Improving your business with better time management
When things are hectic, most small business owners wish they could find a way to get more than 24 hours into a day.
Often, your ‘to-do’ list can get so long that you feel you never get to put as much attention into every task as you would like. It can also mean more time in the office or dealing with work issues after-hours – cutting into your free time and affecting your work-life balance.
Applying these simple time management tips and tools will help you get the most out of your work time and get more of the important stuff done.
Track your time
Remember that tried and tested business adage: “You cannot manage what you do not measure”? Well, it applies to time management too. Without tracking your time, any attempt at improving time management will be a hit-and-miss affair. If you do not track where and how you spend your time, you have got no way to measure your current time management or means to identify time wasters or tasks you could delegate.
Start by recording what you do each day and how long it takes you. This can be as simple or tech-savvy as you like – ranging from rough notes scribbled on a weekly timesheet to an Excel spreadsheet that will add up the minutes and hours. Alternatively, you can harness technology to do this for you.
Before you write off this idea, deciding that the amount of additional time you will waste tracking your time is not worth the effort, at least try out one of a range of paid-for and free time management tools that can help to make this task simpler. Some options include Harvest or Toggl, and most come with features that can be rolled out for overall staff time management and integrated into your billing.
Although there are benefits to monitoring and tracking how you use your time, you do not have to. After a few weeks, you will have a good indication of what you spend most of your days, weeks, and months doing. You might be surprised at the amount of time lost in meetings, doing things you could delegate, or doing things you do out of habit rather than need.
Eliminate the time wasters
Armed with information about how you spend your time, you’ll be better able to eliminate unnecessary time wasters. Some common time wasters are:
- Monitoring social media
- Responding to emails
- Fielding telephone calls
- Drop-in visitors and sales people
- Meetings that go on longer than necessary
Jumping between tasks and reading and answering emails as they come in during the day can reduce your productivity. Set aside time to check and answer emails rather than letting them distract you from the task at hand.
Ask your staff to field telephone calls or take a message if you need uninterrupted time to focus on a task. Train staff not to allow salespeople to see you without an appointment to avoid wasting your time listening to a sales pitch for office flowers or equipment you are not thinking of buying.
There are several other ways to eliminate or manage time-wasters at work. Do not have pop-up messages from social media accounts running while trying to get work done. Appoint a staff member to monitor certain business functions with daily or weekly reports, rather than spending hours a week doing this task yourself.
Run meetings to a tight timetable. Draw up an agenda and allow only a couple of minutes (yes, literally a minute or two) for each item on the agenda to avoid meetings becoming a social gathering and wasting the productive time of all those present.
Delegate appropriate tasks
Have a close look at your current workload and see if there are practical tasks you could delegate to others. Can you delegate some simple accounting functions such as managing petty cash and reconciliations? What about general correspondence, sales and marketing tasks, product development, quality control, etc.? Small businesses owners are generally notorious for their reluctance to delegate in the belief that they do the job better. However, delegation can free up your valuable time, allowing you to focus on growing your business rather than spending all your time focusing on the day-to-day running of your business.
Draw up a list of tasks you could delegate and responsible staff who could take them over. Most employees want to develop in their jobs and would value the opportunity for added responsibility or the chance to learn new skills. Try not to fall into the trap of only delegating the jobs you do not like doing – you want to free up as much time as possible to work more strategically and effectively and have time for that work-life balance.
A little bit of time invested in developing efficient systems for your business will save you much time in the long run. Whether it is time spent setting up a computerized accounting system or implementing a physical or virtual filing system not to waste time looking for paperwork or documents, setting up systems and getting organized can save you much money.
If your time tracking indicates you spend much time answering basic sales questions, you could, for example, save time by writing up some template responses that you (or an employee) could personalize in response to queries. Similarly, adding a F.A.Q. Page to your website could help to free up more of your time. Customer relationship management software can also save a lot of time and effort.
If you are no longer so busy running from one problem to the next in your business, you will probably be able to identify several ways to work smarter rather than harder and find ways to increase staff productivity.
Draw up a prioritised ‘to do’ list
It is easy to get sucked into the problem of the day – or the problem of the hour, in some businesses. This is where that ‘to-do list can help. A simple list of the tasks you need or hope to accomplish, together with a deadline, will help to keep you focused.
Ranking them in order of priority will help ensure the most important tasks get done by the deadline and that jobs do not fall off your radar and get forgotten. Ticking items off your to-do list can be surprisingly motivating, too.
Work to your personal productive times
It makes sense to work when you work best. We all have different cycles and preferences. If you are a morning person and full of oomph and drive at the crack of dawn, but this time aside to tackle those big projects. Schedule more routine things or minor creative tasks for the afternoon when you are in your less-productive cycle. Avoid routine production planning meetings during your most productive times.
If you are not a morning person and do not reach your form until after your second cup of coffee, get those routine tasks out of the way first thing in the morning, and then tackle the big projects, or schedule important meetings for when you will be able to give it your very best.
Get the tools or help you need
If you expect your staff to work effectively and efficiently, you will need to provide them with the right tools to do the job. The same applies to you as the business owner. You cannot work efficiently if you do not have the tools or skills (whether training or personnel).
If you do not need it, this does not justify you to dash out to buy an iPad2. However, it does mean you should not limp along wasting hours to do a job when investment in technology would mean you would be able to be far more productive.
It is usually a false economy trying to make do with outdated technology. If you are unsure whether to invest in tools, software, training, or staff, do a quick calculation of how much time it will save you, and then compare this with how much it will cost. Assuming your cash flow can accommodate the purchase, this cost-benefit analysis will quickly tell you whether investing in the tools or help you need is a financially sound decision for your business.
Donna Bordeaux, CPA with Calculated Moves
Creativity and C.P.A.s don’t generally go together. Most people think of C.P.A.s as nerdy accountants who cannot talk with people. Well, it is time to break that stereotype. Lively, friendly, and knowledgeable can be part of your relationship with your C.P.A., as Donna and Chad Bordeaux demonstrated. They have over 50 years of combined experience as entrepreneurial C.P.A.s. They’ve owned businesses and helped business owners exceed their wildest dreams. They have been able to help businesses earn many times more profit than the average business in the same industry and are passionate about helping industries that help families build great memories.