Something that you might not hear enough in the early stages of building a business, is this, you don’t have to do everything yourself, all the time! You don’t have to wear all the hats.

“It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”

Henry David Thoreau

However, as an entrepreneur it is tempting to spend evenings and weekends catching up on certain tasks that you didn’t get round to in the week, because you are passionate, and you simply can. However, I’m sure your vision for the business isn’t to be working all the hours a week can offer, so here we look at an overview of module three of my Online Business Development Programme – Managing your time.

Maximising our time and becoming more efficient

First of all, I suggest you need to understand how you spend your time right now. Not how you believe you spend it, but what you actually do with it.

Action: Take a piece of paper and throughout your day, note down exactly what you’ve been doing.

You might find that you are more efficient in the mornings, it may be the evenings. Once you have established a pattern of effectiveness, you can plan to do the tasks you can do with your eyes closed when you begin to wind down, and schedule what you do best when you are at your best.

Action: Create a distractions list.

This is a very simple but highly effective tool. One sheet of paper with two columns. Column one: Distraction, column two: Reason. Once again you will establish a pattern and learn who is distracting you, when and why.

From this you can begin to mitigate those distractions by putting your out of office notifications on, turning your phone off, giving greater permissions to trusted staff (or family members), so they don’t need your agreement, or segmenting your day so staff know they can access your guidance with a list of five questions at once, rather than interrupting you five separate times. This may become something you can automate or improve as a systemised process.

Action: Create a discussion planner

Having this for yourself and sharing it with your team saves everybody time in the day. Simply write your key people’s names with space around them, and each time you want to raise something with them, make a note of it. If it isn’t vital to continue workflow, they can be discussed at one convenient time.

Action: Create a time balance table

Are you spending your time doing the things that are right for you? Is your team spending their time in a way that is most effective for your business development? These tables get you to understand where you are using your time and define where the gaps are so you can address that.

Action: Organise your time planner

Research says, that one minute of planning can save five minutes of time, so spending an hour planning, could you save a day?

Use your diary or planner to block out hourly slots. Know how long a task should take you and move on at the end of that time slot. Schedule the most important things first and never schedule on days you know you can’t do it.

Most importantly, you’ll never be able to plan a perfect week! Allow time for those distractions and firefighting to happen.

Action: Manage your emails and phone calls

You don’t have to have your emails open at all times. It can be very easy to get distracted by them, but I would encourage you to only reply to emails first thing, straight after lunch and just before closing up for the day, or whenever works for you, but restricted to two or three times a day.

You can also utilise the ‘rules’ in your email system and automatically send emails to folders for each of your requirements or clients, so you only work on them, when you’re scheduled to work on them.

With your telephone, you could record an answerphone message making it clear you will respond during a certain time of the day and switch it off. Is there a gatekeeper in your office who could screen calls for you? Think about turning off the notifications on your smart watch, or go into theatre mode.

Just because technology makes us available 24/7, it doesn’t mean we should be!

Action: A tidy desk makes for a tidy mind

Can you file documents you don’t need for the task you are meant to be working on? Have you got everything you need to get on with your tasks? And finish what you started, including putting things away afterwards. It doesn’t always need to be completely finished today, or by yourself, but use your schedule and your 80:20 rule to manage the time.

Ten quick-fire actions for time saving

  1. Decide what’s most important to do, and then do it!
  2. Ask yourself, ‘Will this task move me closer towards achieving my goals?’
  3. Apply and remember the 80:20 rule: 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers, or 80% of your people issues come from 20% of your staff… In time management terms, can you stop working on a task at the end of your allotted time if it was 80% complete, so you can begin working on the next task that is equally important? Normally, entrepreneurs strive for excellence, so it could be said that your 80% is satisfactory to your client
  4. Prioritise your to-do lists every day – mark the jobs 1-2-3 etc and then add a-b-c to prioritise them or use a coloured highlighter system
  5. Only do what you can do and what you should be doing
  6. Master the art of delegation – by which I mean, delegate appropriately, make sure they understand why they have been chosen and resist the urge to micro-manage
  7. Make meetings quicker, more effective and more productive. There is a Japanese system that holds meetings standing up, so no one is side tracked whilst sitting comfortably! And don’t wait for late comers
  8. Work out your prime time, using the table above, and reserve that part of the day for your most important tasks
  9. Resist procrastination – especially with seemingly difficult or unpleasant tasks. As Brian Tracy might say, if you have to eat frogs, eat the biggest ugliest one first, then each frog gets easier to eat…
  10. Invest in a small handheld dictation machine or app, so you can capture your genius whenever and wherever it hits.

I do hope this has been useful for you. It is very much an overview of a 52-minute module which makes up part of my Online Business Development Programme. We go into greater detail on the course which is available with lifetime access for £279.

Of course, I am always happy to speak with you regarding any of your time management concerns, just choose a one-hour free business mentoring slot and let’s talk. And if you were interested in my reference to eating frogs, look up ‘Eat That Frog!’ by Brian Tracy.

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