My friend Ron Hoesterey recently reminded me that time is an equal opportunity resource. Everyone gets exactly the same amount of it every day. So how come it so often seems that there is not enough time in the day to get done with everything you have to do? Business owners tell me all the time that there are not enough hours in the day to finish all of their tasks, even when they are often working 10, 12 or even more hours a day and 6 or 7 days a week. Business owners want to know, where do you find the time?
Here’s the good news, the time is already there and available for you to use. Here’s the bad news, you might have to change the way you think and you will almost certainly have to change the way to organize your day and manage your time if you want to work less and accomplish more. But here’s the best news, small business owners you can increase productivity, improve your results, and reduce the amount of time spent at work all at the same time. Here are 3 tips to help you do it.
1. Control your communications. Technology has made our connections to other people faster and often more effective. At the same time, it has created one of the most powerful time bandits in every business owner’s life. Most business owners I know fall into this trap: when the phone rings, you feel like you have to answer it. When an email or text message comes in, you feel like you have to at least look at it right then and often you have to respond immediately. We are so tied to the technology of communication that we have completely redefined urgent. The result is a fragmented day where our tasks and responsibilities are often interrupted and everything tends to take much longer than it should to accomplish.
Here’s the tip: stop answering the phone (in fact, stop looking at it when it rings) during at least a 2 hour block every morning and every afternoon. During those same times, don’t even look at your email or text messages. Set those times aside each day to work on you key initiatives or elements of your daily to do list or even to attend high value meetings or appointments. But don’t respond to the incoming communications. You will discover two things. One, you will discover pretty quickly that almost everything you have been treating as urgent is actually not urgent and can be handled just as effectively and much more efficiently by simply following up on the phone messages or email at a later time. Two, you will find that you are much more productive during those four hours each day and that you complete more of your tasks because your time is not interrupted.
2. Stop trying to do it all. I know most small business owners have to do many things to make their businesses a success. The problem that kills your time is that so often the owner believes he/she has to do it all. ”I’m the only one who can do that” is perhaps the most destructive mind set in the world of small business success. As long as you believe that, you will find yourself working against time. You can solve this one by asking yourself three questions and then taking action on the answers.
Question 1, “what am I doing”? Take a hard look at what you do every day and create a list of the key activities. This is not a one time question but a daily question that will help you get a good understanding of the tasks and activities that occupy your time.
Question 2, “why am I doing it”? This question explores the reasons behind the task, but more importantly it ask you to consider why the task has to be done by you. If we are fully honest with ourselves, many of the tasks we take on could be done by others. Of course the problem we face most often here is that while it could be done by 0thers, we don’t always have the right people to delegate the task to. Which brings me to the third question.
Question 3, “who should be doing this”? Here’s where the rubber meets the road. If you can identify one task in your list that could be done by someone else, then you can usually find a way to have someone else do that task. You don’t have to wait until you can afford an employee and you don’t have have a huge budget to make this happen. One of the very positive advantages of technology is that many of the regular daily tasks in business can be managed through technology and they can be performed by contractors who specialize in those areas. Virtual Assistants, Bookkeepers, Social Media experts, IT and Web service providers, and the list goes on are all available as contractors and often for much less than you think. The point is, you may not be able to give a whole lot away right now, but you can give some things away if you do it right and every thing you have done by someone else puts that much time back in your day or week to do other tasks that you need to get done.
3. Take control of your calendar. You really do have the power to control your own calendar, so why is it that so many business owners act like others are more important. A client calls and wants to meet. The time they want is set aside for you to work on a new marketing idea, but since they want it, you give up that time for them. Why? Is it because you believe they will leave you because you already had something on your calendar? What if that time slot had already been promised to another client or to a new prospect? Would you still have given it away? Probably not. So here’s the key: your’e time is almost certainly the most valuable asset in your business. Planning time on your calendar for you to complete your key tasks and develop your key initiatives is critical to long term success and sustainability. Take control of your calendar and when you need to get things done, block the time and keep the appointments you set with yourself. Your clients and prospects will appreciate the time you do give them more because you will be more focused, better prepared, and less stressed because of how much you are getting done.
These three tips can help you reclaim the hours you have and use them much more effectively. Of course, changing the way you deal with your time without help is one of the most difficult tasks for any of us to achieve. If you are ready to discuss how a business coach can help you get a better handle on your time and increase your opportunities for success at every level, click here to schedule a free 1 hour coaching session. Better yet, put it on your calendar to attend my next Business Strategy Workshop and learn some of the keys to hitting your success targets every time. Click here for workshop information and to register for the next event.