So much to do, so little time, and only one of you.

Last week I noticed a tweet from Danielle Morrill, CEO at Mattermark, with a suggestion that reminded me of similar advice I received long ago from one of my own mentors and friends. I tried to sum up that advice in 140 characters or less, but it has served me so well over the years that I felt the need to elaborate.

A friend of mine was CEO of a mid-sized technology business in the legal services industry. He was facing all the challenges that come with a thriving and growing company: an increasingly longer client list matched by a steady flow of new hires, resulting in an overflowing calendar and unrelenting to-do list. “Time is the one truly limited resource” I once read somewhere. And I’m sure all founders have felt the pressure of only having 24 hours in a day.

As a better organized executive than I ever was, he decided to combat this by setting a personal goal to stop doing things. He started scheduling time (with himself) every six months to take an honest look at where he spent his time. He ruthlessly analyzed this inventory of tasks, projects, meetings, sales pitches, interviews, financial reviews and other interruptions and time-sucks. Then he flagged at least 50% of these activities as those he would stop doing himself. He would either delegate each activity, and create a new position to delegate to if it didn’t exist, or he would stop doing it. He scaled himself.

Naturally, this new-found 50% of spare time would fill quickly with new tasks and priorities. But they were higher up the value chain. I think most leaders can relate to the sheer volume of tangents and distractions we spend time on each day. It’s easier said than done to reduce this time but it’s worth the effort. An early-stage start-up CEO is most often the linchpin that keeps things together and heading in the right direction, but as your business grows, you must grow too.

This advice has stuck with me and helped me focus through chaotic periods during my own start-up projects. I admit I’ve not always been consistent, or even successful by the 50% measure. But I still look at my time more carefully today as a result. You should too, as time keeps on slippin and isn’t going to wait while you keep doing everything yourself.


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