Importance of Time Management for Founder CEOs

In our experience with mentoring over 50 organisations as part of Pune International Centre’s (PIC) Social Enterprise Mentorship Programme, we found that one of the critical skills the founder CEO needs to develop is time management as a founder’s time is the most critical resource for a young organisation. When the organisation is just starting, it is natural that the founder and the small team are called upon to do anything and everything as and when needed. However, as the team grows and the organisation progresses, this approach to working becomes a significant limiting factor.

The typical problems we have seen are:

  • Limited tracking and low awareness of where time is going, as too many things get thrown at the founder continuously.
  • Continuing to work on ‘comfort-zone’ tasks while the company needs their attention on other critical matters. For example, we have seen founders get stuck in the lab while they need to focus on fund raising.
  • Unable or unwilling to transition from “individual contributor” mindset to “team builder” mindset as required by the organisation as it grows. Delegation lags, and talent acquisition and development suffers significantly putting further brakes on growth. The feeling that nobody else will be able to do something as good as you can creates a vicious cycle and self-fulfilling outcomes.
  • Not spending the time to build the vision of the company externally and internally. The truly big problems will not be seen even by the founder, and certainly not by the team.

During our mentoring, we made several interventions to avoid these challenges and have seen good results once the founders become aware and commit themselves to changing the situation using various time management processes and tools. From a process perspective, we suggest:

  1. Time Recording and Analysis: Keep a record of time being consumed using either a Time Record Sheet or a digital office productivity tool. This is followed by analysing the time records periodically for insights and effectiveness.
  2. Setting Goals and Priorities: To allocate time correctly, one must start by listing goals and setting priorities for oneself and the organisation, looking at both their urgency and importance, which may change from week to week or month to month. For long-term success, personal time for health and well-being also needs to be factored in – not just work-related activities.
  3. Short-Term Alignment: Use practical tools such as a To-Do List of tasks to achieve the prioritised goals identified in the step above. This can be done in a notebook or using digital tools. Various prioritisation classifications are available, such as ABC: A – Must be Done; B – Nice to do if time left; C – Forget it, out of time! Forming a habit of using To-Do Lists yields lifelong dividends.
  4. Long-Term Alignment: The long-term alignment is not possible unless the founder does the enabling groundwork – recruiting, delegation, performance management, and team communications – to smoothly transition to the organisation’s future demands of the founder’s time. Layers of management must develop the same respect for time and its efficient and effective use because, ultimately, it’s the optimal use of the collective time of the entire organisation that drives performance.
  5. Continuous Review: Review and repeat the process at least bi-annually in the initial stages and annually in later stages.

In addition to the process outlined above, we have also suggested several tips to our mentees that have helped in managing their time better. These include:

  1. The 50-30-20 rule:

50% time outside the company meeting customers/partners/investors and creating a brand presence for the organisation in the physical and digital world; 30% time with reportees, co-founders, and other team members including written communication; and 20% for routine admin tasks (which includes analysing the time record for effectiveness).

  1. Delegate, and put your efforts where it counts:

Typically, the evolving initiatives and ambiguous tasks are best handled by the founders. The settled initiatives and routine tasks must be delegated. This requires trusting the team and taking risks as they may not be as good to start with. Otherwise, it’s a vicious circle –  they will never grow, and the organisation will never grow.

  1. Make thoughtful but speedy decisions:

This can be done if the thought has gone in before. If something is not thought through, take your time; but if the thinking has been done, decide!

  1. Start with the “Must be Done” tasks:

Especially, the unpleasant important tasks are best taken care of first.

  1. Concentrate on one thing at a time:

While this is easier said than done, uninterrupted time is important for efficiency.

  1. Learn to say “NO” the right way:

Most of the time a quick “no” is the right way, but that is only possible if prioritisation is already done. The other option is delegation, as the same activity that you are unable to do, may be aspirational for others! Again team members must be in place already for this.

  1. Watch out for internal meetings – they are a big sink of time:

Internal meetings should be as few as possible, and with as few people as possible in any meeting. Nobody should be just a listener. Don’t accept a meeting where agenda and desired outcomes are not known before. It must end with clear actions assigned.

  1. Counterintuitively, sometimes “critical” does not mean spending time on it:

Take culture-building in the organisation, for example. It is critical. However, people follow your actions rather than your words. So no separate time is required for culture-building. Communication with team is critical, but it can be written most of the time, and face-time only if asked.

In summary, there is never a lack of time but a lack of priority and discipline. We have provided a process framework and some practical tips for founders to prioritise their activities and work smarter, not just harder. Creating a successful organisation is a long-term endeavour and commitment. Being an efficient and effective allocator of time is a strong lifelong leverage a founder needs to have for both personal and organisational growth.

 

 About the Authors

Mr. Sanjay Kanvinde is a member of PIC. He has 23 years’ experience in the international Energy Industry and is the co-founder of Lavni Ventures. He is actively involved in several charities and social organisations.

 

Mr. Gireendra Kasmalkar is the Founder Director and CEO of Ideas to Impacts Innovations Pvt. Ltd., Lead Investor and Managing Partner at Pentathlon Ventures, and Founder of Ideas to Impacts, promoting innovative ideas that can create significant positive impacts for customers and the small towns of India.

 

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