Business owners can control a lot, but they can’t control time. It just keeps tick-tocking along. Before you know it, the day has slipped by, and you didn’t accomplish your objectives.
Time can’t be controlled, but it can be managed by adapting time-conserving business practices and tactics. In a highly competitive market, time management can produce a more robust bottom line for time-conscious companies.
Track your time. Use a tablet, digital calendar or smart phone app to track your activities for a couple of weeks. Collect data on your day-to-day activities to identify time wasters and areas of business that need more of your attention. When you record your activities, you can better allocate your time, and successful time management is all about the smart, effective allocation of time.
Identify opportunities to reallocate your time or activities. Use your real-world data to help you identify activities that can be handled by others, conducted by written communication, or through online collaboration. Instead of flying across country to meet face-to-face, online collaboration can save you time, while still delivering the information you need. By using web cams, you can still have the personal touch and “face time”, but with potentially huge savings in time and money.
Start your day with a scheduled allocation of time and stick to the schedule. When you first arrive in the morning, put together a short, hand-written “to-do” list for the day. No specified time, necessarily, but the things you have to accomplish that day, in order of importance.
Add to and cross off activities as the day progresses, but don’t start each day with the first challenge that presents itself, whatever that challenge may be. Ask yourself whether it’s important enough to upset your pre-determined task list, or whether it can wait for later.
Plan for surprises. It’s important to keep your schedule flexible. Running a small business often involves “surprises” that need your immediate attention. Build some flex time into your schedule each day. If it isn’t needed to a surprise task, you’ll have extra time for something else.
Block out meetings with yourself. Set aside time each day to think, work solo, just take a break for an hour, or do all three. Recognize the value of time each workday, and assign yourself private time to process the information you’ve gathered or to plan for the future. Turn off the smart phone, don’t check your email, and don’t make calls during this critical time so you won’t be distracted.
Identify the activities in which you must be involved. Whether it’s long-horizon business planning, or whom to hire, you know your business, and you know the activities that absolutely require your participation. These activities should have time assigned to them – written, scheduled time you devote to these “must-haves.”
Try to cull the list of your activities by delegating responsibility. Many small business owners have “done it all” from the start-up phase, and letting go of long-time responsibilities isn’t always easy. As your company grows, hire good people, assign responsibility and a reporting system, and move on to bigger and better things – growing the company more profitable faster.
Put commute time to good use. That traffic jam won’t be quite so painful if you use that time to think. A simple, sound-activated digital recorder or smart phone app can help you write letters, prepare a presentation, keep track of tasks that need to be done, or plan family time this weekend. Put drive time to good use, and pick up a few hours of work time each week. But keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Reorganize your work space with efficiency in mind. Old files, outdated tech devices, unread magazines – if your office is cluttered, chances are your mind is, too. Clear out the clutter in your office to create a more proactive, less distracting environment.
Use CRM software. Client relations management (CRM) software simplifies tracking daily operations, from raw materials in to shipped goods out. At a glance, this software can help you see all business activities in real time, identify downstream problems before they become problems, and manage more efficiently. Using CRM software can free up more time for other, more important activities.
Finally, recognize that time has value. It can’t be replaced. You can’t add more hours to the day, but you can manage the hours you have to deliver more consequential outcomes that can move your business to the next level.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank, a division of ZB, N.A. Member FDIC