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In the early stages of entrepreneurship, time can feel tight. With all the setting up, meeting new people, finding product-market fit and establishing a client base, there can feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. This phase, with all its busyness and figuring out, is arguably the most glorious. The most self-aware entrepreneurs will know which aspects of what they are doing are making the most difference. If they were gifted one additional hour, therefore, the decision on where to spend it would be obvious.

I put this to the test, asking entrepreneurs from different businesses how they would spend an extra hour, in a thought experiment that sought to uncover what they believed would give them greater balance. Their answers split into three main categories: working on the business, finding inspiration and meeting people, taking a break from the screen and recharging ready to go again. Here’s what they said.

Working on the business (not in the business)

“Sometimes you can get consumed in the detail,” said Mark Boost, founder of Civo Cloud. “I’d dedicate an hour to focusing on bigger picture issues.” Zooming out, getting perspective and making sure the hustle is directed in the right way. Jan Goetz, CEO of IQM Quantum Computers would “brainstorm crazy ideas with my team, to disrupt the tech of the next decade.” Ensuring every action contributes to progress.

Other entrepreneurs focused on business growth include Sarah Philips, cofounder of Well & Truly Workshops, who would dedicate the hour to “PR research and pitching. As a two-person startup it’s an easy task to neglect but so important!” she said. Similarly, Bharati Manchanda, founder of Embellished Truth would work on PR. “I’d research what the press are writing about, craft pitch emails and keep up to date with industry news.” Caroline Towers, founders of Dreamers Who Travel would, “take a course to help my business grow,” believing, “it’s always good to keep learning!”

Entrepreneurs who would spend their extra hour on business automation highlights the manual nature of work in the early stages, when a startup is doing things that don’t scale in a bid to learn. Emre Tinaztepe, founder of Binalyze would, “automate more tasks to give me extra hours in the future” and Amin Khan and Susana Teixeira, cofounders of PrimaBerry would, “schedule more content for our social media, so by the end of the week we could take a full day off and recharge our batteries.” Execution can be exhausting.

Get inspiration away from the screen

As well as automating to free up time, some entrepreneurs wanted to simply step away from their screen to gather inspiration and make the hours they spend working more effective. Jewelry marketing consultant Siobhan Maher would carry out, “off-screen research to freshen ideas and perspective.” For her, this might be, “a stack of glossy magazines, a stroll along Bond Street or coffee with a designer friend.” Leila Arakji, founder of Lilac Tree, a brand that creates ethical and sustainable everyday luxury jewelry, finds always-on productivity to be “detrimental to the creative process, and yet so difficult to get away from.” She would spend the extra hour offline to take a screen break and be inspired elsewhere.

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Bethan Vincent, founder of Open Velocity, said she would develop her contacts and connect with people. “I would send messages to people I admire asking if they fancy a chat sometime.” Vincent explained that she has, “made some wonderful connections and friends from doing this over the years, I just wish I had more time to spend connecting with people!”

Fun, rest and relaxation

After zooming out to get perspective and work top-level on a business rather than in the detail, and after becoming inspired away from the screen, there were answers that included fun, rest and relaxation. This came in different forms. Connecting with others can slip down the priority list when busy running a business, as can spending time on those activities that matter to you but not your business success.

Mark Walters, founder of Marks Get Smart would use his extra hour “turning off work and relaxing with his family,” sharing his experiences with them and getting their perspective on his business challenges. Pippa Nixon, director of Scoop PR would seek knowledge in areas “totally unrelated to my business,” in order to “think clearly and get a wider view of how we can improve.” She would also take regular naps.

Sofie Couwenbergh, content strategist and writer, said she would, “Do more of a bunch of things I now do less of because they’re important but not as much a priority as something else.” For her that includes, “learning Portuguese, taking time to sit and think, and going for walks.” Ravi Davda, CEO of Rockstar Marketing, would simply “read more,” both fiction and non-fiction, “because who doesn’t love reading?”

One whole extra hour, every single day, to spend how you choose. Whether strategizing, resting or something in between, it’s paramount that entrepreneurs know what they would do and a thought experiment such as this may uncover the answers. Carving out time for what really matters comes in many ways; making meetings shorter, removing chores and admin or simply making a pledge to chatter less. Entrepreneurs feeling like something is missing should subtract before they add it in, to ensure there is room.

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