We’ve all heard the saying “work on your business not just in it”. But where do you find the extra time you think is needed to do just that? Today with all the new ways to market your business, time seems to be more than ever in short supply.
As another year comes to a close (doesn’t it seem to just fly by faster and faster every year?), we hope that with the following tips we can help you create more time in your day so you can complete more marketing and sales activities that quite often get pushed aside in the busy hours of your working week.
Sorry to say, I haven’t really discovered a magical world where we can create an extra few hours per working day, but properly managing your time is without a doubt one of the most critical skills that business owners and executives need to learn and master. Do you have a system to formally manage your appointments, calls, meetings and any other regular commitments as well as deciding who does what and when?
I know quite a few of you will be thinking – Time Management – I’ve heard how important this is countless times but what does that mean for me and where do I start?
Do we really want more time in our day so we can work even harder than what we do now? I think what most of us actually want is to work the least amounts of hours possible for the highest return. It’s about profitability not dollars for hours worked.
So based on a recent Marketing Strategy Show Podcast with Ben Fewtrell from MaxMyProfit and too many years of trying to create more time, I’ve put together “5 components to Mastering Time Management”.
I find that over the Christmas break, I like to take a bit of time to “work on my business” when things are a little quieter than normal. I know these components to Mastering Time Management will help me and I’m sure it will help you distinguish what jobs need to be completed when as well as helping you gain a clearer understanding of roles and responsibilities within your business or workplace and make better use of your time so that your 2018 gets off to the best start possible
You may not gain any extra hours in the day but it will feel like you have!
1. What does Time Management mean for me?
- A lot of business owners and operators fall into the trap of focusing on where the money is going in the business rather than considering where all the time is being spent. I’m sure quite a few of us have been guilty of this. After all, we didn’t start our own business with the intention of not making it a success and how do most of us define our success – enough money to live a comfortable life whilst spending our days doing something that we enjoy. What happens quite often if money is the key driving focus, is that we tend to end up doing things we don’t like or aren’t any good at which makes that time treadmill seem to spin even faster.
- We’ve all heard that good time management is one of the basic keys to a successful business, but time management isn’t really the fundamental driver of progress in your business, it is self-management (the skill of setting realistic short and long term goals and doing (or getting someone else to do) the required work to reach those goals)
- Let’s face if we work really hard we can get more sales and more clients but the one thing we can’t get more of is TIME. That’s why it is crucial that we spend our time working in the right areas and being efficient in managing those areas of our business
2. Alright then, where do I start?
- When you started your business or management role, you had some sort of reason (or goal) in mind as to why you were doing that. So Firstly, set some business goals. You set a goal spanning any length of time – daily, weekly, monthly etc. and if you’re doing something in a day which doesn’t help you work towards achieving that goal, whatever it happens to be, then it’s not a good use of your time.
- How do I figure out if what I’m doing is working towards my goals? If you are unsure where to start with improving time management make a simple time tracking sheet covering 2-4 weeks of your business and map out what you are doing in ½ an hour increments from opening to close of your business day
- Over the given timeframe you can easily see in black and white where the most time is being spent and from there map out how regularly each tasks occurs over the period – was it a one off task, daily, weekly etc. Once you have this information you can start to see what are the one off tasks and what are the repetitive ones. You need to question the one off tasks and ask why they happened – customer demand, something went wrong etc.
- With the repetitive tasks you need to ask yourself are you the right person to be completing this task or should I delegate it to someone else? A simple way to do this is to create an excel spreadsheet. Create a grid. On the vertical you put skill from low to high (in accordance with how many tasks you’ve identified as repetitive) and on the horizontal you put fun from low to high. If a task is low skill and high in fun – do it anyway as you will enjoy it and complete it quickly. If on the other hand, it’s reversed and high skill but low fun – you should delegate that to someone as soon as possible to get it off your plate and free up your time for another task.
3. Be honest with yourself know your skillset/Delegate the rest
- This is perhaps one of the more difficult items on our checklist as quite often as business owners and managers, we feel that we have to be across all aspects of the business. After all, our staff are looking up to us for answers a lot of the time.
- We need to go back to the beginning and ask ourselves again why we started this business or management role in the first place and that’s because we are good at what we do and we all like doing what we know we do well! Being good at what we do and liking what we are doing all adds up to make a satisfying workday. As the old expression goes “Do what you love and the money will follow”.
- Obviously, in the early days, we will have to be across a broader range of tasks. As soon as we’re able though, we need to start outsourcing the tasks we don’t like or aren’t really any good at.
