On the other hand, there are entrepreneurs who have business plans and goals, but when it comes to execution there seems never to be enough time.
So what’s the difference? It’s all about the type of time we’re operating in. By this I mean there is clock time, which is twenty four hours with minutes and seconds, and then there is real time, which we all live in and experience.
An example of this is when time seems to go slowly, especially if you are waiting for something to happen, like waiting in a queue or in a departure lounge; time seems to stand still. At the other end of the spectrum; there are situations when time just seems to fly by - that’s when you are enjoying what you are focused on.
So your perspective of actual time is based on the kind of activity or task you are engaged in.
I know from my experience of building businesses or going for growth, days tend to blend into nights and work never seems to end; there seldom seems to be enough hours in the day.
For success, bottom line is time management, that time wasted can never be recovered. Therefore, for effective time management, you need to set routines and habits that help you to maximise your productivity.
In my experience there are three essentials to small business time management:
Failure to plan is planning to fail. Without setting defined goals it becomes impossible to gauge your progress. Also, psychologically, it helps to tick tasks off.
Like all things human, each of us works differently; some like to get down to finer details and others look for the broader perspective. Personally, I prefer to have targets or broader goals that span 12/24 months, so you know where you are heading in the long run. These broader goals are further chunked down to shorter three to six month targets. Beyond this I work from daily and weekly tasks.
There are many things that you have to do in a day, so list them down in order of priority and when finished, tick them across. At Skylight we help you achieve this with the use of its comprehensive task management features, you can create a project or a milestone for the target you want to achieve and than add tasks, or organise tasks by tasks lists and tick them off as you progress.
I recommend starting small and building a routine. See what works best in your given circumstances; bad habits take time to shed and good ones take even longer to set in. Our brains are programmed to look for the easiest way out, that is why so many New Year resolutions fail. If you are committed to start today - you will see the results.
When you reflect back at your daily routine and completed tasks throughout the day, see what activity consumes more time and ask yourself if it’s relevant.
The other thing you should also avoid is multi-tasking; you cannot serve two masters at once. You will simply end up not doing anything constructive.
2) Your goals matter but your vision matters most.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry has goals! If you ask almost anyone they will tell you they have some sort of goal. So, why don't people achieve those goals? The main reason is VISION, (followed by focus and determination).
Just having a list of goals is not going to cut it until, or unless, you have a specific vision. What do you want to achieve in your business and what will it look like when you have achieved it?
Always ask yourself this question before engaging in any activity and soon you will find yourself paying attention to the right things that can propel your business ahead.
Let your short term goals build into your long term goals, which essentially form part of your bigger, grander vision.
These two sets of goals (short- and long-term) should be what you focus on everyday; everything else is just a potential distractor. For you to be able to focus completely you should exercise the power of saying ‘no’ to anything or anyone that will deter you from your course.
3) The power of technology
Why spend a lot of time doing something that new technology can do in seconds?
Most people starting businesses today are doing so from their homes. Instead of meeting a client physically you can do so via Skype and instead of sending long emails that may not be read immediately, why not try instant messaging or Skype?
In Skylight, when you comment on a task the others get that comment notification as an email.
Productivity apps help you manage tasks, organise your projects and keep all the documents in one place. How many time have had to go through countless emails to find a specific attachment? Or spent hours collecting billable time to create an invoice? Apps like Skylightit.com can help you achieve all that in one simple app. Using these cloud based services helps make your work life simple and organised.
4) Team Delegation and Outsourcing
It’s important to recognise when you need to expand, hire or outsource in order to free up your time to do the important tasks that only you can do.
The majority of small businesses owners and entrepreneurs juggle between various roles from accounting to sales and more. For most SMEs hiring staff becomes the major bottleneck for growth and some leave it too late.
You are failing if you find yourself saying the following...
- I can do this all by myself
- I can not delegate this, it’s too much work to delegate
- I am too busy to find time to delegate
- No one will be able to do this as well as I can
- Finding the right staff will take too much time
And list goes on. What you are actually doing is creating excuses not to delegate. Yes, it is true that there are disadvantages to delegating but the benefits over ride them.
