Lives of the organised: Judy Sahay on the value of time management

Judy Sahay juggles a lot of roles: She’s the managing director of Crowd Media, co-founder of venture capital firm Emerge Investments and real estate website New Real Estate, and “sits on a couple of boards as well”. Reading her list of responsibilities alone might be enough to give some people anxiety, but as a super-organised person, Judy thrives on keeping busy.
Start-up owner Judy Sahay recommends prioritising tasks from urgent and important to unimportant and not urgent.

Judy’s involvement in a number of start-up opportunities taught her a lot about the value of time.
“As a start-up [owner], you’re always spending close to 15 to 16 hours a day [working].
“[When you first start a business] you try to perfect it and it’s never going to be perfect.”
But as the business grows you get clarity about where your priorities lie, Judy says.
“After the first year in business, you really understand how to manage your time.”

Judy recognises organisation skills as “essential” to the success of building a start-up.
“The difficult thing [with a start-up] is you’re setting the organisation skills internally. You have to be motivated to do it…because there’s no-one to tell you off if you don’t do it.”

Just like Colin Ellis (read about his tech-focused organisation skills), Judy Sahay also prepares each Sunday for the following workweek. She plans meetings and task priorities for the week so she can get a head start. She also creates monthly and quarterly business plans so she can meet expected targets and keep on top of her project forecasts.

Part of Judy’s organisation strategy is to keep similar tasks, like meetings, grouped throughout her day.
“[Rather than tasks being] scattered throughout the day…I like to get things done in one go.”

Then she devotes uninterrupted ninety-minute blocks to each task on her to-do list. Judy laughs when she mentions working with interruption.
“One of the ways I do that is to turn my phone off.”
“I think you have to be laser-focused when you’re running a business and there are so many distractions with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and everything going off, that you have to switch off.”

Another major distraction Judy finds is the constant stream of incoming emails, so she has developed a “one-touch policy”. She dedicates three appointed times throughout the day – first thing in the morning, at 2pm and 7pm to read and reply to emails.
“I don’t respond until those three times because it’s constantly distracting. People know if they need to get through to me directly they can call me or call the office.”

A key to Judy’s time management is the task-ranking chart she developed that has a permanent home on her desk. She has quadrants ranked from important and urgent, important but not urgent, to not urgent and unimportant tasks.
“I work my way down that [list].”

She found the system much more logical to achieve her main goals for the day. Her previous system of prioritising small tasks so she could “get them out of the way” wasn’t helpful. She found it left her little time to do the “big [important] things”.
She realised the “big things” were more likely to offer her business growth opportunities.
“Prioritising what is important and what is urgent has been the key to everything I’ve done since.”