- Let’s use me as an example, I love sales and marketing. Over many years I’ve helped people grow their businesses and it makes me feel good. That’s what I’m good at and that’s what I absolutely love. But I will admit here and now that I’m not a great bookkeeper or admin person and so I get other people to do those jobs that I’m not good at or don’t like. That’s what I mean about being honest with yourself. So, if you’re really serious about growing your business, then I think you’ve got to think about what are the tasks that you should be doing to make it grow. The fact is, we’re trained to trade time for money and so this is a real mindset shift.
- Another point under this category of knowing your skillset is understanding when you are at your most productive. I’m a morning person myself and know I get a lot more done if I can block out a couple of hours first thing to work “on the business” and not get caught up in the doing (phone calls, emails and the day to day running of my own business) I just don’t seem to be quite as effective if it’s late afternoon or evening.
4. Focus on being disciplined/prioritise tasks
- So now you know how important time management is, what your goals are where you are currently spending your time, what your skills are and how to better delegate, the next step is to focus on being disciplined and as much as possible spend your time only on the tasks that are working towards your goals.
- Sometimes I think as business owners or executives that we feel (particularly with clients or customers), that if they want something done or have an issue, that we have to drop everything and deal with that straight away or heaven forbid, we may lose that customer and the revenue associated with them. Particularly, in today’s fast paced world where everyone seems to be time poor and so in turn expect that they will get instantaneous responses to their questions.
- This is another difficult one to handle but sometimes you may have to say – “I will handle this a little later so I can complete the task I’ve set myself”. Of course it can be really distracting when you have instant notifications set and your phone is always beeping with a new message but if you can be disciplined and maybe turn the sound off for a little while, you will be much better off and far more productive with your time in the long run.
5. Be more productive and allow some buffer time
- Start your day thinking about what you need to achieve that day. Write a to do list (or use an app like I do) and this is another difficult part – work on the task that is the most complex and will take the longest time or require more effort first. Once that’s done, it’s really a confidence boost and the other tasks on your list will be completed much more efficiently
- Of course, any unfinished tasks on your to-do list will be added to the beginning of the next day’s tasks
- Set up specific days for specific activities; for example, you might leave Mondays for Meetings (so if anyone at the office wants to have an internal meeting with you it should be on the Monday) Tuesday could be the day you focus on sales, Wednesday could become the day you do your marketing
- As the saying goes “Always expect the unexpected”. There are going to be times in your day when you have to deal with something that comes up at the last minute. It could be a staff issue, a customer issue or some problem you have to troubleshoot. You need to have space in your calendar every day for these unexpected tasks. What trips a lot of business owners and executives up is filling their calendar to the brim - accounting for every minute in their business day and wondering when something comes up, why they can’t finish their to do list. A simple way to combat this is to create a buffer of time either side of all your scheduled meetings (say 10 minutes or so). That way you have a buffer of time to deal with those unscheduled but urgent tasks. And if there’s no big emergency, it gives you time to better prepare for your next meeting.
- What happens if the phone rings and you are the only one there? What if I don’t pick up the phone and it’s a potential new client/customer you think to yourself. So, even though you’re right in the middle of an important task and are firing on all cylinders, you pick up the phone. In all likelihood it’s probably nothing to do with new business but it could be right? The challenge with this is studies have been undertaken that say it takes an average of fourteen minutes to get re-focused. So, if you’re getting four phone calls in an hour, you’ve actually only got four minutes of focus time on average. In this scenario, for a very minimal monthly outlay you could pay for an answering service and return the calls in your allocated buffer time.
Two Christmas bonus tips to help manage time better
- Get a good Sales CRM
One incredibly simple thing you can do is invest in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System and set up lots of default emails so when it comes to writing a personal email you can spend as little as 3-5 minutes instead of the regular 15-20 minutes it would take. The one I use and recommend is Hubspot CRM. There is a free version (with limited functionality) and the paid version is very affordable.
- Use Project Management Tools for Team Tasks.
Great platforms like Trello exist for project management (and its free!). I personally use Trello and have found it invaluable for getting everyone on the same page and knowing who’s working on what and at what stage in the process each job is. It allows you to assign tasks to multiple people, link emails directly to individual cards and share files to other staff.
If you need more leads, clients and sales on a consistent basis, our Marketing Planning and Marketing Done contract marketing services could be your answer. Give us a call on (02) 9125 0520 or contact us for an obligation free consultation.