Time Management

How to get more done by doing less?

Most people do time management completely the wrong way.

I started my business career by doing online marketing and developing websites for local companies in Finland. I got this idea after meeting digital agencies and online marketers at the conference, talking with them and realizing that they are not smarter than I am and that I can do the same thing that they do. The only difference was that the people I met were all doing all the work by themselves, but this wasn’t my plan. At that time, I was studying computer science at university. I could have taken some web development courses to learn how to do it everything myself, but I chose a different, more effective path. I hired freelancers to do all the tech work for me and then sold the service to my clients with a good margin. This gave me more time to focus on the most important part, which was sales, marketing and further business development. Structuring the business this way was the first smart decision I made, and it gave me the possibility to grow beyond my limitations.

Outsource, outsource, outsource

I cannot emphasize this hard enough: The key to successful time management is not doing everything by yourself. And this is the area where most people fail.

In my company, I only do decision making, governance, creative and strategic planning, HR and PR. And this is also what you should never outsource unless of course, you don’t know how to do it.

Everything else I outsource. I never do any IT, development or any tech work. I do only little of actual physical labour and only what I really know well and can do effectively. I also do some advising and consulting, but even this is usually telling the client how to do things, and rarely doing the actual work myself.

Don’t chase the big guys; let them chase you

There is a concept called importance hierarchy or importance level, and it basically goes like this:

If Elon Musk decides to contact someone most likely everyone would reply to him, no matter if it’s a president of another country. This is because the level of importance of Elon Musk is exceptionally high. But if you try to contact even a CEO of some mid-sized company, he will probably not reply. Why? Well, because you are not that important nor well known.

Most people overvalue themselves, and this applies to overestimating their importance as well. Therefore if you contact someone as important as you are, he will most likely not be interested in you. You have to exceed him in importance or otherwise be a well-known person in order for him to respond to you. Sure there are exceptions of people who do not reply to anyone, because they are so bad at time management that they don’t have time for anything, and then there are people who will respond to everyone. I try to reply to all messages which are not obvious spam and do not offer anythign stupid. Of course, I have good time management skills, and therefore have time to check contact requests. But it’s also because I have discovered that the contacts that seemed to be most uninteresting at the beginning, in the end, turned out to be the most valuable for the business.

Trying to get in touch with people who are not replying to you, is one of the most significant time wasters. And it’s usually totally pointless. It will take a tremendous amount of time to get someone to reply to you if they don’t want to, and when they do there is 50/50 chance that they will just angry at you for bothering them.

Instead of chasing the big guys, make them chase you. Of course, it will not happen overnight, but eventually, if you work on your personal brand, you will get noticed by important people, and at some point they will accept you in their club.

This does not only apply to people but companies as well. For example, if you are producing goods and want to sell them in shops, contacting the biggest supermarket chains will be a waste of time. They will not work with you unless you are a known brand, and will most likely ignore you. Instead of chasing the big shops, get yourself into all small local stores, and after that, the big supermarket chains will be the ones calling you.

Communication in writing is by far more effective than phone calls

A huge amount of time for every working person is wasted on interacting with other people. Sure it’s essential since you don’t work completely alone, but it can be improved dramatically. I never do phone calls, and I rarely meet people in person, and if I meet them, it’s usually after we have done business together for some time and it’s a natural follow-up to get to know each other.

Many people, when contacting me, suggest to have a call with them without even checking in advance if I’m interested in their proposal. This type of approach will only lead into me wasting 10–20 minutes of my time when if they sent their idea in writing I could check it within couple minutes and understand if there is any potential. Considering that 90% of all contacts will not lead anywhere, spending that much time and energy on them is not practical.

Other advantages of written communication

  • Faster, more comfortable and effective.
  • You don’t have to reply instantly, but have time to think.
  • If you don’t speak perfect English (or another language), writing is easier for you.
  • You don’t need a special atmosphere, like when talking on the phone.
  • Writing does not occupy your time 100%, and you can do other things while communicating with someone.
  • There is less chance of misunderstanding.
  • It’s all written down, so you in case you forget something, you can always check later what you agreed on and thus avoid conflicts.

Don’t work all the time, but be always available

When it comes to work, people think that they need to work as much as possible to get as much as possible done, when all they need is to be available. I work only 15 hours per week, but I’m available 80 hours per week. Whenever a situation requires my attention, I’m ready to work, and I can quickly deal with it. With this kind of approach, all the work is done instantly, effectively, and it does not accumulate over time.

A person who respects himself should have a 12 hours response time during day time, which is lifted to 24 hours during the night. Everything above 24 hours is purely bad time management unless there’s some unexpected situation. There is no bigger mistake than to take a weekend off or especially a whole week and expect that nothing will happen while you were gone. Most likely by the time you get back, everything you worked for has been demolished. But don’t get me wrong. No one is asking you to work on your weekends or holidays. Simply check your emails and messages couple times a day and if it’s needed spend that 30 min for solving a problem when it appears; instead of letting it go and then shovelling the damage for few days after finally deciding to get back to work.

BONUS: Be direct and straightforward

If you don’t like a business proposal or don’t want to work with someone, say it like it is. There is no bigger foolishness than making excuses of being busy and avoiding that person. It will just create more work for you and waste the other person’s time. Sometimes you may have to be harsh, but have the courage to say what you think, or otherwise, no one will ever respect you.


Filip Poutintsev, the Chief Editor of Honest Pros and Cons, is a long term business writer, who has been featured in various online publications such as Forbes, CoinTelegraph and HackerNoon. Now he writes exclusively for Honest Pros and Cons.