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Time! Doesn’t matter if you are Bill Gates or a startup founder with just an idea, no one gets more than 24 hours in a day. And the earlier the stage of the company the more important time and time management are. But this isn’t a post on time management other than to remind founders how important it is that they manage their time and help their staff to manage their’s. For example, we had a mentor meeting yesterday with a company where everyone eats lunch together so that can chat about what’s going on, new ideas, and other business-related topics together. That’s something that obviously doesn’t scale, but might be helpful to a small startup. So if this post isn’t about time management what is it about? Timing: when to do what.
I look at the companies I mentor as if I was an investigative journalist asking the classic questions: who? what? where? when? why? how? I’ve posted about this methodology before – take a look for an expansion of each question that founders need to be able to answer.
In a recent mentoring session the founder was very sensitive to timing, when he did something. Each time I made a suggestion he put it in the context of when: should he do this now? is he already doing it? or is this something to do in the future? and what are the dependencies: events and tasks that would need to be completed before or in parallel? I found this refreshing and wasn’t surprised to find a Gantt chart with all the companies major milestones in his presentation.
There are lots of ways to keep track of timing, from project management systems to a simple Gannt or PERT chart. PERT stands for Program Evaluation Review Technique, a methodology developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s to manage the Polaris submarine missile program. A similar methodology, the Critical Path Method (CPM) was developed for project management in the private sector at about the same time.
While I was thinking about writing a post about the importance of time I came across a review in The Wall Street Journal by Emily Bobrow of a new book by Daniel Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. It’s full of fascinating data about when is the optimal time of day to undertake all kinds of activities and tasks, some quite relevant to founders:
A study of more than 26,000 earnings calls from more than 2,100 public companies found that the timing of the calls often dictated their emotional tenor and, consequently, affected the price of a company’s stock. Calls held first thing in the morning were typically upbeat, whereas those in the afternoon tended to have a more negative tone, regardless of the news being delivered, and thus pulled down share prices, at least temporarily. Mornings seem to be best for important conversations with either employees or investors.
work that requires innovation and creativity is often best left to later in the day, when our less-inhibited, less-vigilant brains become more open to unexpected insights and sudden flashes of brilliance.
Given the importance of time and timing for founders you may want to read Mr. Pink’s book, or maybe save some time (and a little money) by reading a review or two.
Learning the best time for certain activities will be time well spent for any entrepreneur.