Being busy doesn’t necessarily equate to being productive. There are plenty of time wasting habits which are all too easy to fall into. These include failing to prioritise, getting bogged down in details, putting off important tasks, and micromanaging staff instead of delegating. The end result can be a packed schedule and a feeling of getting nowhere, fast. So, time management is one of the most valuable skills worth developing as a business owner — in fact, it’s worth developing no matter what stage of your career you’re at.
Why focus on time management?
Think of time as a resource, the same way you see money or equipment as, and imagine you’ve been given a budget for a project. To prove you’ve got what it takes as a great manager, there’s no doubt you’re going to do everything you can to make that budget stretch as far as possible. Having a similar attitude with time can be highly beneficial for you and your business, for many reasons.
Identify business priorities
Firstly, efficient time management allows you to identify your business priorities. Finding smarter ways to deal with simple, routine tasks can help free up time to focus on the bigger picture. This means there is more time available to devote to the decision-making process — meaning you’ll be more likely to make the right decisions.
A positive working atmosphere
Putting your time to effective use will also create a favourable impression and positive working atmosphere in the office. Struggling to meet deadlines, and often having a rushed and chaotic approach, doesn’t do much for your professional image, or for staff motivation. Getting to grips with time management means you can demonstrate that you’re organised, in control, and ready for the next challenge.
Focusing on time management can help you achieve a healthy work-life balance, too. Strategic planning and scheduling will mean fewer late nights in the office, and no need to be constantly catching up — reducing stress levels in the process.
Time management in practice
There are several practical steps to make your ‘time budget’ stretch that little bit further, giving you maximum time economy and productivity.
Invest in automation
- Using technology to reduce the amount of time spent on menial tasks and admin, such as payslips and VAT returns, can be a simple way to practice effective time management. It’s especially relevant for small business owners, too:
- Investing in an accounts package (Sage One, for instance) can help slash the time devoted to paperwork.
- Additionally, e-commerce businesses can manage their stores more efficiently by designing a website powered by a content management system, such as Shopify.
More generally, technology can stop you wasting time by automating responses when a problem occurs more than once. If you spend a lot of time communicating with difficult customers, for example, put copies of those communications in a folder marked ‘customer care’ in your system. This means you can refer to it the next time a similar problem crops up.
Draw up a list and make use of your diary
Rather than a never-ending ‘to do’ list, start by drawing up a list of priorities for a defined period. Prioritise your work in terms of what you need to achieve on the day, in the week, and by the end of the month. For each task, assign an estimation of how long it may take, and in your diary, schedule a time for each task. Breaking down your time in this way can help you conceptualise your goals for the period you set.
Try and cut out distractions
Thanks to a combination of phone, email, instant messaging, and social media it has never been easier to stay connected with colleagues and customers. This isn’t always a good thing. Especially if you face a barrage of messages when you’re trying to complete a priority task. Here, resist the temptation to break off from what you’re doing to respond to every message. With the exception of urgent situations, think about allocating a set amount of time each day to deal with communications, instead of sending sporadic responses which could be written without your full attention.
Use your team
Micromanaging (i.e. keeping close control of everything your team members do) can be an extremely time-consuming strategy. Free up some of this time by allocating greater responsibility to team members. This has the further advantage of providing those individuals with valuable personal development opportunities — allowing you to adopt a greater mentoring role, and strengthen your credentials as an effective leader.