When you own a small business you are an extremely busy person; everything about the business is your responsibility, which means your time and attention are constantly in demand. Let’s take a look at seven real world tips and time management techniques to help you gain more control and efficiency in your work efforts.
Technique #1 – Track your use of time:
Carry a small notebook with you and for one full week keep track of how you’re using your time. It takes a few extra moments at a time to capture this information, but at the end of the week you’ll be better able to see where your time is being spent and spot areas where you can make changes to be more efficient and/or effective.
Technique #2 – Establish goals for managing your time:
Once you have an idea of where your time is being spent you can set real, specific goals for making improvement. You might set a goal of reducing the time you spend responding to emails, for instance, or cutting back on the amount of time you spend on personal phone calls.
Technique #3 – Establish a time management system:
Small business owners often find themselves pulled in many different directions at the same time which makes it very easy to get distracted from the really important things you need to do each day. Set up a time management system to minimize these distractions, such as returning voice mail at a particular time each day, empowering your employees to make more decisions, or the like.
Technique #4 – Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise:
It is often said that 80% of your time is spent dealing with 20% of the activities related to your business, and this is absolutely true. Make a point of setting priorities about which activities are most important and/or most profitable, and then be sure those activities receive the majority of your time and attention.
Technique #5 – Delegate and outsource whenever possible:
When you first started your small business you were probably the only employee and had to do everything yourself. As your business has grown, however, it has become more and more difficult to take care of all of that stuff efficiently. You can improve your time management practices by evaluating which tasks and activities could be delegated and/or outsourced and then taking the steps necessary to take those actions.
Technique #6 – Set a routine and stick to it:
The most successful small business owners understand that they use their time most effectively when they set up a daily/weekly/monthly routine and stick to it. This helps to ensure tasks and activities are handled regularly, and when the inevitable crisis erupts you are in a much better position to safely deal with that crisis knowing the other aspects of your business are up to date and under control.
Technique #7 – Allow down time to think and plan:
This is perhaps the best time management technique of all because it allows you to step away from the day to day necessities of running your business and on a regular basis take the time to think and plan for the future. Down time is important for letting your mind rest and refresh itself so that your creativity can come through more easily.
If you’re anything like me, life just seems to get busier every year. Yes, you could slow down a bit… do less… be less involved in your various activities, business groups, children’s sports or whatever, but do you really want to cut back?
I lead an extremely busy life but in all honesty, that’s the way I like it.
I enjoy being able to take part in so many events and activities, meeting and building relationships and lifelong friendships with so many people.
Just how do you keep doing everything you want to, plus everything you HAVE to and still keep your sanity?
I’d like to share with you some planning techniques I use to keep me organised and on track.
1. Write lists. When you lead a busy life it’s so easy to forget things. I have lists galore – I should probably even keep a list of all my lists! There’s my daily to-do list, my list of birthdays for the year, my list of household jobs I want to work my way through, my list of Christmas presents to buy, my list of 50 people I want to meet during my lifetime, my list of goals and my shopping list. What’s more important than writing lists is that I actually USE them; I refer to them daily and cross things off or re-adjust them as I go.
When you’re adding tasks to your list, focus on WHY you’re writing them on there. Why do you want to include, ‘Go for walk,’ on your daily jobs list? Is it so you can cross it off at the end of the day? I doubt it. Is it to help in your overall goal to lose weight or to be healthy?
Focus on the big picture and your reasons for wanting to do this task; focus on how you’ll feel once you’ve achieved your goal.
2. Delegate, delegate, delegate! Do you really need to do all these things yourself?
Let’s work with household chores as an example. Grab a blank sheet of paper and write down a list of chores to be done. Now, cross off all those that don’t really need doing, or asterisk those that can be done fortnightly instead of weekly.
Next, what can other members of your household help with? Can you afford to hire a professional cleaner once a week or fortnight? These little things can make a huge difference to your schedule.
If you run a business or are self-employed, look at employing staff or ways of outsourcing tasks. Your main duty is to manage your business, not to do absolutely everything to do with your business yourself.
3. When it comes to planning for your year ahead, begin by looking at the big picture.
Imagine the date today is December 31st 2010; you’re sitting here, looking back at what you’ve achieved over the last year. What are you thinking of? What did you achieve?
Okay, now you can break each of those achievements down into bite size pieces. What can you do each day to work towards those goals?
4. What can you get rid of? Do you really need to do everything you write on your daily list? Remember: life’s too short to spend it doing things you don’t like. Sure, we’ve all got to do things we don’t want to but surely there are some things you can let go of.
I used to be the family ‘neat-freak’ until I realised how much time I was wasting ironing tea towels! (Bonus advice: the creases work their way out after you use them once and hang them up to dry).
A girlfriend of mine recently told me that she wants her children to think back upon their childhood remembering how much fun they had and how their Mum always had time for them, not remembering how clean the house was.
5. Buy a birthday book or use your diary, calendar or organiser to write in the birthdates of all your friends, family… anyone you would generally send a card or gift to.
At the end of each month, see what birthdays are coming up next month and buy cards/gifts as needed. Then you can keep them somewhere handy, where they won’t be forgotten, ready to mail a few days before the date.
6.Focus … and stop multi-tasking! You’ll find you’ll achieve so much more if you stop multi-tasking and focus on one main priority at a time.
Allocate a set time – 30 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours or however long you feel is required for a specific task. Turn off all other distractions and focus on the task at hand. Then make sure you stop after the dedicated time. If the task isn’t finished yet, allocate more time somewhere to complete it.
You’ll find that by spending this time totally focused and allocating a specific time-frame will help keep you on track.
7. And have fun! Don’t forget to reward your achievements and schedule time for living life and celebrating.
Hopefully you’ve found these ideas useful and they will be simple for you to implement into your lifestyle. Here’s to a wonderful year – your best year yet!