Time is a fixed resource, which makes your time as a founder a precious asset. Through this lens, perhaps our most important job is to define which priorities get our time and focus. Once we’ve done that we can make time for these priorities. That’s what our Big Rocks FounderFuel habit is all about.
It’s not easy though… This ruthless focus is a particularly tough ask of entrepreneurs. More often than not, we’re wearing multiple hats every day, we have limited resources, and as a result the to-do list feels endless.
“To-do lists are the death of effectiveness”
Faced with a long to-do list each day our natural chimp-brains seek out the quick wins, in search of that little dopamine hit we get when we tick things off the list. We see this even more in achievement-driven types like entrepreneurs, as we strive to get-things-done – but before we know it, the whole morning has gone and it’s been filled with emails and mindless admin. Research shows that willpower is a finite resource which weakens through the day, so this morning slot is prime time for your important, hard stuff!
“If the big rocks don’t go in first, they aren’t going to fit in later.”
Stephen R. Covey
A teacher is addressing his class. He fills a jug with big rocks and asks the class if it’s full, to which they respond “yes”. He then adds pebbles to the jug, and as they fall around the rocks he asks again if the jug is full. “Yes” they respond. Disagreeing with them, he then adds sand to the jug. By now, the class is convinced it is completely full, until they watch the teacher add water to the jug as well and it soaks through the sand, filling all the tiny gaps.
All too often we fill our day with pebbles, sand and water – the small things – and if we do that there’s no time or space left for the big rocks. If we don’t make space for our big rocks – the important things – it’s all too easy to get lost in reactive ineffective busyness.
Naming our Big Rocks each week puts an intentionality into our work as founders. It shifts our focus from reactive work – like emails, Slack and other people – to proactive work which is in line with our priorities. This is where the competitive advantage lies.
Practical steps for founders
Each week spend 15 minutes defining the Big Rocks for that week.
Make those Big Rocks the tasks that will make a difference to your North Star mission (ie delivering for customers) or a strategic project or goal. These are the things that will generate real value from your time and energy.
Make time for the Big Rocks with time-boxing
Review the diary for the week ahead and block out time for working on these Rocks – we call it Sprint time. Remove meetings or commitments that do not align with your priorities in order to fit these in an already packed schedule. Pretty much everything else gets a “no”. When it comes to the time allocation it often comes down to brutally focusing in on what is important, not seemingly urgent.
Make it work hard for you
Setting goals increased performance by 11 – 25% giving us up to 2 hours extra every day!
The Big Rocks habit also works to zoom-out each quarter and set those strategic goals – doing this quarterly is proven to be significantly more motivating and accomplishable that annual goals.
Also use it to zoom-in each day to make sure you’re focusing on what really matters. To help prioritise daily, try these two simple questions: 1. Which task will make me feel the most accomplished? 2 What’s the value in getting this done, and what’s the risk if I don’t. This habit helps us to put purpose against time. Flex this muscle daily by looking at everything through the lens of the purpose of your time: “this day/meeting/period of time will be a success if X happens”.
It’s all about using one simple habit in a flexible way to get the highest points of leverage for your time. It takes less than 10 minutes, but it has a big impact on progress and sense of accomplishment.
About the FounderFuel Series: Actionable tools and bite-sized insights to empower entrepreneurs and founders to get the best from themselves and those around them as startup and scaleup leaders. Get the fuel direct to your inbox by signing up here.
At weare3Sixty we believe in supporting the humans behind the world’s ambitious startups and our mission is to make sure that every founder and startup leader in the ecosystem has the support and skills to reach their full potential as resilient, high-performing leaders.
Here you’ll find 1:1 founder coaching, team coaching and team training all dedicated to the unique ride that is starting up and scaling up. Not only that, with our group-coaching FounderCircles® you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of other talented founders on the journey too – all committed to fuelling themselves, their teams and each other for the ride.
Calling all accelerators and investment partners: We work in partnership with investors, accelerators and incubators to complement programmes of support and learning with the human side of startup performance. Find out more here.