For those businesses which are service-based, time is your greatest resource. Too often we don’t t track this one greatest resource enough or value it enough. When I’m coaching my business clients, one factor we really work on improving is time mastery, not only for the business owner but for their entire team.
Some scary statistics include:
- We have on average 8 interruptions per hour
- It takes 23 minutes (and 15 seconds) to refocus after a distraction
- On an average workday, 20% is consumed on crucial and important matters, a good 80% on stuff that may have little or no value at all.
So, let’s look at 99 practical and real ways you can save time in your business day (and your life).
1. Read this article. That’s a huge start – being willing to learn how to improve your own time mastery.
2. Do something different. Once people know a better way, the insanity is that they choose to do things the same old way.
3. Audit your own time.The best thing you can do as a starting point is to audit your own time and where time is disappearing. We can manage what we know … managing the unknown is hard.
4. Understand it’s ongoing. It’s important to realise that time mastery is a way of life and it’s not something you action one day, then can stop and expect things to keep going. You have to work on it all the time.
5. Improve your mindset.It’s important you understand the value of time and the value of improving your own time mastery. Be willing to change and see the value in this action.
6. Getting time takes time. Understand also you need to invest time to make better use of your time. Often there are things you will need to do first (such as train a staff member) which short-term will take more time, but long-term will save you a heap.
7. Get a routine. Routines occur almost on autopilot; you don’t even have to think and they just happen. Having a routine beginning of the day and end of the day will mean you become more efficient. Just ensure it’s the right routine.
8. Daily planning works! Invest in 10-12 minutes planning your day will save at least 2 hours of wasted time and effort throughout the day. It’s often best to do this last thing by the end of the prior day, so when you walk in the plan is there ready to action.
9. Prioritise. Work out what is most important and do those things first. We spend 80% of our day on the 20% least important or useful tasks. Change that around.
10. Do the ‘yuck’ (but important) things first. Avoidance is a huge time waster. If you have a ‘yuck’ task that’s important, do it first and get it out of the way. You will feel better and be more productive for the rest of your day.
11. Delegate to a team member. True time masters are the Kings and Queens of delegation but they do it right. The wrong way is to dump and run.
12. Train & induct those you delegate to. Part of good delegation is training and supporting those you are going to delegate to. Showing them how, watching them do it, monitoring and supporting will mean the task more likely will be done well – if not better than you.
13. Outsource. Whether you’re great at something, or awful at it, outsourcing a task means it frees you up to do what is the best use of your time. This may be your bookkeeping, or marketing or recruitment or cleaning. If you are not the best person to do it – then don’t.
14. Offshore. Offshoring some tasks overseas can be very effective. Is it the best use of your time or your key personnel’s time to be adding to databases or sending out a newsletter or posting pre-written social media posts?
15. Delegate to family. Whilst this is about business time mastery, the fact is that if you can get more time personally, this will flow on. Can your family help with washing or cooking?
16. Say NO. Declining a request, offer or demand is sometimes exceedingly wise. I have over 6,000 contacts on LinkedIn … if I said yes to every person who wanted to meet with me, I’d get absolutely no work done. Be selective and don’t be afraid of saying no (nicely).
17. Unsubscribe. If you’re on mailing lists and getting way too many emails, then start unsubscribing and getting selective about what comes in.
18. Be proactive. A proactive person will not lose time being reactive. Putting out fires usually takes more time (and energy) than just being proactive to start with.
19. Be organised. The organised person automatically is more time effective; they have a system, they know where things are, and invariably have a plan.
20. Have your tools. One of the best ways to save time is to have what you need on hand. Whether you’re an electrician or an accountant – having your tools (including glasses) on hand will save you time.
21. Neat workspace. A neat desk means you don’t waste time searching for things; it also allows your mind to think more clearly.
22. Do visits in bulk. Those of you who have to visit clients and customers will hopefully setup a geographical plan of when you go where. It makes no sense to have one client at Redcliffe then the next at Redland Bay.
23. Do tasks in bulk. Doing certain tasks in batches (or in bulk) makes sense. Whether it’s quoting or preparing new client info packs – doing a few at a time is more time effective.
24. Pay Bills in batches. I only pay bills on a Wednesday – that way it’s done once a week and not more often. If someone sends me a bill on a Thursday for immediate payment I just say ‘bill payment day is Wednesday; I will action then’ and no-one complains.
25. Fortnightly Payroll. Switching from weekly to fortnightly pays means you cut that talk in half. Staff may not initially like, but they will cope just fine – especially if you give them notice.
26. Reconfirm your appointments. By doing this, there is less chance of someone forgetting you and you wasting several hours visiting someone who isn’t even home.
27. Avoid meetings. If you can do an ‘e-meet’ over the phone or Skype, opt for that instead.
28. Set up meeting agendas. Have an agenda and distribute it in advance.
29. Allocate time to agenda items. In your agenda, note time for each agenda item, eg Welcome (1 min) or Treasurer’s Report (3 mins). People will more likely stick to time.
