Effective time management is one of those things that absolutely no one can disagree with, kind of like eating vegetables. We know it’s good for us, that we’ll reap benefits from doing it, and that we should do a lot more of it. But a lot of us persist in our poor habits—the office equivalent of a steady diet of ice cream and soda. And time slips away from us on an hourly, daily and weekly basis. Where does the time go? we ask.
ChamberofCommerce.com chief editor Megan Totka says that great time management skills are some of the most important tools you can have in running a successful small business. In fact, how business owners manage and control their time can be a make-or-break proposition for the business. Totka says that small businesses are especially vulnerable because errors resulting from poor time management, like missed deliveries, lost clients, lack of follow up usually hit them much harder than in bigger companies.
Even if you think you’re managing your time well now, you can probably do better. Here are some areas to look at:
- Priorities. How do organize your day? You should always do the most critical things first.
- Schedule. Whether your business is bricks and mortar or web-based, do you always make sure that there’s adequate or extra coverage?
- Goals. The clearer the goals—for you and your employees—the less time wasted figuring out what to do next.
- Motivation. Self-motivation is most effective and empowering. No one needs babysitting—what a waste of time!
- Multi-tasking. This is a double-edged sword. Juggling multiple projects can be a good thing, but often we only think we’re being productive when we’re multi-tasking. Pay attention!
Totka says that your goal, as a business owner, should be to cultivate a “no time wasted” in your business, with every single person committed to using every hour to the fullest.
We’re guessing there’s probably no limit to the ways you can use your time more effectively and make sure you are doing the right things with your time. Yahoo Finance offers some additional insights from consultant and contributor John Aberle, who based his tips largely on his work with small businesses. Now that time has sped up, thanks to email, social media and a desire for instant communication and execution, our time management challenges have increased exponentially. Aberle suggests five areas for getting your time under control and using it wisely:
- Priorities. We covered this above, but it bears repeating. Do the most important stuff first! It’s just too easy to knock out the easy stuff first but doesn’t truly move us forward in accomplishing our goals.
- Crisis management. Save it for actual crises, not just something or someone who wants your attention now.
- Focus. This is a biggie: Minimize or eliminate distractions. Check email only twice a day (seriously), make to-do lists, use systems to help you stay organized.
- Delegation. This can also be problematic for small business owners who are used to doing everything themselves. Give it to someone else, and use software to help you track progress with regular check-ins.
- Swiss cheese approach. How many times could you just not get started on something because it was too overwhelming—or you couldn’t find a large enough block of time to attack it? Break it down into smaller, digestible chunks—even those that will only take 10 or 15 minutes of your time. You’ll be amazed at the progress you can make this way.
If you’re in denial about your time management skills, small.business.chron.com describes some signs of bad time management to look for. Do you procrastinate or find yourself being tardy a lot? Do you feel unusually and consistently stressed and fatigued? Do you have a hard time concentrating or do you go into situations feeling unprepared? If any of these sound familiar, poor time management skills could be at the root of the problem. The good news: As you work to improve how you manage your time, these issues should also improve.
Finally, nfib.com calls out the top five time-stealers for any business—and what you can do to beat them. Count them down here:
Deceptively simple, maybe (and familiar!). But banish these to the sidelines and watch your day, and your mind, open up.
Image courtesy of winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net