One of the biggest problems my small business clients have is setting aside time to analyze their business’s operation and performance and develop a plan for improvement and growth. They are so tied up with handling day to day operations that they cannot see how they could possibly have time for the critical task of strategic planning.
But there are ways that you as a small business owner can improve your efficiency and therefore have more time to devote to improving your business’s performance. Here are some tips that may help you.
First, take a look at how you are doing things now. Track your daily activities to identify time wasters and to see how you can group some tasks together for more timely completion.
Take just a few minutes each morning, or even the night before, to plan your day. Use planning tools such as daily calendars, timers, and alerts to keep you on track.
Prioritize your day and identify critical time sensitive tasks. Know what can be moved to the next day if necessary. Plan to tackle the “worst” tasks first. This gets them out of the way so you don’t waste time dreading them and can move on with your day.
Know what your deadlines are and plan to finish tasks early. Leave some buffer time in your schedule between appointments and tasks so you can both physically and mentally finish a task before moving on to another one. Being able to “come up for air” and clear your head can improve your performance.
Work on minimizing interruptions. This can be as simple as closing your door to deter others from just walking in and chatting with you, or having certain times set aside during the day to return phone calls and answer emails, instead of stopping what you are doing for each new email or call.
Be willing to say no sometimes. If your schedule is full, do not take on more if you can possibly avoid it. If you are too willing to handle other people’s emergencies, you will simply create emergencies for yourself.
In addition to not always taking on other people’s tasks, take a serious look at what you do to see what you can delegate to others. Be willing to let go of some tasks. You are likely not the only one that can get them done.
Focus on one thing at a time so you can get it done more quickly and with less mistakes that will take time to correct. There is really no such thing as multi-tasking. You are just switching from task to task and not giving each job the proper attention.
It may not just be your schedule that needs organizing. Having a well-organized desk, office or whatever type of work space, will increase your efficiency. You don’t have to be a neat freak; something as simple as having things in their proper place when you need them can make a big difference.
It takes time to break old habits so realize you are not going to be able to implement all of this at once. But get started on it. Set goals for implementing changes and do not wait until you can be perfect about it.
Start doing something now to begin replacing your old habits and routines with new ones that will improve your efficiency.
Take another look at the above tips and you can see that there is really no such thing as time management; this is about managing yourself. Time is what it is and there are always 24 hours in a day; you can’t change that. But you can change yourself and better manage how you do things, making more time available for strategically planning and growing a successful business.
Connie Edwards is Business Consultant for The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Savannah. Contact her at 912-651-3200.