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Why Most Entrepreneurs Are Terrible At Time Management (And How To Buck The Trend)


Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

9 minute read

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Time is one of the most valuable resources for any business. Unfortunately, it also happens to be one of the most mismanaged in any business.

62% of entrepreneurs report spending at least 50 hours each week running their companies—well over the national average. Even then, those who put in all these extra hours into their businesses often find that this extra time doesn't go as far as they'd like, and their workload still piles higher and higher every day.

The problem is, a lack of time management can create significant issues in your daily operations that can hold you back from being as successful as you could be.

How do you stop this from happening, and how do you manage time like an expert?

What is time management?

Time management skills are what enable us to complete work on time without compromising the quality of our output.

When we don’t manage our time efficiently, deadlines pile up, projects get delayed, and our stress levels get higher. We become more prone to making errors, and we're more likely to neglect our basic physical and mental needs when we're constantly playing catch-up.

Strong time management skills, including effective prioritization, overcoming distractions, and task delegation, are essential for entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses while still maintaining a balanced life.

What causes poor time management among entrepreneurs?

There are many reasons why someone might have difficulty managing their time, but these are some of the most common ones.

Unclear goals

Goals are meant to provide guidance and direction. But if they are not well-thought-out, entrepreneurs won't be able to make the right decisions in terms of managing their time. They'll end up spending time on insignificant tasks instead of focusing their energy on high-priority ones.

Lack of organization

Organization helps entrepreneurs break down complex tasks into smaller chunks and work systematically to complete them in a timely manner. If entrepreneurs lack organization skills or have disorganized workspaces, it's easy for them to lose track of time and become overwhelmed by their workload.

Poor planning

Planning isn't just about setting goals or creating schedules; it's also about developing strategies to reach those goals within the available timeframe. Without proper planning, entrepreneurs can easily fall into the trap of failing to meet deadlines.


Procrastination is a common problem among entrepreneurs as they tend to put off tasks until the last minute or become easily distracted by other activities or projects that seem more interesting or important at the moment. In the end, procrastination leads to missed deadlines, not to mention a lot of wasted time.

Lack of focus

Focus is essential for managing time effectively. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs often struggle with distractions that prevent them from staying on task and completing work in an efficient manner. This lack of focus can lead to multitasking, resulting in poorer quality work or delays in project completion.

Unrealistic expectations

Many people tend to overestimate how much they can accomplish in a given day or week. Entrepreneurs are no exception; they often bite off more than they can chew, resulting in incomplete projects and missed deadlines due to lack of time.

Poor self-care practices

Physical and mental exhaustion can impact several, if not all of our cognitive abilities, including concentration, working memory, mathematical capacity, logical reasoning, perception, and judgment.

When our brains aren't firing as they should and we find ourselves firmly in the grip of brain fog or a mental block, even the simplest tasks can take far longer to complete. Then before we know it, we've fallen way behind on our schedules.

How can poor time management affect businesses?

If you're consistently missing deadlines and failing to meet customer expectations, it won't be long before your reputation (and even your wallet) takes a hit.

Failing to collect payments on time, not paying due invoices, and getting fined for late payments are only a few examples of how inefficient time management can take its toll on your pocket. But it's not just financial penalties that can affect your company's success. It's the opportunities for increased profitability and growth that you miss out on when you're constantly frazzled with no time to dedicate to big-picture planning and strategy.

Employees can also suffer. Working in an environment where deadlines are constantly being missed, and goals are rarely achieved can be disheartening and lead to feelings of frustration, stress, and low morale. This in turn can result in decreased staff productivity and higher turnover rates.

How to master time management as a business owner

The good news is that any entrepreneur can become a master of time management with the right approach.

Here are some surefire tips for proper time management to help you become a more efficient and effective entrepreneur:

1. Set clear goals

At the beginning of each day, take a moment to consider what you would like to accomplish. Though it may seem like a simple question, your answer will help you to plan your agenda with purpose.

Think about the short- and long-term objectives you’ve set for your business. What could you do today that would take you closer to them?

2. Prioritize tasks

Having a clear understanding of what is important and what is urgent will help ensure you don't miss any deadlines or lose sight of your goals.

Start by creating a list of everything that currently needs to be done, all projects and plans pending—both big and small.

Anything that's both urgent and important should always be dealt with first. Then you can move on to any tasks that are important but less urgent. These tasks are usually easy to put off but provide lots of value when they do get done, so it pays to have these at the higher end of your to-do list. Aim to steer clear of non-important and non-urgent work as much as possible—if not completely.

