about me, my relationships with family, friends, and the most notably the appreciation for the most limited resource in our life i.e. time.
“Time management is an art and needs to be practiced consciously”
Saying NO is difficult and uncomfortable. 90% of the startups fail as a result of not saying NO at many critical junctures in their journey. As an entrepreneur, the faster you realize the value of time, the higher the probability of achieving your goals.
Sharing learnings about time management from the solo trip to the land of entrepreneurship.
- People want your time. You have a limited amount of it. Learn to say NO. Most of the time, people are just curious about what you are up to. Be true to your NO and it’s okay to be a little selfish. Ask twice, would it move the needle?
- Be unapologetic and no need to feel guilty. Don’t fear to say NO. Entrepreneurs are not meant to be crowd-pleasers. The buck stops with you and to succeed you need to save the time. Spend time wisely.
- Mysterious NO and an enthusiastic YES are equally bad. Don’t fire from the hip, think before responding. Being clear about your constraints and knowing what is on your plate will help you guide to the answer with clear communication. Convey NO gracefully and with respect; requester may appreciate the clarity.
- Not every idea and suggestion is worth working on. Avoid the thought of FOMO (Fear of Missing out). Listen to your gut and develop a simple framework to eliminate ideas not aligned to your roadmap. Having clear written goals will help you avoid distractions.
- The entrepreneurial journey is hard and there is no shame or associated failure to pivot from the original idea or even shutting down the startup. The failure is when you don’t learn to say NO and let emotional bias cloud your judgment.
- Ask WHY multiple times. If there is no clear answer on the return on investment in terms of time, say NO. Have a clear agenda on what you are going to gain, learn or what you are going to contribute. One simple example would be to schedule short meetings with a hard stop. Going in circles over the same topic does not lead to a different outcome.
- NO to social media overindulgence. On average a person looks at their phone 100 times a day. Keep that phone away, it has a detoxifying effect.
- Allocate more time consciously toward working ON the business versus working IN the business. Prioritization is dynamic and constantly needs attention. An entrepreneur disciplined focus should always on the priorities that are Urgent and Important. Many things that are urgent and are not at all critical in nature will automatically fall NO category. The time management matrix by Stephen Covey is a great reference.
Warren Buffet one of the richest persons on the earth is known for religiously managing and controlling his calendar.
“It’s the only thing you can’t buy. I mean, I can buy anything I want, basically, but I can’t buy time” Warren Buffet
What can an entrepreneur do with saved time through the power of NO?
Invest in yourself
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep, there are already known benefits that can help you focus, reduce stress, weight control and have energy all day.
- Start meditating. Just 15 minutes of meditating will improve the accuracy of your decisions, increase memory, reduce anxiety, enhance self-awareness and keep you calm throughout the day.
- Invest in relationships, with friends and family. With entrepreneurial grind finding a proper work-life balance is hard. You have to be intentional to achieve it.
- Play sports, read a book, travel
- The list is endless…
Keep practicing and learn the power of NO. I hope the entrepreneur in you leverages time effectively. Do help me grow by sharing your learnings.