The scene that comes to mind is from Kindergarten Cop. The fire alarm goes off, and John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) attempts to shepherd the kindergartners out of his classroom. In doing so, complete bedlam erupts.
Why is it that entrepreneurship and chaos appear to be synonymous? Does it have to be that way? I don’t think it does. We invite our fire drills due to a lack of structure and rigor. I get it. For many of us, it was our opposition to structure and rigor that brought us to entrepreneurship.
However, the chaos we face day in and day out is a signal that we’ve let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. We don’t have to give up the freedom in trade for the drudgery of rigidity. There can be a balance.
I write this article as we embark on an experiment. Not only do I invite myself to my fire drills, but many of you are also kind enough to invite me to yours. I’ve recognized that in accepting those invitations, I am diminishing my effectiveness and wearing myself out.
We are better when we batch our work. It allows us to triage all that comes through our phones and inboxes, dealing with it when focused rather than allowing it to distract us. I will share a bit about our planned experiment and then suggest some ways that you might be able to implement a similar process.
We are moving to “structured weeks.” Monday will be for getting things done. No external or brand meetings. Only time for internal collaboration and task completion. Tuesdays-Thursdays are for our brands—no external meetings. We are 100% brand-focused. Meetings will be 45-mins leaving 15-mins to process notes and assign tasks. Oh, and run to the bathroom if needed. During those days, we will also have two periods of open office hours for quick drop-ins. Friday’s will be for external meetings with our ecosystem partners, networking, and community growth. By doing this, we avoid the pull to “squeeze in” just one more call. It ensures that we have time to collaborate as a team and get things done. Further, it batches external meetings into a single day, not interfering with our most important work to serve our brands.
As a founder, how might you structure your week? Think about the critical levers of your business: sales, fundraising, marketing, operations, etc. Make certain to carve out time for your team and what I call “founder time” to look further down the field, think bigger, and dream.
Depending on your priorities, your week could have Mondays reserved for you and our team to meet, collaborate, assign deliverables, and review results. Then Tuesday mornings might be allocated for all your fundraising activities. Time used for Investor outreach, updates, and follow-ups. The second half of the day could focus on operations. You could use that window to speak with your co-man, review your demand plan, check on inventory levels. Wednesday could be your sales day. Time for working with your sales lead, reaching out to your brokers, updating sales targets, and connecting with key customers. Thursday, you could split between finance and marketing. Fridays could be your founder’s day, a time for you to dream, work on your own professional and personal development. You could look up from working in the business to work on the business. It can also just be a bit of needed recharge and recalibration.
The above is just an example. But let me just make one final illustration. If on Tuesday a marketing issue comes across your inbox, rather than stopping the work you are doing you can park it until Thursday afternoon when you reserve your schedule for all things marketing. That allows you to stay focused and attentive to what is at hand, confident you will address the other in due course. There are very few things that require immediate action. We just tend to treat most as if they do. We invite our fire drills. Let’s change the batteries in those detectors, so those alarms don’t go off as often.