Entrepreneurship is freedom, but there’s a catch; you must master the art of prioritization. With that in mind, let’s walk through some prioritization tips.
When you’re building your business, you will inevitably hit a point where you need to get serious about prioritizing tasks on your endless to-do list (and the demands of others). You must separate the essential tasks from those that can wait.
Finding your groove with prioritization may take a while; the sooner you start practicing, the better. To help you, we reached out to entrepreneurs and business founders who gave us their best prioritization tips so you can learn from those who are succeeding.
In this article:
- What it’s like when time management falls apart
- Prioritization tips for the busy AF entrepreneur
- The benefits of prioritization in entrepreneurship
- Let better task management put out that dumpster fire
What it’s like when time management falls apart
Poor time management is no joke. Whilst it directly impacts work, poor time management will likely leak into your personal life and potentially impact your mental health and relationships.
A UKG report surveyed 3,400 people across ten countries and found that ‘stress from work carries into our personal lives — employees say work negatively impacts their home life (71%), wellbeing (64%), and relationships (62%).’
You know how this feels. Your brain is running 24/7. You wake up late, spill coffee on your shirt, and then get stuck in traffic on the way to an important meeting. The traffic lights are all red and the rage is building. When you finally arrive, you realize you left your presentation at home.
It's a nightmare scenario that we've all experienced at one time or another.
When we’re more relaxed and less burnt out, we can weather scenarios like the above with grace.
Prioritization tips for the busy AF entrepreneur
You don’t have to figure out how to prioritize your day alone. Our busy AF entrepreneurs have their best prioritization tips to fast-track you from overwhelmed to in control and thriving. Below, you can learn in minutes the prioritization lessons that took them years!
Don’t overpack your schedule.
You are one person, and there are only so many hours in a day. When it comes to your schedule, you owe it to yourself — and those around you — not to work yourself silly.
Sara Taher is a busy SEO consultant. Time management is crucial for Taher, who juggles her consultancy business, speaking events, and writing as part of her entrepreneurial journey. Taher shares the importance of managing her schedule: “If something isn’t urgent and can be done later, do it later if that’s going to make your schedule more relaxed.”
Taher continues, “I have a limit on the number of meetings per day and total per week. I block time for work by task and leave space for breaks.”
As an entrepreneur, you need to leave room for the unexpected. You also want to protect your own time, which is why Taher recommends not having a back-to-back meeting schedule. She warns, “This is the shortest way to burn out.”
Prioritize tasks based on their potential return.
Daniel Nguyen, WriterZen CEO, had to learn how to detect the noise from high-priority tasks. As a CEO or busy entrepreneur, you simply can’t spend your time on meaningless tasks that won’t move the needle. But when everyone and everything is crying out for your attention, how do you choose the tasks that matter the most?
Nguyen relies on his principles, values, and end goals to help prioritize tasks. He says, “Knowing your end goal helps you work backward to identify the smaller steps that you can take today to meet that end goal.”
If a task doesn’t make a step toward that end goal, you can bump it to later, delegate it, or maybe even not do it at all.
Set & honor an end of the day
Ideally, you will have a fairly consistent work schedule that allows you to gear up and come down from the cycle and demands of work.
Carlo De Guzman is a Burnout Coach who helps entrepreneurs live a more peaceful and fulfilling life. De Guzman is all too familiar with the struggles entrepreneurs face finishing their day and leaving work at the door.
Among his prioritization tips is this: “Work tasks may always feel never-ending, and they will continue to pile up, especially if you are an up-and-coming entrepreneur. Your mind needs to learn how to mentally disconnect at the end of the day.”
De Guzman says the solution is to “Start your day by asking yourself what tasks you need to accomplish to feel like the day is successful. That way, you feel more comfortable finishing work at the end of the day because you prioritized the important tasks.
“Then when you are ready to mentally disconnect, do something light on thinking. (e.g., watch a light-hearted show/movie, spend time with family/friends). You spend all day making a lot of decisions; the point is to let your mind rest in a way that works for you.”
Avoid burnout by knowing when to say no
Saying no doesn’t come easy to many of us. YouGov America surveyed 1,000 Americans and found that 50% of participants would probably or definitely, identify as a people-pleaser. The issue here is that the inability to say ‘no’ is heavily associated with people-pleasing, meaning many entrepreneurs will struggle with this vital prioritization tip.
Female entrepreneurs should pay special attention to this all-important tip since women are more likely to identify as people-pleasers than men.
The art of saying no is a personal boundary requiring deep self-awareness. It’s associated with higher levels of self-worth, and a simple no can be the difference between a manageable day and a stressful one.
As Nguyen says above, the ability to communicate “no” to tasks will likely improve if you have identified your end goal and why. If you know what you need to do, then you know what you don’t need to do. If you can identify the tasks that are not crucial for you, then you can say no.
