Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
Jackson Brown Jr.
Time management is the process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities - especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.
Well, that’s the theory, but in honesty how much of your time is effective, efficient and productive?
They say that when God made time, he made plenty of it, but when you are as immersed within your own business and particularly when you wear the sales, marketing, accounts, manufacturer, logistics and admin hats and seemingly many others all on your own and throughout your working day, time management can be a little tricky, elusive and frustrating commodity that we all want to control. We all don’t want to be busy fools, we want to the masters of our time, which ultimately impacts positively on our business with potentially greater profits. In fact, I would say that is not even a potential, it is indeed a fact!
Do you know business people that are hyper-productive, and seem to manage an unimaginable workload?
These are typically the people who hurry from task to task, always checking e-mail, organizing people, and still manage to leave the office before the sun sets. However, are they busy fools, or are they extremely organized people who seem to be in total control of their business operations, and clear huge amounts of work within a typical working day?
As a nation of small and medium sized business owners we seem to be working longer hours with every year that passes. We spend our time firefighting during the day, and catching up with that workload that needed a level of focus we couldn’t provide until the telephones stop ringing, and questions stop being asked of us. It is not unusual to see a business owner burning the midnight oil, and a visit to many a business park will see the occasional light glowing with a hard working business person desperately trying to reduce the size of the paperwork on their desks or the unopened emails on their computers.
It is also true to say that many businesses are becoming very complex beasts in comparison to what they were in the past. Technology, and the diversity of products and services has created a long list of complexities within a business model that weren’t seen in the past.
So when we burn that midnight oil in our offices are we being efficient with our time?
While this belief may be true to an extent, it often leads to mindless “productivity” and a constant need to do something and a tendency to waste time on menial tasks. We lose the focus of what needs to be done, and very often this lost focus means we hit 12 noon and our day really hasn’t yet started. Where did those hours go already?
It’s about your behaviour, your attitude and how you need to change your behaviour in order to become more effective, productive and efficient within your business. Changing that mindset is not I will turn over a new leaf next week and become more efficient, it is about planning to be more efficient – you can’t just change a mindset you may have had for many years.
OK, so what am I suggesting? What is suddenly going to turn this around for you?
Here are 5 considerations for you from among the many that I can name:
- Complete most important tasks first.
This is the golden rule of time management. Each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to complete, and do those first. Once you have completed these tasks, the day has already been a success, and anything else you can complete is a true bonus. I would always suggest focus on the profits, and building the strength in your business. So analyse your daily tasks and organize them in order of importance, or value to the business. Prioritising tasks can have a major impact on business success, and now imagine your staff are following your lead – marginal gains all round for your business!
- Turn key tasks into habits.
Whatever task it may be, make it habitual. Don’t break with the routine you put in place for yourself and it will become much more enjoyable and natural. You may feel that making tasks habitual is a little boring, or it potentially makes the day very dull, when in fact it has the opposite effect. It actually makes the day rewarding, and gives a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Let’s say you start the day at 8.00am and your first hour is to work on business admin tasks. It could be checking schedules or if you are a manufacturer, walking through the factory to make sure everything is in place for the days production. It could be answering overnight emails to clear the inbox. Whatever your most important tasks are, make them the first tasks to complete each day.
You’re kidding right? This is another way of saying, do the things that really matter. Keep a diary of what you do every day for a week, and I promise you it will demonstrate just where your own time management can become more efficient. It will show you just how much time you are wasting. If you are an obsessive list writer, try and reduce the size of the list, or prioritise the list across the week. You may have a long list for Monday, but do you have a number of tasks that can wait to Friday?
Slow down, notice what needs to be done, and concentrate on those things. Do less things that create more value, rather than more things that are mostly empty. Clear away the non-essential. Identify and remove the non-essential and you become more and more in touch with what is significant and what deserves your time. Importantly, the inability to delegate is a very common trait of business owners with their lights on late at night. Use your team effectively, and you will create more time for the important tasks, those that impact on the bottom line.
- Devote your entire focus to the task at hand.
Put your phone away, out of sight and on silent. Find a quiet place to work, and simply concentrate and focus on the one task at hand.
This is an interesting area which I have had many a conversation with a business owner. Distraction has a damaging effect on businesses and their ability to be successful. Being focused on a task, especially the important ones can be hugely beneficial to you and the business. That little extra thought that will influence a client proposal, or that small bit of detail being missed because which could means losing profits.
Nothing else should exist. Immerse yourself in that task. Equally important is setting a time to get the task done by. We’ve all said, “I’m going to be here until this is done.” Instead think, “I’m going to work on this for three hours”. The time constraint will push you to focus and be more efficient, even if you end up having to go back and add a bit more later on.
- Learn to say “no”.
Making a lot of time commitments can teach us how to juggle various engagements and manage our time. This can be a good thing.
However, you can easily take it too far. At some point, you need to learn to decline opportunities. Your objective should be to take on only those commitments that you know you have time for and that you truly care about. People will pull you in all directions if you allow them to, so don’t let them. You are the business owner and chief bottle washer, so make sure you tell others you are busy, or empower your team to take more control. This aspect is a subject for another day, but too many business owners say it was easier if I do it as it will take too long to explain. Well sit down and show that person how to do it, and give them the responsibility to carry out that regular task in the future.
I currently work with over 30 businesses, and cover a huge range of areas with each of the business owners, and time is something a lot of companies lose and you simply cannot get it back, or you continue to survive by working extraordinary hours. Time is crucial to the success of every business, and those that have created and led by achieving and demonstrating efficiencies with their own time, tend to have more efficient staff, better operational procedures, and a greater understanding of the potential profits within their business. They do indeed become the most successful businesses.
I have touched on just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to time management, and if you would like to know more about effective time management and how this can have positive impact on your business, why not get in touch and we can spend ‘our time’ discussing the potential very wisely!