Being a business owner at the same time as being a full-time employee creates serious constraints on one’s time. I know this because I have done it for the better part of a decade now. During this season, I have had to move from simply seeking productivity to being very opportunistic, which means looking for ways to seek out some extra output from my limited time input. Being on the lookout for these types of opportunities really causes you to appreciate how much you can learn to get done in a limited number of minutes. It is my opinion that eventually anybody can learn to harness, what I call “the power of 15 minutes”, using 3 steps: capture, constraints, and consciousness.
If you are a business owner (especially one that also works as an employee elsewhere, then capturing everything you need to do in an organized way is critical to your sanity. As David Allen teaches in Getting Things Done (which I consider the productivity bible), your head is the worst place to store all of your tasks. Your brain is best used as a tool for doing work, not storing the list of work. So if you want to start maximizing your moments, then begin by capturing everything you must do. There are many methods and tools available for this, but for now, let’s just make a rule that it must be done. Once capturing is part of your mode of operation, you will find that you can spot from your list the right thing that can be accomplished when that opportune moment arrives.
Next, we will want to adopt the mindset that constraints are good things instead of hindrances. An example is probably in order here to best make this point. In high school and/or college you probably had more than one cram session before a test and it likely worked out for you. The constraint that you put yourself in since it was last minute before the test, likely caused you to focus on the most important subject matter. In a similar fashion, I have found that when I only have 15 minutes before a meeting, I can usually buckle down and knock out some important tasks because I don’t have time to waste on trivial matters. The constraint in these cases and others like them, turn out to be positive for you since they result in increased focus.
OK, I was stretching for another “C” word to keep with the alliteration thing, but consciousness is another way of saying stay awake and be on the lookout for your small time opportunities that might otherwise go to waste. Another way to put it is to remind yourself to hustle while you wait. Here are some examples of areas to be on the lookout: car rides, lunch breaks, before meetings, in waiting rooms before appointments, before leaving the house while you wait for your spouse, at the ballpark/gym while your child is practicing. This is a short list based on some of my own experiences but you probably can find a dozen more of your own once you become conscious and on the lookout for these opportunities.
Just the beginning…
As a final note, time management skills like this can only get you so far. At some point, you just can’t optimize your time usage to get more done. This can come quickly to you if you are a business owner. When you hit that point, the power of 15 minutes can still be very useful to you but you have to stack other skills on top of it. These would be skills that primarily involve you NOT doing work, such as delegation and saying no. But regardless of your situation, putting the power of 15 minutes to work for you can be a game changer in your business, work, and even personal life.