How entrepreneurs can find that elusive 25th hour of the day

The good news is that eventually there will be 25 hours in a day, for real. The bad news is that it won't happen for another 200 million years. You might be stuck with the same 24 hours the rest of us have, but that doesn't mean you have to spend it like the average person...

Because let's be frank: the average person wastes inordinate amounts of time every day.

Even you, the entrepreneur, probably misspends plenty of hours every day. Deny it? Then follow the first step in this journey. If you do it honestly and still find that you don't waste any time, then you are truly among the elite. You can skip the other four steps. For everyone else, this guide to time creation is a powerful method for identifying and correcting your poor time management habits. It's not about the to-do list. It's about the did-do list.

1. Understand how you spend time.

Before you can create more time in the day, you have to understand how you currently spend that time. That means that you'll have to for at least a workweek. At this point many people might be turned off. It sounds like a lot of work. Isn't that micromanaging myself?

To which I answer: what are you so afraid of? It's just five days. Is it really that difficult to carry around a notebook - or even just a document on your smartphone - and write down what you do with your time?

It's not difficult at all. People just don't want to know how they spend their time. They'll feel embarrassed when they see how much time they waste. "I'm so busy," no longer feels like a valid excuse. We're aiming exactly for that result with this exercise. Once you have a concrete record of how you improperly spend your time, you can take measures to change it.

An advanced log will contain notes about your performance during many of these tasks as well. Were you distracted? What distracted you? Understanding all of these factors will help you start making the changes you need to create more time in your day. 

2. Determine your 'prevent pain' tasks.

In his bestseller 'Decide' Steve McClatchy describes two types of tasks: prevent pain and gain. Some tasks we perform merely to avoid the pain we'd realize if we neglected them. If you don't process payroll, you face the pain of a disgruntled and potentially litigous workforce.

Here are some characteristics of a prevent pain task: If you don't do the task someone will remind you that you were supposed to do it, it has a deadline, it recurrs, it doesn't enrich your life in any meaningful way and you only perform the task because you don't want to face the consequences of not performing it.

That doesn't sound like a particularly productive way to use your time, does it? The other side of the ledger, gain tasks, have no deadline. You can go through life without performing a single gain task. No one will notice if you don't. No one will come into your office and hound you about finally starting that ecommerce site. No one will ask if you've ever run that marathon. Look over your time logs. How much of what you do on a daily basis merely prevents pain? Chances are the lion's share of your activity fits the characteristics of prevent pain tasks. More importantly, how much time did you spend on gain tasks?

3. Outsource all possible prevent pain tasks.

Once you've listed your myriad prevent pain tasks, it's time to get them off your plate. Unlike gain tasks, prevent pain tasks can be delegated. Smart entrepreneurs will recognize the opportunity and outsource those tasks. Note that if you're not honest in your task assessment, this crucial step becomes less effective. Before you start to delegate, go over your time logs again. Are you sure that everything on your gain list can truly be defined as gain? For example, most work you do for clients can be classified as prevent pain. Yes, your business will benefit from those tasks, but the main reason you're doing them is to prevent the pain of the client firing you and not paying.

Pursuing new clients when you don't absolutely need them, on the other hand, is a gain task. If you need a new client in order to make payroll, you're seeking to prevent that pain. But if you have enough clients to pay your employees and are seeking new ones, you're pursuing gain.

A common objection at this point: "I don't have anyone to delegate to." Not every entrepreneur can afford an assistant. Your staff might be overloaded already. Relax. There are ways to delegate and outsource without breaking the bank.

For most prevent pain tasks, you can delegate to a virtual assistant. You need only hire them for a few hours a month, and it's amazing how much gets done in those hours. Some tasks are simple enough for automation with apps like Zapier. Explore both of these options and you'll realize that you can remove almost all prevent pain tasks from your plate.

4. Find bundling opportunities

Chances are you won't clear your plate entirely of prevent pain tasks. Some of them you might enjoy doing and might not be willing to outsource. Others require your personal attention. Whatever the case, you'll never completely rid yourself of them. You can still change the way you approach many of these tasks. Look at your list again. How many of these tasks require your full attention?

For example, doing the dishes is on my list. My wife and I decided that this was one of my household tasks. I can't delegate it to my daughter, seeing as she can't yet stand up. Doing dishes requires very little of my attention, so I can combine it with another task. If I'm in the middle of a book on my Kindle, I can prop it up behind the sink and read as I wash. But since I typically get through very few pages while washing dishes, I prefer to listen to an audiobook or podcast. There are so many opportunities for us to combine tasks throughout the day.

5. Pursue gain and find your flow

At this point your day might start looking a little empty. You've delegated a huge portion of your daily tasks, and you've combined the rest so that you're using little time to complete them. So what do you do now?

You fill your day with gain tasks, that's what. It shouldn't take much effort to think up dozens of different Gain tasks that will benefit your business. You could; start outlining a new product or service offering, actively pursue new clients and customers, develop new marketing strategies or begin a new business entirely. When we're in ‘flow’ time seems to slow down and our satisfaction and happiness increase. Entrepreneurs are best suited to performing gain tasks in states of flow. Yet so many get bogged down in day-to-day tasks that they feel are necessary to run their businesses. It's time to get out of that mindset and into a gain mindset. You can run in place forever preventing pain. You can change the world when you pursue gain.

Thumbnail from gettyimages. This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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