30. Allocate a timekeeper. Working on your timed agenda, have a time keeper to sound an alarm when time is up. It will move people along.
31. Avoid food in meetings. By not having food in a meeting (and scheduling it just before lunch or before going home time) people will be more included to not drag it out.
32. Avoid a comfy chair in your office. If you’re prone to drop-ins – then avoid the comfy chair that people just want to sit and get cosy – unless that’s your job and you want people to settle in.
33. Do phone calls in the car. If you’re in the car a lot, then catching up on calls (hands-free of course) will save you a heap of time. Just ensure these are calls you don’t need to be taking notes.
34. Multi task? I put a question mark on this as this often means things are not done well so it’s not a good time tool. However, a very low functioning task (like tidying your desk) can be done with a high-level task.
35. Handle it only once! Whether it’s a piece of paper or a task or an email, handle it once and then move on.
36. Just do it! Sometimes the most effective thing is to simply just do it.
37. Love your to do lists. Lists are a great way to clear the mind, ensure things get done and allow you to focus on the next item on your to do list.
38. Pre planning. This will help you be more organised and consequently more time effective.
39. Have a shopping list. Whether it’s personal or business shopping, go once and not return because of one critical item you forgot.
40. Education. Done via audio means you can drive or exercise whilst still learning.
41. Have gap tasks. These are the things which will fill those moments whilst you’re waiting for the elevator or the kettle to boil. It might be social media or simple emails or responding to Messenger.
42. Limit Screen Time. If Facebook sucks you in, then limit screen time via your phone.
43. Cut back on TV time. Another screen which often gains too much of our attention is the TV (or on your iPad, phone etc) … limit this time so it doesn’t cut into time better spent elsewhere.
44. Set task alarms. If your task can blow out (timewise) then set an alarm so that time is limited.
45. Turn off the phone. If you’re working on client work or a quote and need to concentrate, then turn off the phone or give it to someone to babysit. Just an hour or two uninterrupted may make all the difference to your productivity.
46. Lose perfectionism. I’m not saying cut corners, but only perfectionists (4-5% of the population) expect something to be perfect. 98% is often good enough.
47. Reduce errors. Errors mean rectification and that takes up non-productive time.
48. Reduce waste. Waste costs money and that’s money you’ll have to work more to recoup.
49. Website FAQ. Reduce the number of questions from prospects by having great information on your website or in your initial information.
50. Templates. Templates (esp emails) will take time to prepare well, but once you do, they will literally save you hours every day.
51. Checklists. I love these; they ensure nothing is forgotten, maintain quality and keep you on task. Again, it takes time to create; but they are worth every moment invested.
52. Improve your sales conversion rate. This will make you more sales, but also save you time as if you are better at selling, then you need to do it less often. Would you be better to do 100 quotes with 10% conversion, or just do 20 quotes with 80% conversion? It’s smart maths.
53. Interruptions in bulk. If you want to be effective and know you cannot avoid interruptions completely, then bulk them up. Some businesses say their accounts department is only available for enquiries between certain hours. Other bosses will say to their team that they are available to chat between 9 and 10am every day – open door then, but only then.
54. Cull the interruptions from the team. Ensuring staff are trained and have a procedure manual is a start, sometimes you just have to close the door or put headphones on and say you’re not to be interrupted (unless the building is burning down).
55. Come to me with a solution. One great way to train team to think more for themselves is to always come to you with a question AND a proposed solution. They will learn to problem solve themselves and eventually will need to come to you less.
56. Let your fingers do the walking. Shop online or use the phone instead of going out.
57. Turn off email notifications. That ding is a huge interrupter!
58. Read emails in batches. I do emails about 3 times a day – that is more than enough.
59. Avoid emails first of day. Instead focus on a hard, or unpleasant task first, then circle back to emails, so that at least one important thing gets done first up.
60. Remind reception staff their purpose is to be interrupted. For some of our team, it’s their job to be interrupted, so should not think a customer calling is an interruption; if they do their job well, the rest of the team will have more time.
61. Ask for help. Asking for help isn’t weakness, it’s smart. At times, those around you are not so busy and will welcome something to do. A job shared is a job lightened.
62. Don’t leave things till the deadline. Remember ‘Murphy’s Law’ – something will go wrong at the worst possible time. So, if you have an important deadline, allow plenty of time to get it done well in advance. Things done in a panic rarely are done well.
63. Have contingency time for important tasks. If I need something by Friday, I’ll tell my team Thursday. If I need from the printer the 20th, I’ll tell them the 17th. Those time buffers often save our skin. Building a great reputation takes a heap of time, losing it can occur almost immediately; don’t waste the time you spent building a great rep.
64. Don’t drive. If you can utilise public transport effectively, then do so – it means you can catch up on other tasks, such as reading, review of reports, emails etc.
