One thing all owners of small businesses say is “I don’t have enough time.”
Interesting, because we can have different balances in our bank account, we can afford to hire different numbers of people, we have different tax bills, we can have different equipment in the business.
But I’m pretty certain one of the things we all have equally is time.
Look at the clock.
Mine has the numbers 1 to 12 and I’m pretty certain yours does too.
So why do some of us struggle to get things done and others seem to fit everything in easily?
It doesn’t matter if you cost your time in dollars per hour or not, time is a valuable resource.
The more responsibility you have the more valuable time should be to you.
As the business owner, you can be said to have the greatest responsibility with the largest number of things to do so managing your time is a valuable skill.
When you are in control of what you spend time on, you will automatically find that you focus on priorities better, that you make better decisions, and you can attend to forward-looking business strategies.
A small business owner can exercise 4 practices to manage their time better.
1 Understand their Vision for the business
If you haven’t already, write down a description of the purpose of your being in the business, and your vision for what success looks like.
If you have a very clear reason for being in business – whether it’s to develop the best mousetrap or to provide a bright future for your family or to keep your customers happy, you can measure what you do according to that purpose.
If you also have a clear picture of what you are striving for, you can also be clear about what’s important and what is a distraction.
Once you understand your purpose and are clear about your vision, every decision about priority can be dealt with by asking: “Which of these choices will help me to attain my vision and fulfil my purpose faster or better?”
2 Delegate properly
Delegation is not just deciding someone else can do a task and asking them to do it.
If they are unclear about what the task involves; if they do not understand what the desired outcome is; if they do not have experience in dealing with the task or are not provided with sufficient tools, they are unlikely to do it well.
More often than not you will have to closely supervise, which takes time, or have to do it yourself because it wasn’t completed correctly, which takes as much time as not delegating in the first place!
No, you need to delegate properly.
This means setting a clear goal, providing enough instruction or resources so that they can do it themselves, and in looking to the future, providing enough encouragement so that they are encouraged to keep learning this new task.
In “The One Minute Manager”, Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson provide a simple technique to be an effective manager of people. Blanchard then went on to design a model for delegation called Situational Leadership II.
Delegate properly using these tools, and implementing systems and procedures to allow others to take responsibility will lessen the number of responsibilities “you have to do yourself.”
3 Prioritise your tasks
Taking action on the first two practices can already reduce the number of things you are responsible for.
For the rest, learn to prioritise according to the effect the task has on attaining your vision and on your time.
There are different ways to prioritise your to-do list.
First is the Eisenhower Method where you decide how important and how urgent something is.
The idea is to:-
- Eliminate tasks that are neither urgent nor important,
- Delegate tasks that are urgent but not important,
- Deal with tasks that are urgent and important, eventually reducing the number of such tasks, and
- Spend most of your time on tasks that are not urgent but important because these are the tasks that produce the best return on time spent.
Another method is the simple A, B, C method where you rank every task as an A, a B, or a C depending on how important you think they are, and then within each category numbering the tasks 1, 2 or 3 in priority.
Whichever method you use, it is important to prioritise a varied list of tasks to avoid overwhelm and missing on important tasks.
4 Plan your work
This may seem the most basic thing to do, but when you are busy and on the point of overwhelm, how often do you pull out a calendar or diary and mark out time to do things?
We forget that setting priorities is only part of the story. If we do not set out enough time to work on each task properly and finish the task, we will still not complete our work.
Make sure that you use a calendar or diary and have it with you at all times.
Enter your appointments with other people, but also enter appointments with yourself to set aside time to complete each task. Consider how long each task will take and plan out your work accordingly.
Remember that life goes on so include set times to handle interruptions and unexpected emergencies, and make and take phone calls. One of the most successful time managers I know refuses to open their email app except at certain times a day so that they are not interrupted by email constantly.
Once you establish the 4 main time-management practices, you can add other tips that others find helpful.
- Group or chunk tasks by project or purpose so that you can deal with like actions at the same time
- Keep referring and adjusting your to-do list (prioritised as above)
- Recognise your usual distractions whether digital or people, and take steps to ban them until set times
- Be aware if you are trying to do too much at once, be realistic in your time-blocking when you plan your work
- Take time to recharge and refresh
- Avoid multitasking (you may seem to be productive, but you are not likely to be efficient)
- Check your physical environment to minimise noise and distraction, including physical discomfort
- Use sensible technology – and not all technology is appropriate or sensible for every task.
Make a concerted effort to manage your time and you will find that you feel and sleep better, making you more effective and efficient, that your ability to focus means that you are more successful in the business and you are far less stressed and more able to find, and spend, quality time with your family and friends.
Go and try these tips and come back and tell me how you got on.
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