The demands on the time of any business owner can be overwhelming and, if not properly controlled, can result in huge inefficiencies and an unnecessary increase in working hours just to get the job done. If this sound like you the first step to regaining control is to recognise the signs of poor time management.
Of course, it is not time itself that can be managed. We can only manage ourselves and what we can do in the time available to us. In other words time management is self-management and all self-management skills can be learned.
There could be many things that impose on our time during the working day. Some of those are due to our own behavior, for example, procrastination or indecision, failure to delegate, socialising at work, fatigue, lack of organisation and taking on more work that you can handle. For example some people believe they only spend a little time at work socialising and ‘wandering’ around. However, when it is demonstrated how much time this really takes up then it is often accepted as a major source of lost productivity and performance.
How To Manage Your Time More Effectively
So-called ‘time-robbers’ caused by other people include unclear job definitions, meetings called by others, excessive workload, poor communication, red tape, conflicting priorities and deadlines as well as mistakes by staff and interruptions.
A great way of prioritising tasks is to split them into four categories based on whether they are important, urgent, not important or not urgent.
Urgent tasks are deadline based. They are usually independent of you and are driven by others. The sooner a task needs to be completed the more urgent it is. This has no relation to importance.
The importance of a job drives how much time you want to spend on it. Notice that this is independent of urgency and is what you want to do not what you actually spend on it. For any task the quality of your output will often relate to the time that you spend on it.
Urgent and important tasks must be done now. These are critical activities and also support your goals. In terms of crises there may be a mixture of problems that could have been avoided with better planning or were completely unexpected.
Tasks that are not urgent but important have deadlines in the future. They are important so you must do them. Plan ahead so that they can be carried out in the future.
Tasks that are urgent but not important are tasks with imminent deadlines but not relevant to your own goals. Much of your daily activity will come under this heading. However you should spend as little time as possible on these jobs. People tend to spend more time than is necessary on these jobs usually because they enjoy a task and they believe the job is important when it is not.
The last category is tasks that are neither urgent nor important. They are trivial and should be avoided although you may end up doing them just to get them out of the way.
How To Manage Your Time More Effectively
Something that I do which has been a tremendous help to me is to keep my desk organized. If your desk is untidy why not spend 5 minutes at the end of each hour clearing one small part of it. You’ll be surprised at what you can get done in 5 minutes and at the end of two weeks you should see a vast improvement and this example of instant success will bring you a feeling of genuine satisfaction.
There will be situations in which you find that you are able to reduce your workload by delegating to others. Do not confuse delegation with abdication though. The person to whom you are delegating must have a clear understanding of what you are wanting them to do. Explain why the job is important, describe what is needed in terms of results, agree deadlines and ask for feedback to ensure a common understanding. Check on progress regularly and provide whatever additional support is required.
Another great time saver involves batching work. Deal with all similar work at the same time. Set aside time to do all of your quotes, to make all of your outgoing phone calls, to follow up previous enquiries or to order supplies. When booking appointments set fixed times in the diary. Do not leave the office to make a call, return to the office and then go out again 20 minutes later to see someone else. Plan your visits so that you are in one part of your territory at any one time. This can save on travelling expenses also. Don’t forget to build in time to deal with the unanticipated here as well. You never know when a customer will turn up unexpectedly or when you may have a complaint to deal with. Leave yourself space to all for such eventualities.
In summary the key for how to manage your time more effectively. Know what you need to do and when you need to have it done by. Prioritise tasks in terms of urgency and importance and do not be tempted just to do the easy stuff. Block out time in your daily diary to complete urgent tasks. Delegate tasks where you can and above all be disciplined.