Your most important relationship as an entrepreneur isn’t with your investors, your partner, your customers or your spouse—it’s with time.
I have three kids, a media company to run, a daily radio show, a new TV show and an entrepreneur husband with three restaurants. I don’t have any time, but I do have a powerful relationship with time.
It wasn’t always that way. For years, I felt like I was in a whirlwind. When I launched my company, I literally felt like my life was out of control. We all have impossibly long to-do lists and there are never enough hours in the day to complete them.
I’m sure you know the feeling. It’s not just that the days flew by—that was the good part. The problem was I felt like I wasn’t getting anything accomplished. So many things demanded my attention, and there were always so many fires to put out. I felt like I was running in circles.
I spent all day telling myself, “I don’t have time,” and I started to believe it. You probably do the same thing.
I wasn’t running a business, the business was running me—ragged. I was so busy whipping myself into a frenzy over how little time I had that I spent all day racing around, trying to jam everything in. I kept wishing for more hours in a day, and then, it finally dawned on me—it’s not going to happen. I can’t change how much time I have; I can only change my relationship to it. And to change your relationship with time, you first have to change how you think about time.
Step 1: Notice
Notice how much you actually speed up time by telling yourself (all day long), I’m running out of time, I don’t have enough time, Hurry up—time’s almost up, or I can’t fit that in. Those phrases start a chain reaction and send you spiraling into a frenzy as you try to jam it all in.
Step 2: Recognize
Recognize that everything you’ve ever needed to get done, you have. When’s the last time you ever actually missed out on something because you ran out of time? Every term paper you waited until the last minute to write, you actually got done—you just pulled an all-nighter to do it. Every big presentation, pitch or bid got done—in exactly the amount of time you had.
I’ve come to realize that the amount of time each task takes is exactly the same as the amount of time I have to get it done in. You actually do have time when you need it—plenty of it. You are just so busy rushing to keep up that you don’t think you do.
Step 3: Accept
Accept that the problem isn’t time. The problem lies in your priorities and your habit of turning everything into an emergency. The answer isn’t more hours in a day, the answer is exerting power over your to-do list and focusing on what is actually important. Most of what’s on your plate can wait an hour, a day, a week, a month or even a year.
The thing that can’t wait another minute is adjusting what you say to yourself about time and how you prioritize what’s important. Try this: Think of one thing on your plate that you feel pressure to get done. Start it right now. And as you work on it, repeat in your head your new mantra: I have time.
You’ll be amazed. You don’t have to rush through everything. You don’t have to do it all at once. You can pick the most important thing, and slow down. Because now you have what no other entrepreneur has—time.
This article was published in June 2009 and has been updated. Photo courtesy of Mel Robbins