Effective time management

Time management is one of the biggest challenges that small business owners face on a daily basis.

As small business professionals, your time is one of your most valuable assets. It’s essential that you use your time effectively. Establishing goals and deadlines, prioritizing work and delegating tasks are some ways you can achieve this.

Track your time

Completing tasks within a specific timeframe is a huge test for small business owners. Important tasks can get overlooked with too much time spent doing odd jobs.

To work more efficiently you need to track your time. Tracking time leads to increased productivity, as businesses can better understand where time is wasted.

Begin by detailing what tasks you do each day and the time each task takes. This can be in the form of rough notes, although there are some free programs and apps available online to help you out.

Time tracking programs record time spent working on each activity. They’re useful for small business owners to:

  • Monitor Internet usage
  • Allocate time for projects
  • Record timesheets for employee wages
  • Graph the effort spent on each task.

Toggl, ClickTime and Replicon are just a few of the better time tracking programs available online.

Without tracking your time, you’ll have no way of identifying time wasting activities or tasks that could be delegated.

Set priorities

Identify tasks that will best assist your business to enable maximum profitability. After recognizing the tasks that need to be done, make them a priority by completing them before anything else.

Try not to waste time achieving perfection. It’s more important to just get each task done.

Establish deadlines

Deadlines are critical for completing all activities in a timely manner. Ensure you:

· Set realistic deadlines for all your activities

· Schedule interim deadlines for long-term projects

· Allow time for contingencies, especially on longer tasks

· Decide whether your deadlines are flexible or fixed. If certain activities have fixed deadlines, don’t permit them to take longer than they should.

Reduce time wasting

Small business owners deal with similar kinds of time-wasting activities, such as:

  • Changing between tasks
  • Answering emails
  • Being distracted by phone calls
  • Excessively long meetings.

As a result, some small business owners suffer reduced productivity. This makes it more difficult to finish jobs on their to-do lists.

Make note of any time wasting activities at your workplace. Consider meeting with staff to discuss and brainstorm solutions. Consider:

  • Scheduling times to check emails so they don’t distract you from your current task
  • Assigning phone responsibilities to certain employees
  • Ensuring a task is completed before moving on to the next one.

Employees work more efficiently when they know something needs to be done. Have clear guidelines and instructions for each staff member so they know exactly what needs to be completed and by when.

Delegate responsibility effectively

As a small business owner, you don’t have to undertake all the major tasks and responsibilities yourself. By effectively delegating tasks to your employees, you’ll free up valuable time to focus on growing your business. This can be a great way to get more organized and move your business forward.

List some tasks you could delegate to reliable employees whose skills are suited to particular activities. Many employees want to develop new skills or have added responsibility in their jobs. Learn to rely on them, and to trust them, to complete their designated tasks.

Can you delegate some of your urgent yet least important activities to someone else within your business? Doing so will allow you to give the highest priority to activities that are both urgent and important.

Improve work processes

Poor work processes can contribute to unhappy customers and stressed employees, as well as missed deadlines and increased costs through inefficiency. This is why it’s crucial to improve processes when they aren’t working well.

Get organized

Invest some time now in developing well-organized systems for your business. The savings will be apparent in the long term.

Most small businesses have tasks that need to be done daily. They’ll be easier to manage if you have established processes in place. Some steps you can take include:

  • Clarifying your business processes during team meetings
  • Keeping yourself focused with a list of tasks you need to accomplish and their deadlines
  • Ranking tasks by priority to ensure the most important jobs get done first
  • Staying motivated by ticking items off your to-do list as you complete them.

Identify redundant tasks

Work processes can be improved by recognizing any outdated or redundant tasks within your business environment. One example may be when a bottleneck occurs. Consider whether new technology could improve the situation.

Work to your personal productive times

Whether you’re a morning person or an afternoon person, it makes sense to undertake the big projects or arrange the most important meetings for the time of day you work best. Try scheduling more routine activities for your less productive times of day.

Make meetings productive

Endeavor to avoid meetings becoming social gatherings. Run them to a tight timetable so productive time isn’t wasted.

Start with a plan to set strict time frames on meeting agendas. Request only those employees who need to attend each specific meeting. A focused discussion is what you’re trying to achieve and establishing these parameters will support that.

Be well prepared to ask good questions, which elicit quality feedback from staff, to get the most out of meetings. Good questions will cause people to think about their responses and not simply reply with ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

Set realistic goals for improvement

Setting specific goals that are realistic will keep motivation high while encouraging employees to go that extra mile.

Bigger goals should be broken down into attainable sums with set milestones to help make them achievable. For example, when expanding to another location, you may look at acquiring staff as a first milestone, followed by finding the right location and eventually setting up your new premises.

Goal setting gives you both direction and a destination. Assess which tasks will help you achieve your goals then allocate your time accordingly. It’s imperative to focus on priorities so you spend most of your time on activities that help you achieve your goals.

Business goals are vital to your success as they let you take control of your business’s direction, instead of allowing events to control it.

Proper time management is essential for running a business smoothly. Applying the time management guidelines above will help your business operate more efficiently.

Next Steps

  • List any time wasting activities and any outdated or redundant tasks
  • Meet with staff to discuss these activities and to consider ways of increasing efficiency
  • Look into using a time tracking program

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