Start by taking a look at the list of business goals and activities that you need to accomplish in order to achieve your vision, and identify what you will not be able to do and what takes valuable time that you could employ somewhere else in the business. These could be tasks that are regular, for example, invoicing and accounting, sales research, newsletters, website updates etc. Build these tasks into a processes, so that when you delegate, it becomes easier to explain and follow through. Create a process folder or document and list activities and actions needed to complete them. It will also help you to identify what sort of skills you need, how long you will need them for and at what expense.
Find the right talent or company and delegate the tasks. For some this can be seen as a burden on cash-flow, and it may mean paying a salary which you feel you cannot afford - but unless you pass some of these processes and tasks to other people, it’s likely that the important areas of your business will suffer as you struggle to do everything yourself.
The best thing to do is outsource or hire in staff. Someone else with the required skill will be able to do the job while you engage in other tasks to build your business empire.
5) Be good to you
In order to use your time well you should get enough rest. Doctors recommend that we sleep eight hours, but if you need to be stingy then do not get less than six hours of good sleep.
And what you eat also matters. Avoid junk food, excessive caffeine; your body needs all the vitamins, proteins and minerals it can get because, if you are working hard, you are really using its fuel deposits.
Exercise is also good and a little jogging or swimming did nobody harm.
With the today’s technology we are more connected than we ever were. I remember the days of sending telegrams and faxes, but now we have emails on mobile phones, watches and possibly even your glasses (Google Glass). As a result, it has become difficult not to notice that ping sound when you receive an email.
You might have heard of many people who start their day with reading emails. Do not do this if you want to save time. Emails are just a trap because the moment you open them you will be tempted to reply or clog your mind with how to respond or what to say.
Set aside 20-30 min time slots on your daily schedule for emails, prioritise important emails into folders or flags depending on what email client you are using. This way your focus is not distracted by that ping from your inbox. And when it’s time to reply to emails you are focused on the most important ones.
I have run multiple companies at the same time with multiple email addresses, on occasions resulting in more than 200 odd emails that were mid to high priority. Just imagine how much time it took to reply to them?! However, with a simple strategy of keeping the responses short and keeping my ‘email time’ to the assigned slots - I was able to stay on top of the work needed.
Further to that Skylight keeps internal emails to minimal due to the commenting and notification feature, what more if I need to find the conversation about a project or a client. I only have to look at the related Skylight project. Saving considerable time in searching through emails.
Not all emails need long crafted responses, to the point emails are often more effective. However, this does depend on the recipient. For example, if it’s a team member they would probably appreciate having a precise response rather than a long winded email that will take them further time read and then craft a reply.
7) Do not procrastinate
Have you decided to do something, put it in your diary and then after a day, week or month, realised that you didn't get around to it? Why? Because it was difficult to do, or something more urgent took over?
Procrastination is the mother of all failures. If you have things that need to be done to achieve your goals, but you keep setting them aside for another day, you will not achieve the results you want.
The only difference between you and your local millionaire is a) the way you use your time and b) what you focus on.
So, the key is to make sure you stay on track, organise your priorities, and remain focused on your goals. Always have the big picture in mind whenever you feel like postponing something; look back at your goals and vision and let them inspire you to push forward.
If you have large tasks or goals to achieve - break them down into smaller chunks and set aside time to tackle them one by one. This will make them easier to start and complete, and each step you finish will motivate you to tackle the next task. Just think what you will achieve in a week, a month or a year!
8,9,10...) Take action and review
Regardless of how many ‘ Top 10 tips...’ of this and that you would have read. It always comes down to taking action, changing your mind set and actually doing the things you have written in your ‘to do’ list. If you feel you are not getting the results you want or your goals are looking further away regardless of how hard you push - then it’s time to pause, reflect, and take a look at what is working and what needs to be changed to get the right results. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, what are you going to get? The same results.
Finally, remember what you focus on grows. So put that searchlight on your milestones and objectives and be aware that the ticking clock has never stopped for anyone.