Time audit for founders: 4 steps to balance your priorities and maximize productivity

A sneak peek into Project A’s new Personal Coaching and Development Program: Time management and organization

By Alena Hilbig

Being a founder can be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life. You are responsible for the success of your business, and you have a wide range of responsibilities, from developing new products to managing finances. But needless to say, your day isn’t longer than anyone else’s, and you have a personal life, too–which, if we’re honest, suffers most of the time. Therefore, success depends on being organized and managing your time effectively.

In this article, I will walk you through a simple 4-step exercise to help you effectively structure your day based on your prioritization of responsibilities.

A big shoutout to Founder Coach Amy Buechler and her User Manual for Founder psychology, where I first came across a similar time audit technique.

Not a founder but still interested in time management? Read on! You can adapt this process to many other roles and functions.

Step 1: What are your roles and responsibilities?

Necessary pre-work: Set clear accountabilities among your co-founders and team, so every company goal and all relevant tasks have an owner. Write yours down and prioritize ruthlessly: Having too many critical functions at once can be overwhelming and inefficient. So, decide which topics should be delegated to someone else or deprioritized until the next quarter.

Steve, an imaginary CEO whose headcount is ~5-20, might have a list like this:

  • Finance & Investor Relations
  • Hiring
  • Sales
  • Strategy

Step 2: How much time do you want to spend on each category?

Prioritize your work, consider the tasks behind each category, and decide how much time you should allocate.

Using a task prioritization method such as The Eisenhower Matrix can be helpful. This will help you spend your time more effectively and focus on the most important tasks. A great time manager will focus as much energy and time on the top-right corner.

The Eisenhower Matrix is a chart showing a box with four quadrants:
The top-left quadrant is for urgent and important tasks.
The top right quadrant is for important but not urgent tasks.
The bottom left quadrant is for tasks that are not important but urgent. The bottom left quadrant is for tasks that are neither urgent nor important.
The Eisenhower Matrix (Source: Clockwise.com)

Steve’s list might now look like this:

  • Finance & Investor Relations: 20%
  • Hiring: 30%
  • Sales: 40%
  • Strategy: 10%

Step 3: How much time do you want to work?

Choose the number of hours you want to work each week. Consider your needs and those of your family, friends, and partner: You are more than just your startup – your work week should reflect that balance.

Steve chooses to work 60 hours a week. That’s how many hours he’ll spend on each category:

  • Finance & Investor Relations: 12 hours
  • Hiring: 18 hours
  • Sales: 24 hours
  • Strategy: 6 hours

💡 Tip: Before moving on to the next step, pause and reflect on the number of hours you spent on each category today compared to what you’ve allocated during the exercise. Did your ideal plan match reality? 

Step 4: Structure your calendar and start analyzing your weeks

Your calendar should reflect the amount of time allocated to each category. Evaluate it every week and check if you’ve set the right meetings, blockers for important tasks, or specific focus time. Can you detect any time-wasters or distractions that take valuable time away from what really matters?

A practical time analysis could be the alarm method: Track a typical day by setting the alarm every 30 minutes. Note down what you’ve been spending time on and evaluate it at the end of the day. It can be eye-opening to see how different your perceived day was based on your gut feeling vs. a data-driven tracking method.

Revisit this time management practice at a cadence that fits your work and responsibilities as they change along the growth trajectory of your business.

Forward it to your co-founders so they, too, can benefit from this approach.

If you’re looking for personalized support, we’re excited to introduce Project A’s exclusive Personal Coaching and Development Program for founders within and outside our portfolio companies. It’s a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with an experienced coach, set goals, and take action for sustainable change.

Have questions about time management? Need more input about the program? Reach out to us here or via our social media channels, and we’ll be happy to chat.

Which coaching or personal development topic would you like to read about next?