output over time

Measure work done rather than hours worked. That’s what Francis Bacon warned us for in 1612. “Affected dispatch is one of the most dangerous things to business that can be… Therefore measure not dispatch by the times of sitting, but by the advancement of the business.”

Combining this visionary statement with Parkinson’s law from 1955, which claims: “The amount of work will always expand as to the amount of time available.” Meaning, if you have one year to complete your thesis, somehow it takes one year to complete. If you have six months to complete your thesis, magically, it takes but six months to wrap it up.

Spending more time working is only interesting if the output remains high. Favor output over time.

fixed flexibility

I’m slightly allergic to the following crap: follow these five steps so you, too, can have a magical morning. Activities such as reading, meditation or praying, working out all can make your morning more magical.

However, what none of these pieces of advice seem to entail are the more mundane things. What about washing up, eating, getting dressed, helping others in the household get dressed, traveling to work, the list goes on…

One of my biggest pieces of advice is; include a flexible component.

I find a plan to be only as good as its flexibility. Returning to the morning routine example. One of the activities on the planning should be; a wildcard. After all, you never know what’s going to happen. Suppose you are overcome with sadness due to the inability to complete all items on your list. What then is the purpose of the routine?

What’s true of morning routines is also true of businesses.

Taking the Pareto principle into account, include gaps, breathing space, or wildcards in your planning. Complement fixed components with flexible ones.

chief decision

Some people make decisions for a living. Yes, no, left, right, wait, proceed, increase, decrease. With every decision requiring thinking power and mental capacity, naturally, there is a limit to the number of decisions one can make on a given day.

CEOs showing up in the same outfit, year in year out, is no coincidence. Preserving thinking power for less mundane decisions seems like a smart move.

Whether it’s top CEOs or self-employed people just starting, with no one to make demands, balancing work and life is up to them. No one to impose a schedule, so even seemingly ordinary planning chips away at decision capacity.

wait for it

Sometimes, the entrepreneur has to wait for certain things to fall into place. For instance, the engineering department releasing a new version of their product or a shipment of raw product due to arrive, to process it.

Those are challenging times. Entrepreneurs are typically impatient. Having to wait goes against their beliefs. Yet, sometimes, there is no way around it.

With an incessant inflow of work, why would waiting ever pose a problem? Can’t the entrepreneur just attend to all the other tasks?

They probably could. That doesn’t actually solve the problem. It camouflages the waiting time. It doesn’t make it disappear.

Sometimes waiting has to take place. Stressing about it doesn’t reduce waiting time. Accept the waiting time as gracious as possible.

a little much

Forever running out of time. Literally. Overly self-disciplined people can be tough on themselves. Too tough even. Always pushing the envelope, trying to squeeze the lemon to the very last drop.

The feeling that coincides with running out of time is likely a result of biting off more than you can chew. Quick fix? Take smaller bites.

There are many frameworks and matrixes to organize professional work.
Take the ICE system, for instance, coined by Sean Ellis. Tasks that could accelerate growth for a company get scored. All three parameters, namely: impact, confidence, ease, are graded on a scale of zero to five. The tasks with the highest score out of fifteen are probably, from a strategic point of view, the ones to attend to first.

What about frameworks for people where business and leisure are heavily intertwined? Ideally, work can be switched on or off, at least in our minds. Still, for entrepreneurs, that’s often rather challenging to achieve.
An extra parameter is required. Joy. Does this task bring me any joy?

In an always-on world, reconsider if the task you think you have to do, is one that actually has to be done, or one that you are tricking yourself into thinking that it’s an absolute must?

For the remaining tasks, add joy to the impact confidence and ease mix for a kinder prioritization.

no days off

Vacationing at an exotic destination is currently off the table due to travel restrictions because of pandemic measures. Even if it was an option, the word “vacation” still sounds foreign to many entrepreneurs. As a business owner, primarily consumer-oriented, with a global presence — supporting customers in different time zones — taking time off isn’t always a possibility.

Like Wale sings in the hook of “No Days Off“: “Ambition over everything.” While many entrepreneurs inadvertently share this idea, it has a lot of self-destruction potential. Nothing lasts forever, and working incessantly isn’t viable in the long run.

The question begs itself: how to take time off as an entrepreneur?
Warren Buffett said: “The most important investment you can make is in yourself.” My claim is this: the second most important investment is investing in things that save you time.

As you go, try to invest in time-saving initiatives. Some processes might even be suitable for (semi-)automation. It might take a while, but surely, after some time, you’ll be able to reap the benefits and gradually enable yourself to take time off.

idle downtime

As if that ever happens. Idle downtime as an entrepreneur doesn’t come around very often, but we’re usually ill-prepared when it does.

Idle time and downtime aren’t the same. Idle time in software, for instance, means something scheduled to happen in the future, for the time being, is just sitting there waiting. On the other hand, downtime occurs when, due to failure or an outage, what has to happen, can’t happen.

How does that reflect on people? Idle time for an entrepreneur could imply waiting for a customer to comment on an offer made. Downtime could mean the email server is down, rendering the entrepreneur virtually incapable of performing that particular task.

“You have to make time.” A platitude thrown around that is sure to upset people working day and night. However, idle – and downtime is something that, perhaps due to force majeure, happens to us.

The tricky part is that entrepreneurs should artificially induce it when it doesn’t happen (enough). Idle downtime is an outstanding opportunity to take a step back from day-to-day business and look ahead. Without the opportunity, we are stuck in the daily routine and easily lose track of the strategic roadmap. 

Next time downtime manifests itself, grab the opportunity, get to the (fictive) chopper, and check on the strategy from a helicopter view.