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How to Manage Your Time to Make Your Small Business More Profitable
Business owners have a lot of demands on their time. It often feels like everyone needs a piece of you. If you aren’t careful with how you split your day up, your priorities can be swallowed up by the little daily fires of life. This can bleed your productivity and scatter your attention, preventing you from focusing on the grander vision and growing your business.
Time management skills are critical for business owners of all stripes. Not only do they allow you the time you need, but they also make your people more productive. We’ll explain how this works and how you can tame your schedule.
KEEP A SCHEDULE
Keeping a schedule is standard advice that many busy executives pass it over, either because they’re too busy to plan their day or because they think they can keep everything together on their own. They’re usually wrong on both counts.
The truth is that scheduling is a necessity. Planning helps you to avoid missed details and creates an efficient flow for your day. The small investment of time required is tiny compared to the time savings you’ll find when you’re operating more efficiently.
And let’s be honest. No one can keep every competing priority straight in their heads at all times. Flying by the seat of your pants can work, but it’s guaranteed to cause problems sometimes. Creating a schedule helps you set realistic priorities.
Once you have a scheduling system in place, stick to it. If you aren’t willing to enforce your boundaries, they won’t mean anything. Make sure people know that when your schedule says you aren’t available, you aren’t available.
MAKE YOUR TIME A PRIORITY
Let’s repeat that last line for the back row — when you aren’t available, you aren’t available. You must treat your time like the premium object it is. If you schedule an hour to prepare for a crucial presentation, you can’t afford to be disturbed. It doesn’t matter what other fires are flaring up. If you’ve hired good people, you can trust your staff to put them out.
You might think you’re begging off responsibility, but in truth, you’re doling out trust, which is a critical commodity. Employees that prove themselves worthy become valuable assets. Your teams will become skilled at making good decisions without your input, allowing you even more time to focus on your priorities.
Of course, there will be items that honestly require your attention. Schedule an hour or two every day to check in on your people. Let them know when those windows occur so that they can hold the most critical business until you’re free.
AUTOMATE AND OFFLOAD EVERYTHING YOU CAN
Just because you need to get something done doesn’t mean that you need to do it. If someone else is capable of taking care of a given task and has the time free, transfer the responsibility. Depending on the scope of the work you might need to hire a new employee or contract with an outside vendor. This is a reasonable investment if it allows you to focus on making the company more money.
Offloading includes automation as well. Software capable of automating mundane tasks is fast becoming a critical business component. These systems do the work better than a person and cost less. Consider this example that most small business owners can relate to — sending handwritten cards.
You probably send out holiday cards each year. Additionally, you might mail thank you cards to your clients and birthday/anniversary cards to your employees. To get the most out of your investment, these cards should be handwritten. But this takes time — a lot of it, and your focus is needed elsewhere.
Robots to the rescue. Simply Noted has built a fleet of handwriting machines, outfitted with real ballpoint pens and AI-driven smart fonts, creating handwritten cards indistinguishable from the real thing. Use can use them to send out handwritten holiday and anniversary cards automatically each year. Send handwritten thank you cards each time a large project closes. All with minimal effort on your part.
If you don’t need to do something, don’t.
FOCUS ON ONE TASK AT A TIME
Many people believe themselves to be skilled multitaskers. While this may be true for a small percentage, most of us aren’t as good as we think at keeping multiple balls aloft. As your focus fractures, you approach a limit beyond which you start missing details. But you won’t be aware that you’ve exceeded your capacity until something goes wrong.
You can avoid this by focusing on one task at a time. It’s okay to micro-schedule, delineating your day into specific tasks. If a task shift is required, make the shift completely. Don’t give the new task half attention while continuing to think about the original. Shift over entirely, and then shift back.
Give your entire focus to whatever you’re doing. Not only will you make fewer mistakes, but you’ll be more productive overall.
Making a schedule is easy. Living by it can be more challenging. Before you schedule a solid ten-hour productivity block for yourself, be realistic about what that work level will take from you. Remember, you’re human. You need breaks. You need time to wind down and process.
You also need ample time to get your work done. Avoid the trap of underestimating your time. It might seem like you’re boosting productivity by scheduling on a razor’s edge, but in reality, you’re creating unrealistic expectations for yourself. That can be damaging over time, slowing you down in the long run. And when tight deadlines slip, the whole house of cards can come crashing down.
Allow yourself the time you need. If you finish up early, you can always take a break, grab a spillover task, or simply move up your schedule.
Managing your time is very much about managing expectations — those you place on yourself, those you place on others, and those people hold for you. Balance these three, and you’ll find that your time, and productivity across your organization, will improve.