Most small business owners and startup entrepreneurs hate wasting time. They know from experience that starting and growing an enterprise takes head-down, get-it-done dedication and efficiency. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to waste them.
But even the most focused business owners can struggle in the day-to-day world with all of the little things that can sabotage efforts to spend time effectively. Whether your business is facing a challenge, or growing like gangbusters, it’s important to get the time management thing right. Your good organization and time management skills are essential to the success of your business.
Here are nine time-saving tips that you can put to work in your business right away:
- Discover the power of priority. Every business owner makes dozens or more choices daily about what to focus on first. This is setting priorities. But most of us tend to put out the fires first, and then move to more productive endeavors. If you want to tap into your productivity's full capacity, however, you need to balance being a firefighter and being a builder. Try this: List all tasks you face, from big to mundane. Determine which are “A-list” tasks that must definitely be done today. Divide others into B, C and D-level tasks. Now you can progressively work through all the minor tasks that lead to the greater steps that, in time, lead you to achieving your goals.
- Divide and conquer documents. To make sure you don't drown in a sea of emails, spec sheets, spreadsheets, and more – either hard copies or electronic — you must decide quickly what to do with each one. You have four basic options: Act on it, file it for later, delegate it or toss it. Make it your goal to touch (or click on) each document only once before putting it into one of these categories. The boldest move you can make is to be honest with yourself about what you can and will make time for—and then having the courage to pitch everything else.
- Try the 80/20 rule. About 20 percent of the things you spend time on produce 80 percent of your results. To maximize your productivity, identify the 20 percent activities and prioritize them. Look at how you currently spend time. How many things on your to-do list get checked off? Identify what you'd like your 80 percent—your results—to look like. Now you can reorder your priorities for best results.
- Make your desk a no parking zone. A desk isn’t storage space, it’s work space, so treat it that way. The more pictures, notes, boxes and tools you have on your desk, the greater your odds of being distracted. Be brutal. Remove everything that isn't necessary. If you haven't touched something in a while and it doesn't have sentimental value, get rid of it. A clear workspace promotes a clear mind.
- Ask specific questions. When you ask a vague question the answer is likely to come back just as vague. Being specific and clear cuts confusion and extraneous detail. Communicate precisely why you need to know the answer, and what its purpose is.
- Beware of time invaders. Interruptions are inevitable, so you need to control them. Be on guard against people and situations that pull you away from your objectives and schedule. Be proactive in choosing the ground on which you engage others. Reach out to others so they don't drop in on you. Schedule meetings ahead of time. Discipline yourself to check email once every hour (if realistic) instead of every five minutes.
- Make preemptive “appreciation strikes.” You may have clients or contacts who take excessive time and energy because they want to be involved in every step or they're just friendly by nature. Making brief but regular calls to them can save time overall and keep you in control.
- Plan your procrastination. Let’s just assume we all procrastinate at one time or another. It’s human nature. The secret to successful procrastination is to do it deliberately, based on available time and status of high priority tasks. Choose tasks that are least time-sensitive and least at-risk and postpone them, but still give yourself a deadline.
- Check in with yourself each Friday. One way to determine how effectively you're managing your time is to check your results regularly. Do a weekly review of where you stand in relation to your overall goals. Look at the highs and lows, and make adjustments as needed.
Article courtesy of SCORE and Daniel Kehrer, founder of BizBest.com