Guest Post by Mike James
If you run your own business, you’ll be only too familiar with the feeling that there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. What’s more, there may be only one of you but a multitude of important management tasks to be tackled. From Finance & Accounts to HR Management, Marketing, Customer Services and more, you’re invested both financially and emotionally, so obviously you do the best you can.
Make the Most of Your Management Time
As a small business owner, time is your most valuable asset. More than your IT systems, staff or commercial premises, if you can optimize your time management so that you get the most out of each day, you’ll be giving your business the best possible chance of success.
The best place to start is by reviewing how efficiently you currently use your time and utilizing the skills that make you irreplaceable as a manager. Ask yourself these three important questions and record accurate information that you can then use to base any improvements on:
How should your management time be allocated?
First of all, make a list of all management tasks in order of importance. Create categories that are meaningful to your business – this could be customer calls, sales meetings, invoicing & admin, report writing, order fulfillment, social media support, etc. Next, divide up the working week and put what you think is the right amount of time against each category. This is your perfect week.
How do you actually spend your time?
In order to discover how your ideal scenario compares to your daily reality of how you actually spend your time during the working week, make a point of logging every hour of activity you spend on each identified activity. Record the results in a notebook, spreadsheet or however is most convenient, and do this for at least a week, ideally longer.
Are there any deficiencies or areas for improvement?
Now total up the time for each category and compare the two data records – how do they match up? Are you really dedicating the most time to the most important tasks? If there is a discrepancy between how you think you should spend your time and how it is actually spent, there are two possible reasons: Your first list is wrong, and you lack an understanding of the most important business tasks. Go back and review your priorities. Or your first list is right but you’re not managing your time in accordance with your business priorities.
Making Improvements to your Time Management
If you optimize your time management, you’ll be giving your business the best possible chance of success.Tweet
Armed with the above information, you can now make the necessary adjustments to improve how you spend your management time.
Scrap: Cut out time wasters: Once identified, you can easily eliminate tasks that take far too long and produce little useful results. Social media and email management, for instance, can be notorious time sinks. Be ruthless and get them off your to-do list.
Delegate: Do you really have to do every task yourself, or are you perhaps in danger of micromanaging? Why not delegate, say, social media updates, to someone else, freeing up some of your valuable time for more important tasks?
Hire: Perhaps you simply need more boots on the ground to get everything done? Or maybe there are tasks that you are struggling with due to lack of skill? Whether it’s a chef or a bookkeeper you need, it may be wise to take on additional staff.
Tried and Tested Time Management Techniques
Once you’ve ironed out the obvious problems and made the necessary adjustments to how your (and your staff’s) time is spent most efficiently, the trick is to keep it going. Luckily, there are many tried and tested strategies, techniques, and tools available to help keep you on the straight and narrow. Here are some favorites:
Remember the Pareto Principle
According to this theory, it should only take 20% of your effort to achieve 80% of the desired result, yet many people use their time in the opposite manner, spending far too much time to achieve far too little. Are you focusing on the items or activities that produce the most significant results in your business? Or are you sweating the small stuff with not much to show for it?
Don’t be Afraid of Technology
Time management software can be a godsend, particularly for small business owners who struggle. Online time tracking, project management, and staff rota software tools are widely available to take the strain out of managing your business and keeping an overview of who is (and should be) doing what and when. Move with the times and get smart.
Use the Pomodoro Technique
This is a simple time management technique that can help eliminate distractions and unproductive time from your working day. Using a simple timer, it forces you to concentrate for short bursts (usually 25 minutes) at a time, then have a break. Work periods are strictly timed an uninterrupted, giving you the best chance to work productively.
More To-Do Lists, Fewer Meetings
Don’t underestimate the humble to-do list – it’s an easy way to take the pressure of remembering important tasks, simply by writing them down. Meetings, on the other hand, have the potential to waste inordinate amounts of time. Keep them short and to the point, and only schedule a meeting when really necessary.
Value White Space
Finally, it’s important to schedule breaks into your daily schedule. Far from wasting precious time, a deliberate break – 5-minute meditation, 10-minute walk in the fresh air, ½ hour power nap, 1-hour lunch break away from the desk – gives you the opportunity to refresh and recharge your physical and mental alertness. This will benefit your business much more than if you are permanently exhausted.
Featured Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
Photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash
Mike James is an IT and business consultant based in Brighton, UK. An author for a number of online and print publications, Mike specializes in cybersecurity, business management and how best to fit the two together for organizations of different sizes.