One of the biggest challenges business owners face is finding effective ways to manage our time. Books have been written about it, and there is no shortage of seminars, webinars and workshops on tips and techniques to get the most out of every day.
The problem is that what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all. So you get all psyched up about the latest time management trick and work yourself and your staff into a tizzy trying to implement what the expert of the hour insists is the breakthrough revelation in squeezing every oodle of potential out of your every waking moment. Then when it falls flat, you feel like a failure, your staff sees you as too gullible to avoid the latest crazy trend, and you’re all right back where you started.
Enter a little common sense. The first step in addressing any situation is to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Keeping a few key truths in mind from the beginning will enable you to take a smarter, focused approach to better time management. It will also save you the time, money and frustration of trial and error – the operative word here being “error.”
Truth #1 – Your personality plays a role in what will work for you.
Strong administrative types approach the world around them differently than creative free spirits do. If you live and die by the list, and it works for you, go with it. But if lists only stress you out and constantly remind you of what is not getting done, you may work best with another tool. Even non-list types, however, can benefit from a simple checklist for the day to make sure certain essential groups of tasks are completed. Understanding your personality (and those of those who work for and with you) will go a long way toward finding the right tools and resources for your business. The Myers-Briggs personality test (free) available at HumanMetrics.com is a great tool for identifying personality types and understanding them better.
Truth #2 – You must step back and look at the big picture & identify where your time is spent.
Time, like money, is a resource, and it can trickle through your open fingers just as quickly with little or nothing to show for it. To better budget your time, you must first identify where your time is currently being spent. Write down everything you do in an average day, week, month and year. How much time do you spend on the phone or responding to emails? How many hours a week are spent in the various aspects of your business – marketing, bookkeeping, making widgets, dealing with problem issues, meetings, etc.? On facebook or playing computer games? Be brutally honest and realistic here. You will quickly see where the majority of your time is currently being spent and where the trouble spots are.
Truth #3 – You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.
Financial advisor Dave Ramsey says of money management, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.” The same is true for time management. If you find yourself in a place where you MUST make some changes in order for your business to grow and prosper, remember that your current habits have gotten you where you are, but new habits can be made successfully. It may seem awkward and clunky at first, but stick with it. If you need to, tweak the system a little to make it work for you.
Truth #4 – You don’t have to do everything yourself.
This one is especially difficult for business owners to wrap our brains around, because we know that no one is as dedicated to our business as we are. In the early stages of a new business, it is not uncommon for you to do wear every hat imaginable. But delegating certain tasks to others is essential to growth. You cannot sustain doing everything yourself and grow. You will reach a saturation point and your business will stagnate. Whether you have paid staff, contracted support ( a payroll company, for example) or a virtual assistant, let others help you so you can spend more time doing what you do best.
Truth #5 – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If something is working for you and your business, leave it alone. Just because someone found a new way of doing things that works for them doesn’t mean it will have the same effect for you.With that said, it is a good idea to periodically examine your operation (or have someone do it for you), to identify areas that could use improvement. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Stay on top of what is going on and when you do see something that needs adjusting, do it. But until then, if what you’re doing is working, stick with it.
Time management, like anything else, must have specific measurable goals attached to it for it to be effective. What areas do you see that need improvement and how will you know when it has been achieved? Random attempts to “be more efficient” can actually consume even more of your time uselessly if you’re not focused on a target. Keep it simple. Find what works for you. Stick with it. Delegate. Keep your eye on the prize and enjoy the ride.