65. Avoid peak traffic. Time appointments to avoid peak traffic and not lose valuable time.
66. Know your body’s cycle. I’m a morning person, so I know to schedule the high-level tasks for that time of day. I’d never try to do a high-end task at 10 at night – never!
67. Fuel the body. Ensure you get enough food and sleep in order to be most effective.
68. Uniforms. Not having to think about what to wear will save lots of time, plus it’s great for business branding.
69. Use Apps. There are heaps of productivity apps available – including CRMs and other platforms that allow us to be more effective in business.
70. Skill yourself. If you know you’re a slow typist and you need to be better, learn to type. If you’re not effective on Excel, or Xero or any other platform which is part of your job, then again, get training so you are more effective.
71. Avoid duplication. If you use multiple platforms or apps ensure they link. For example, many programs and apps link in with accounting software; so you enter a client card once; not several times.
72. Keyboard shortcuts on your phone. I love this function. I can send frequently used phases (or even a string of sentences) again and again with as little as 3 or 4 key strokes.
73. Invest in technology. If your computer is running slow or things are glitching, then invest in these items. Get them fixed (by a professional) or replace them so you’re more time-effective.
74. Cut procrastination. Procrastination usually occurs due to a fear – perhaps fear of failure (or fear of success). Identify why you procrastinate and then cut it out.
75. Get disciplined. Do you hit that snooze button several times every morning? Don’t! Get disciplined and you’ll have more useful time every day.
Now that’s business time mastery tips, but of course, saving time in our private lives will equate to more time in business, so I’ve popped in some personal time tips. With these, some can be relevant to business, so do keep reading; you might find something useful.
Save time in our private lives too
76. Stop Overstuffing. By overstuffing your schedule you will invariably be running late.
77. Appointment info. Get all the details of any appointments and have them on your phone; easy for contact if you get lost, cannot find or are running late.
78. Reduce ironing. Hang wet garments straight away and you’ll cut ironing time in half (or less).
79. Cut out ironing. When buying, give garments the squeeze test. If you squeeze and they wrinkle, then should you really buy? Don’t be a slave to ironing.
80. Hire help. Sometimes hiring a cleaner or lawn mowing person will be the best dollars you’ve spent – allowing you either time to work or spend with family.
81. Cook in bulk. Make large volume of tasty dishes and freeze for busy nights.
82. Defrost meat in advance. Either the night before or first in the morning, pull out the meat or chicken you plan to cook with – leave it in the fridge to defrost and save time pre-cooking.
83. Wear the same socks. Having the same brand, style and colour socks means no more finding, matching or mucking around with odd socks.
84. Organise your wardrobe. Garments clustered in type or season will make it easier to find things. Regularly have a clean out and remove items you don’t wear, making it easier to find the items you do wear.
85. Double up on tasks. If you have to collect the mail and want to exercise; do both at once and either cycle or walk to the post office box.
86. Clean and cook. Whilst cooking, clean as you go. Things take time to cook so use that time to productively clean so it’s all done when you serve.
87. Take a shower. A shower saves water and time, instead of a bath.
88. Clean whilst you shower. Whilst in the shower, give it a clean – two tasks done at once.
89. Fold washing off the line. Rather than pulling things off the line and then later folding it, do it as you go and fold as you remove off the line, assuring you handle only once.
90. Group friend catch ups. Seeing a group of people at once is more time effective than catching up with many people one at a time. However, don’t over do it and remember some quality time with special people.
91. Declutter. Having a tidy home means you find things easier and quicker.
92. Hooks for keys. Having a special hook for your car and house keys means there is a place for these and as long as you put them there, you will always be able to find your keys.
93. Be a decision maker. Work out if you are procrastinating making a decision as to why. If it’s because it’s the wrong decision, then get there faster and simply decide to not proceed.
94. Unsure where to start? Have a task and don’t know how to tackle it? Ask for help.
95. Lawns. Like a green lawn but hate mowing? Artificial lawns these days can look so real and save heaps of time (and money) on maintenance.
96. Blend tasks. Have to hang out washing or prep dinner and check kid’s spelling? Both can be done at once if you are pushed for time.
97. Give kids responsibility. Even the youngest child can feed the family pet or help fold socks. They might be slow at it, and not perfect, but it’s a great learning experience for them.
98. Break up complex tasks. Apply the concept: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
99. Time out. Sometimes you just need to have a ‘green day’ – one where you don’t work, don’t look at screens, work, business and just have some quality ‘time out’. Recharged and refreshed you’ll be more effective overall.
Remember that with time mastery, it’s a journey. Make a few changes in how you do things and before you know it, you will be turning up on time, having spare time and able to get more done in your way – without purely just rushing or working harder. Time Mastery is just one aspect that I cover in business coaching – I also cover sales, marketing, systems, team and the money side of business. Like to know more – just give me a call or drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. My passion is your potential.