5 Tips for Effective Business Time Management
Starting a new business, especially when you’re a sole proprietor and working alone, is challenging, but you do have some control because it’s all you. Even working alone, we can have time management problems, but they can really grow when we begin to hire others and manage their activities as well.
As the image suggests, the old saying that “time is money” is popular for good reasons. Time spent managing your small business is a major contributor to your profitability. At least, the effective time does. You begin to hire, and you are managing your new employees’ activities. If you really grow, you can end up managing managers as well. Time management from your first day in business is important, and it grows in importance as your business grows.
According to Time Management Training Institute, 50% of management time is spent processing information, and 80% of that information is of no value. The math says then that 40% of management time is spent processing useless information. To help you in getting a handle on time management for yourself and then for your business and future employees, here are five tips that studies prove are effective:
- Prioritize What Must Be Done
Multiple time management courses and books have studied the concept of task prioritization, and the first step is to create a comprehensive list of what must be done. If you don’t know what you need to do, you can’t effectively manage the time necessary to do it. Once you’ve identified what must be done, your method to prioritize and move the most important tasks to the top is to identify “importance,” and “urgency.”
Every decision or task would fall into one of four buckets based on its importance and urgency:
- It is urgent and important. – An example would be a failure of your credit card processing functions or machine on a busy business day. It is important that it be fixed and urgent that it be done soon to reduce business losses.
- It is important, but it’s not urgent. – You have been seeing an increase in your credit card processing fees. It is important that you see what alternatives you can find for a different processor with lower fees. It is important, but you can do this when you have the time; it’s not urgent.
- It is urgent, but it isn’t important. – You’re a freelancer and you have potential client emails with questions about your services. There is an urgency to answering them if you want new business, but on the importance scale, your current clients have priority.
- The task or decision is neither urgent nor important. – Anything that doesn’t fall into one of the three buckets above would fall into this one. You do want to surf the freelance sites for new work, but it’s something that can wait until you get through the other buckets first.
- Do Things Right the First Time
The Time Management Training Institute also estimates that 30% on average of a manager’s time is spent fighting fires. As you add employees and maybe managers, the fires can become commonplace due to more people making mistakes in process or decisions.
To get in front of this issue, train your people well. The time and expense of the training should pay back in a big way through fewer mistakes and business fires. Even with training, problems are inevitable, so learn from them. When a fire is put out, figure out why it started and work with your people to avoid it happening again.
- Fight Procrastination
Procrastination is difficult to avoid, as it’s a human trait to try and avoid tasks or decisions that are uncomfortable. When you’re doing the work, just knuckle under and get it done. Avoiding procrastination is more difficult when your employees are involved.
Sometimes you can cure a procrastination problem through education and training so that your employees understand why a task and the timeline is important. Other times, your employee may have a better or less time-consuming way to get the task done, so listen to their suggestions.
- Avoid Obvious Waste of Time
Often time is wasted when your employees question why they’re required to do something or the methods and tools they have to do it. The training piece cuts down on this, but along with that training on how to do things, let them know why they’re doing them.
Meetings have become one of the biggest timewasters in business. It’s not that there isn’t a good reason for a meeting, but more that meetings are poorly planned and executed. Have an agenda, and make sure every attendee knows it. Stick to the agenda. Set a start and end time, and stick to them.
- Delegate for Efficiency
Though you may not be able to specifically identify time saved through delegation, it can be hidden in a more efficient operation. Hire well and identify the best employee for tasks or responsibilities. Then delegate to them.
As you grow, don’t let time management suffer, as your profits will suffer as well. Take these tips to the bank.