See: How To Prioritize As An Entrepreneur: What To Do When All Tasks Feel Important

3. Create a schedule that works for you

Having a strategic plan for your time is key to making the most of each day. This does not mean adopting a strict, military-style regimen—instead, it involves being smart about what should be done and when.

With that in mind, you can enhance your efficiency even further by identifying your prime times for productivity.

Knowing when, where, and how you do your best work is an invaluable hack for helping you accomplish more each day.

Always aim to schedule your top-priority tasks within your most alert and energized hours.

If you're an early bird, your daily schedule might look something like this:

7 am – Coffee and breakfast
8 am – Establish your top priorities for the day and plan your tasks
8:30 am – Work on your top-priority task
10:30 am – Begin your second task
12 pm – Lunch
12:30 pm – Respond to urgent emails

Aim to set specific limits on how much time you spend on each task. If you're thinking these time slots in this example look pretty generous, it's worth leaving some "buffer" time in your schedule, where possible. It's always better to overestimate than underestimate the time it takes to complete a task, and it reduces the chance of any unanticipated delays or disturbances throwing off your timeline.

While there's no one-size-fits-all approach to the perfect schedule, a little thoughtful planning will help you stay organized and make sure your most meaningful work gets the focus and attention it deserves.

See: 3 Ways Your Calendar App Can Make You More Productive Every Day

4. Take advantage of technology

Technology can be a great asset when it comes to managing your time efficiently. There are many tools and apps available that can help you stay organized and on track with your tasks. For example, project management software can help you keep track of deadlines and prioritize tasks. Other useful additions to your workflow include fully optimized calendar apps and task-scheduling software.

Time-tracking tools, in particular, are especially useful when it comes to increasing your efficiency. It's tough to successfully manage your time when you don't know how it's being spent.

Are your "5-minute" morning email checks dragging on longer than they should? How about those "short" social media breaks? These seemingly small tasks can really add up.

Not only that, tracking your time makes it easier to determine which of your projects or responsibilities take up the most time and effort and whether their return on investment is worth it. Chances are, you'll find that you could do much more productive and profitable work each day simply by reallocating your time and energy resources.

5. Delegate

For many entrepreneurs, our biggest struggles with managing time come from having too much on our to-do list that lacks importance or urgency.

With an ever-growing list of responsibilities and a limited amount of hours in a day, no matter how hard you try there will be times when it's simply impossible to accomplish everything within the time frame you have available.

This is why it's important to remember that one person can only do so much. Trying to be everything to everyone at all times makes it easy to lose focus on the most important work and become overwhelmed by all the demands on your time. In the end, not only will your business suffer, but so will your mental health.

So instead of worrying about the quantity of work you should be completing each day, it’s time to focus on the quality. Offloading time-consuming, low-value tasks is one of the simplest yet most effective actions that make it possible for you to do more in less time.

A virtual assistant (VA) can take care of almost any regular, day-to-day task that's necessary to your operations but doesn’t immediately contribute to your growth.

If you’re unsure which of your regular responsibilities are the best use of your time and which should be delegated, enter them into our free to-do list optimizer.

See: Delegate These 25 Recurring Tasks To Save Time Every Day

What's the bottom line?

Without careful planning, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the demands of running a business. When you don't prioritize your schedule and make full use of your resources, inevitably you will find that instead of feeling in control of your work, you'll be more like a slave to it.

Good time management skills are crucial for entrepreneurs who want to achieve long-term success and avoid the frustration, stress, and exhaustion of always falling short. Implementing the strategies outlined above will help you stay on top of everything that comes your way without compromising your well-being, relationships, or job satisfaction.

But how can you possibly manage your time when you have more work than you can handle?

If you’re ready to cut out the time-consuming, energy-zapping tasks that stop you from pushing your business forward, Time etc is here for you.

Since 2007, our mission has been to help entrepreneurs take back control over their time by matching them with the best virtual assistants for their businesses. Each step of the way, our expert team will carefully assess your needs to make sure you get the right support you need to succeed. We’re so sure you’ll be delighted with your assistant, we offer a complete lifetime satisfaction guarantee.

Speak to our expert team to get started and we’ll set you up with a dedicated professional based on the skills and experience you need.

Or try us out for free today!

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About the author

Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

Psssst...want a free copy of my book The Hard Work Myth?

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