As a small business operator, you are first and foremost a manager. You manage a budget. You manage processes. You manage people. But your most important management task is one that often slips under the radar. You need to know how to manage your time.
Time wasted is money lost. And unfortunately time can be a very easy thing to waste. Research has shown that workers generally use only about 60% of their time productively. When you apply this same figure to running your business, you can almost see those dollar bills flying out the window. And as a manager, you probably find yourself performing many different jobs during the day and wishing you had about twice as much time as you actually do. But don’t worry. You can do something about it. In fact, here are a few tips that can help you turn wasted time into productive time:
You have a lot of enemies in your battle to save time. Some of them are known by other names: telephones, email, Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, to name a few. Nothing is more tempting, or more of a time-killer, than net surfing, reading your email, or checking Ebay for the latest deals. If you add up all of the minutes that you spend doing these things, you would see why. The key is to set some boundaries. Make your email conform to your time schedule, not the other way around. Set aside set time periods during the day to read and answer your emails and to listen to and answer your phone messages. Allot yourself a specific amount of time during the day to engage in social media interactions. If you use some of these social sites to market or promote your products or services, get a social media management software tool (many good ones are free!) or better still, hire a college student to manage your social media sites for you.
Set specific time-management goals.
Make specific goals and write them down. Set realistic milestones for each of them. In this way, you can monitor your progress and see how you are doing. Know yourself well enough to realize what part of the day you are most productive. For example, are you a morning person? If so, schedule your most important goals for before lunch.
Lack of organization leads to wasted time. Think about it. When your desk is cluttered it takes longer to find something. When your computer files are unorganized, you probably find yourself doing numerous searches. First, eliminate the clutter from your surroundings. If something is not necessary, get rid of it. Then create a system for what is left. Use folders or files and code them by color or some other way. Organize your computer files into category folders. You will soon begin to notice that many of the things that used to take up a lot of your time are now simple and easy to do.
Focus on one task at a time.
Multi-tasking is something many small business owners feel they need to do. But having multiple responsibilities doesn’t mean you should be doing everything simultaneously! It’s a proven fact that focusing on one thing at a time increases your overall productivity. So set aside a chunk of time to focus intently on one thing. And don’t switch gears until that time period is over.
Eliminate the word “wait” from your vocabulary.
Think about how much time we spend waiting for things—doctors, dentists, people who haven’t yet arrived for a meeting. Some of these waits can be unavoidable, but if you are idle during these waiting periods, you are wasting valuable time. Instead, always take something with you. Is there a report you need to read? Is there a schedule that needs to be planned? Never be without the tools you need to get stuff done when you need to wait. Bring that pad of paper, that notebook, that PDA, and/or that smart phone so that you can use that previously-wasted time productively.
Let your workers work for you.
Don’t try to be a one-man show. You need to delegate and/or outsource certain tasks so that you are not wasting your time doing what others could be doing just as well (or better!). Save your valuable time for the important things and the things that you do best. Remember that micro-management is inefficient management.
Time is easy to waste. And very often a lot of it is wasted without our even realizing it. Unless you know how to manage it and control it, it will fly right by before you know it. Fortunately, there are ways making your time work for you. When you learn how to manage your time, you will see how much easier it becomes to manage your business.