Lessons we’ve learnt as an independent business: the time chapter

Time is the most precious resource when starting and running a company. As Fallow, Field & Mason turns four this quarter, I wanted to share lessons I’ve learnt on how to save new entrepreneurs time.

Read on below for the time chapter of lessons I’ve learnt (the hard way).

Everything takes longer than you think

Being comfortable with this will mean you don’t overcommit yourself and end up feeling that you’re not achieving anything due to feeling frantic. Factoring in enough time, sometimes even more than you think, will also help you feel more on top of all the hats you’re wearing.

Back-to-back meetings are awful

Factoring in time between each meeting will allow you to regroup with your team and ensure everyone is clear on immediate next steps, meaning details are much less likely to be missed or forgotten as they are still fresh. Plus, you can make yourself a cup of tea and take a minute to think about what is next.

Know how to run an effective and time efficient meeting

This is a crucial skill to learn for anyone in any role in any business. Remember to write an agenda, share ahead of the meeting, and stick to it. Ensure someone is responsible for taking accurate minutes and will share action points with all attendees immediately following the meeting.

Decline meetings that don’t have agendas

I now decline meetings that don’t have an agenda included as it means the host isn’t sure of what needs to be discussed in this time slot and has no regard for time. Asking for an agenda before committing to the meeting will ensure everyone gets what they need out of that time block.

Don’t always answer immediately

When navigating a difficult situation or needing to reply to an important email, it’s often worth drafting your reply and letting it sit and breathe a little, reread it with fresh eyes to ensure when it is sent, it is what you want someone to hear. Plus, it is more likely to be shared with a clear and confident mindset, rather than you writing in the heat of the moment.

You never regret a conversation

Whenever I’ve had a chat, formal or informal, I’ve always learnt something I didn’t know I needed to know. People typically all want to help so by having open discussions, sharing information, ideas always come through on how you can help each other. When you feel time is tight, these chats can feel like a luxury; however, we’ve often met and secured clients by ad hoc conversations.

Weekends and holidays are important

Learning to switch your brain off is crucial to success. Quality time off and away from work is very important for both you and your team. You’ll return to work fresher and better equipped to tackle challenges when you’ve had a proper rest.

Boundary your working day

However with technology enabling us to to pick up an email from anywhere means it is harder to switch off. As Uwern Jong shared in his How To Start Up episode, ‘know when the end of your day is’. If it is 10pm, fine, but stick to it. Afford yourself time to do something non-work related as it’ll free your mind (and also possibly solve an issue when you’re not thinking about it).

Take time off when you’re sick

Learn to rest properly. You’ll get better faster, set a good example for your team (and no-one wants to sit next to someone who is spreading germs).

Allow yourself enough sleep

Professor Russel Foster in his How To Start Up podcast episode on sleep shared ‘when you don’t protect your sleep, you’re running a red light on your business every day’. Learn how many hours you need as everyone is different. Good sleep means clear thoughts and better decisions.

Walking and thinking time is invaluable

A landmark Stanford University study found that creative output increases by 60% on average when walking. Not only do you feel refreshed, but you’ll also feel more productive, energised and inspired too. I’ve found allowing your brain to concentrate deeply on one topic, away from a screen, is time well spent.

Know when to stop

There comes a point when it’s more effective and productive to stop what you are doing and come back to it later in the day or tomorrow. Knowing this will help you feel productive, not drained, and avoid wasting time going round in circles.

Be protective of your time

This is especially vital for founders of service-based businesses. If people request your time for a call or meeting, question whether they want free consulting or whether they want to close the deal. Knowing where best to use your 24 hours of the day is key.

Master the art of saying no (and thank you)

As time is finite, you have to decline requests that aren’t the best use of it. There are many ways of saying no politely, positively and professionally. Mastering this will ensure you don’t end up frustrated that you’ve given your time away unnecessarily.

Don’t waste time on worry

Wasting time on worry is truly a waste of time so find ways to avoid this; your time needs to be spent growing the business rather than worrying about it. One How To Start Up guest advised to ‘have 6 months’ worth of salaries in the company account so you never worry about paying your team’.