Swanson: Tools can help best utilize timePublished 11:04am Wednesday, June 19, 2013
By Dean Swanson, SCORE District Director
One of the real common frustrations of a small business CEO is there never seems to be enough time in the day. Does that sound like you? Do you feel like you work all day (and night), yet never catch up with your to-do list, much less have time to focus on how to grow your business?
One way to deal with the frustration of how to manage your time more effectively is to do a time assessment of how you spend your time. Start by tracking how you spend your time for two weeks. Use a notepad, online calendar or whatever works for you. At the end of two weeks, ask yourself: Is the majority of my time spent on tasks that grow the business or bring in more money? Or, is the majority of my time spent on tasks that only I can perform? By assessing your results, you’ll start to see what you are spending too much time on, and what you should be focusing on.
I confess I have trouble with this topic, too. But, here are some time management tips I have picked up from those who try to help us with this frustration:
—Choose an organizing and scheduling system. Create filing folders and subfolders that allow you to find data quickly. Use your email program’s “rules” to presort your mail into subject categories. Use your calendar to schedule work the same way you would schedule meetings.
—Eliminate time wasters. Determine what activities are most profitable and focus on those. The 80/20 rule says 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. Learn to say “no.” Delegate everything that is not critical that you do. Limit meetings; when you must meet, have an agenda that focuses the meeting.
—Use technology to streamline tasks. Online collaboration tools such as instant messaging, intranets or voice conferencing can eliminate the need for in-person meetings. Use cloud storage and backup, smartphones and tablet computers to access files from anywhere. If you have an e-commerce site, integrate it with your financial tools.
—Schedule downtime into your day. Get adequate sleep. Fit in fitness and spend time with family. Figure out what you need to do to “recharge,” and then make time for it— otherwise, you’ll burn out.
If you have people working for you, learn the benefits of delegation. Many business owners are reluctant to delegate even if they have the staff on hand to do so. However, learning to delegate is perhaps the most essential step in growing a business. Using delegation can create a culture of accountability by making employees responsible for results, not just completing tasks. It can free up your time to focus on crucial growth tasks, instead of day-to-day operations. It enhances employees’ skills and confidence. Plus, it can pave the way for a succession plan so you can retire or sell your business.
Try these simple steps to help you successfully delegate:
1. Identify key tasks to delegate. Start small so employees can build confidence and skills.
2. Identify which employees are best suited for each task. Determine what type of training is needed to fill any gaps in their knowledge.
3. Train employees. You, a partner or another employee can do this. Be sure to provide specific, detailed instruction. Watch the employee do the task and encourage questions to make sure he or she understands.
4. Focus on results, not process. As long as employees get the desired results, don’t worry too much about the specific steps they took to get there. Focusing on results creates employees who can think for themselves, not just follow directions.
5. Provide ongoing feedback. Let employees know how they’re doing, both during training and after tasks are completed.