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Friday, September 30, 2011


Entrepreneurs are often also visionariesYet if their time is consumed by juggling the many responsibilites it takes to keep their business going, they can lose the time it takes to step away and think up innovative ideas. According to Richard Branson, every CEO needs to step away and “look at the big picture.”

Richard Branson on Time Management

Editor’s Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. What follows is the latest edited round of insightful responses. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.
Q: Virgin is a large company with many diversified businesses and a culture of delegating. How do you avoid breakdowns in communication and ensure that good decisions are made? – Shezad Virji, Kenya
Q: How do you deal with the hundreds of emails you receive from readers? I know you are very busy. Do you have any secret? – Harvey Chen, China
A: Reading through recent emails, I was struck by the number of questions from readers about how entrepreneurs can better manage their own time as they manage their complexbusinesses.
As a successful business matures and expands, bureaucracy usually starts to take hold and members of the senior management team find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer number of meetings and volume of correspondence. At this stage, an entrepreneur faces the challenge of how to effectively manage this new structure — a transition that has been the undoing of many enterprises.
First, let’s look at how to manage your own time. I receive 300 to 400 messages a day, so time management is an issue for me. I’m aware some senior executives simply delete all emails from people they don’t know personally, arguing that most of the messages just create distraction. To them, it is not worth the effort of weeding through the emails to find those that contain useful information. But I find this approach impolite and bad for business.
Recalling a time when I was just starting out and needed advice, I try to respond to as many reader emails as I can. I read through the list every morning and dictate quick answers to my assistants, pass some to colleagues, and usually write a couple of longer, more detailed responses myself. This is the most effective way of dealing with my inbox, and while doing so, I learn about trends that may affect Virgin businesses or about problems that need my attention.
You must manage your Blackberry; do not let it manage you. Many executives check their smartphones throughout meetings and during off-hours. This is not good for concentration, and has a negative impact on decision making. Use it only in bursts: check emails for an hour or so and then put it away so you can focus on the task at hand.

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