“If only I had the time…”
How often have you heard that expression? How many times have you used it yourself? If you run a small business, the answer is probably a lot. None of us ever seem to have enough time to get everything we need done as quickly as we need to do it. Yet sometimes it seems like the faster we move, the more overwhelmed we become. Until somebody figures out a way to create days with more than 24 hours in them, extra time is not going to mysteriously appear out of nowhere. We have to figure out a way to make the hours we have work for us, not against us. You know only too well that running a small business means around-the-clock demands of your time by clients, customers, employees, and many others. So time management is not just a nice-sounding phrase—it is an absolute necessity.
Believe it or not, there are steps you can take to give yourself more time. This is because, when you take a good close look at what goes on during your workday, you will find that many of your precious minutes are spent doing things that you really don’t need to do—or at least that you shouldn’t need to be doing. If you take the bull by the horns, you might find that you can spend those minutes much more productively, and your business will reap the benefits. Here are a few tips to help you out.
Start By Organizing
It sounds easy and obvious but many of us are not as organized as we think we are. And if you aren’t organized, you can’t be productive. First, look at your surroundings. A messy desk is one of the biggest distractions you can have. If you have a lot of junk you need to wade through every time you need to find something, think of all the time you are wasting. So clean it up, file all of your documents, label them, and get rid of the clutter. Next, organize yourself. Give yourself breaks. Work for an hour or two at a time and then block out several minutes to rest, relax, clear your head, and recharge. Research shows that giving yourself short breaks actually helps you get more done in the long run. Then prioritize your tasks. List what needs to get done and assign each task a priority according to how much it helps your business or your customers. And tackle the most important ones first.
Document Your Processes
It’s human nature to want to do things instead of writing about doing things. But documentation is very important. If you don’t define a process for getting things done and then document that process, you will find yourself constantly re-inventing the wheel. And what can be more of a time killer than that? In fact, seeing a process defined on paper is the best first step in improving that process. You will begin to notice repetitive steps and tasks you can automate. This will both save you time and make your business run more efficiently.
Get Rid of Distractions
The first step is to find out what your distractions are and why you are allowing yourself to be distracted. Is it the telephone? Just because it’s ringing doesn’t mean you have to answer it right away. That’s what answering machines are for. Is it emails? Answer them all at a designated time. And get yourself some good filters which will automatically remove the commercial emails, jokes, newsletters, etc., from your inbox. What about the biggest productivity killer of all—social media? Put it down! You can “engage” later during a designated break time.
Complete Similar Tasks At The Same Time
As a small business manager, you need to wear many different hats. The key is not to wear them all at the same time. The brain can’t shift gears seamlessly. You need a different frame of mind when you focus on R&D than when you focus on marketing. So the most efficient way to group tasks is by function. Deal with groups of similar tasks all at once so that you don’t lose focus when switching from one to the next. Working on one category of your business at a time will waste less time and lead to higher productivity in the long run.
The most obvious step is also the most important. Entrepreneurs tend to want to do everything themselves but in practice this just doesn’t work. Nothing wastes your time more than doing things you shouldn’t be doing or doing things you’re not good at. So stick with running the business and don’t hesitate to delegate!
Time management is one of the biggest challenges that small business owners face. Wasted time kills productivity and stifles business growth. Your business would thrive if you only had the time. Well, time is yours to have if you know how to manage it!
Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of personalized pens and other promotional products. He regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog.