When you run your own business, there is always so much to do. It seems like as entrepreneurs, our work is never done. There’s not enough time to do all that we need to, want to and feel we ought to do.
Not enough time to market to new clients while serving existing ones. Not enough time to keep on top of all the admin and accounts as well as getting products out of the door. Time for social media, to stay on top of current trends and ahead of competitors. Time to work on the business as well as in it. Not to mention time out of your business – with family, home life, social life and health – to rest, recharge and refresh.
Right now, as I’m writing this article, I have a newsletter to plan, a workshop to prepare, calls to make, invoices to send, all with a poorly three year old asleep on my lap!
If only there was an extra hour or five a day, would that make life easier? Or would we just end up working 17 hour days with just as much stress, busyness and overwhelm?
‘Not enough time’ has almost become our mantra. What if we can use it to our advantage? What if not having enough time can actually be good for our productivity?
Here are three reasons why:
1. Parkinson’s Law
Have you ever had all day to get something done, and find you still rush it all in the last half an hour?
Parkinson’s Law says that our work will expand to fill the amount of time we make available.
Which means, if you give yourself half an hour to do something, you’ll get it done. If you have four hours to do the same thing, it may well end up taking four hours.
There’s something about a short deadline that focuses the mind. Something about being timed that gets us moving quicker. I often find that the days when my diary is fairly full and I only have small windows to get stuff done, are the days when I am focused and work fast.
In contrast, when I think I’ve got all day, the temptation is to take all day. These are the days when I am much more likely to faff around, procrastinate and get distracted. I slow down and get caught up in the lull. My day gets swallowed up with bitty jobs, distractions and delays. Oh, and I do indecision, big time.
What about you? When you’ve got all day to do something, do you attack it with the same vigour and urgency, or do you spend four hours perfecting something that would otherwise take half an hour?
Perhaps in honing our focus and boosting momentum, ‘not enough time’ can actually be a catalyst to productivity rather than an obstacle.
2. It gets you creative and asking ‘How?’
We say we don’t have time, but we all have things that we make time for.
Let’s face it, however hectic a day we’re having, if our best friend or a family member had an emergency and needed us, we’d find a way to help wouldn’t we?
There would be things we would drop, timings we would reschedule, commitments we would negotiate, and people we would ask for help. We would make time, because we deemed it important.
Once you decide something is important enough to make time for, you stop telling yourself that you don’t have enough time, and you start asking how. How could you fit it in? How could you get it done within that time frame? You start to get creative and resourceful in seeking solutions.
When I was given the deadline to write a book in 40 days, after my initial reaction of ‘Gah!’ I started asking myself, “ok how would I do it? How could it be done?”
3. It gets you asking the uncomfortable questions
Answering ‘how’ can involve some tough decisions and asking some uncomfortable questions, like:
What’s the point?
Instead of the exasperated, perhaps defeatist way we usually say this while throwing our hands up in the air, asking this question straight up can give you a clarity of purpose. Purpose that gives you direction and definition, to separate actions from activity, opportunity from distraction, and business from busyness. So seriously, what’s the point for you?
What is non-negotiable?
Knowing your point and purpose, what absolutely has to happen in order for you to get there? What items on your to-do list are mission critical in relation to your goal (not someone else’s!) What are your non-negotiables?
If something’s got to give, what would that be? At her Harvard commencement speech, J.K. Rowling explained how not having any money, job or opportunity actually helped her to write her Harry Potter books:
“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.”
Not having enough time pushes you to identify and strip away the inessential so that you can direct your time and energy on what matters most. So what’s dispensible for you? What would you drop if you had to?
Where am I dispensible?
I confess, part of me quite likes being needed and busy (ahem). Given enough time, I’d probably be quite happy doing everything myself. When it comes to the crunch though, I need to honestly ask, “What would carry on without me?”
Where are you dispensible? What can be done by other people? Where can you enlist help, outsource or delegate? What if you let someone else do what they can do, to free you up to do what only you can do?
Does it have to be done now?
One of the biggest causes of overwhelm in entrepreneurs is an abundance of brilliant coupled with the temptation to tackle them all right now.
Not having enough time can give you the opportunity to distinguish between what needs to happen right now, and what can wait for better timing.
So is ‘not enough time’ the bane of an entrepreneur’s life? I don’t think it has to be. If it’s going to be a fact of life, let’s use it to our advantage to boost our focus, momentum, creativity and productivity.