As an entrepreneur, the buck stops with you, so there are a few things that you can do to make that “no” come more naturally. Firstly, delegate to other team members or hire a VA to take on some of these not-so-urgent tasks.
Think about automation. In the digital world, handing over repetitive tasks has never been so easy. Think about what you can hand over to a digital assistant. Some examples might include scheduling social media posts, automating reports, or creating designs.
Make time to exercise.
Exercise helps combat overwhelm and improves decision-making, which will help you prioritize. This is proven time and time again, yet entrepreneurs are all too easily tied to their computers without a break.
Sometimes we need to slow down to speed up.
Louis Smith is an entrepreneur helping some of the biggest brands. He is responsible for $80million+ MRR for household names. He built his business and managed to run his fastest half-marathon. Smith credits exercise with his ability to make healthy business decisions every day.
He says, “Entrepreneurship works the mind, don’t forget to work the body. Become unstoppable with a healthy mind and body.”
The best part: you don’t have to be hitting PBs on half-marathons to reap the benefits of exercise on decision making. Research shows that 45 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week is enough to improve cognitive function.
Reserve your most productive time for high-priority tasks.
We all have focus hours when our brain is most active and productive. For me, I love early mornings. I can get a lot done during those 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. hours when the world is (mostly) resting. There’s something about the quiet, a coffee in hand, as I work while my household sleeps.
Although hustle culture and the 5 a.m. club might not make it easy to believe: the morning may not be the time for you. Some of us are genetically predisposed to be night owls and get the best work done in the evening.
You will benefit from identifying when you do your best work. All you need to do is try different tasks at different times of day to see where you perform your best. Once you know when you do your best work, you can organize your schedule accordingly. Put your highly-valuable, highly-important tasks within this time.
Avoid perfectionism & focus on getting things done
You might be familiar with the saying, “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.” It’s something I remind myself of often! The most conscientious entrepreneurs can be debilitated by perfection.
It’s of utmost importance to give yourself grace. Yes, you should do a great job and care about your work, but if perfection is becoming a roadblock to doing, you may need to re-evaluate your priorities.
In my experience, those who want to strive in the business world and are conscientious have the biggest battle in making peace with their work. If you identify as a highly-conscientious individual, it might be worth assessing where your work standards are. Your 50% efforts could be the industry standard 100%, meaning you’re at risk of burning out, over-delivering, and not being fairly compensated. It’s worth considering.
If you can, reach out to other entrepreneurs, build a community, and discuss how others handle their workload and deliverables. See how you fare, what you could do better, and where to improve.
Use the Eisenhower Matrix
For some, getting to grips with the prioritization tips might not come easy. If you need a method to help you identify the important from the non-important, then the Eisenhower Matrix will be a game-changer.
The matrix splits tasks into four quadrants:
- Do first tasks should be done on the day and ideally in the focus hour where you get your best work done.
- Schedule tasks that are not so urgent and can be completed later in the week.
- Delegate tasks should be handed over to someone else. Busy entrepreneurs can’t be expected to do everything.
- Don’t do tasks that are not urgent or essential. If you properly audit your to-do list, if you’re anything like me, you might shock yourself with the tasks you’re hoarding that drain your time.
For more on the Eisenhower Matrix, see the video below.
Try not to convince yourself that it’s faster to do every task yourself and hold onto the benefits of prioritization to keep yourself motivated and willing to explore the prioritization tips recommended.
The benefits of prioritization in entrepreneurship
The above is probably enough to convince anyone that prioritization in entrepreneurship is transformative, but here are the specific ways in which prioritization will better your life and career.
- Your day-to-day leaves you breathing easier. When you clearly understand what's essential, you can make better decisions about how to spend your time and energy.
- Motivation is easier to maintain. Working toward an end goal and knowing how your tasks are helping you to get there will keep your motivation up.
- That to-do list is never in question because you can trust you have correctly prioritized it in a way that keeps you moving in the right direction.
- The big picture is about growing, not catching up. You can grow your business without distraction when you know what you’re doing and why. Prioritization will help you stay focused on your goals.
- You can manage those around you. When you know what you’re doing, you can start managing those around you to help control the ever-growing list of demands. This will free up your time and improve relationships.
Let better task management put out that dumpster fire.
Learning how to prioritize is a learning curve; for some of us, it’ll be steep!
When time management is a mess, your life can feel out of control. It’s highly stressful, and there are no winners when work impacts your home life.
Recalibrating yourself and your priorities is a must for entrepreneurs, and let me give you one last tip, the need to reprioritize and put yourself first never stops.
Your ventures will constantly evolve, and you must keep one eye open to be the best version of yourself in all aspects of your life.
If you can find some excitement in the chaos and keep coming back to a grounded self, you can only excel.