Whether you’re running a successful business, spearheading a spectacular career or wanting to be a productive person, mastering your time is critical. I say mastering your time, rather than managing it, because it’s about using the time you have well. We all have the same time, so saying “you have more time than me” is false; we all have 24 hours to a day, and on average 4,000 weeks to a life – give or take. So it’s what you do with that time that counts.
Are you a Lover of Lists? This will help in your time management as well.
In this article I will talk mostly about time mastery in the business environment, but really, these principles can mostly be taken and used in any aspect of your life.
Time Management: 11 Really Useful Tips
This can be a simple process. Record in an Excel spreadsheet exactly what you did in a full week. Yes, it’s a little arduous, unless you are used to time tracking (as are accountants, lawyers, bookkeepers etc) but it really is helpful. Break it down to 5 minute increments, although if you spent 95 minutes working on one activity without break or interruption, then you can simply record that as 95 units or 19 units (19 x 5 minute increments = 95). However, if you had 5 interruptions during that time, which lasted 5 minutes each, then this will certainly get split. Identify your time bandits. On average 50% of our day is riddled with interruptions (they occur every 7 minutes and last approximately 5 minutes) so the interruption factor is a huge time vampire.
Being such a massive area where we lose time, I’m going to give you several tips and ideas around this.
- The first area is saying no, before they even get a chance to interrupt.
Time Management Example: On our emails we often have alerts on an incoming email, even with a pop up message advising who the email is from. Turn this off as it’s a massive distraction. Do not drop what you are doing to jump over to a new email in your inbox. So the same with Facebook or other social media notifications – dim, dull or turn them off so you’re not distracted or interrupted every time someone comments on a post.
Time Management Example: Register for the ‘do not call register’ OR if you have staff, give your phone to a staff member whilst you are working on a project. Their instruction is NOT to interrupt you and take a message unless the building is burning down. Take say blocks of 2 hours to actually work, completely uninterrupted.
Time Management Example: If staff interruptions are a problem, work on this. Find out why. With one client I worked on years ago, his main problem was that he hadn’t trusted his staff to handle problems and pricing. Every little decision had to be run through him. We setup price lists and documented systems (which did take some time initially) but this had a massive impact on his productive day. Instead of working a 14 hour day and ‘getting nothing done’ (we know what that feels like!) within five months he was working a 9 hour day and getting almost all his daily tasks completed. I suspect in that case my business coaching advice actually saved his marriage as well!
Time Management Example: Myself in one of my prior businesses we had an open plan office – great for interruptions. I would hear staff talking to each other and clients and it was difficult to concentrate. Additionally, it was so easy for staff to interrupt me, so I would wear headphones and put on music. Keep this a secret, but sometimes I would hear them say “Donna? …. Donna? … Donna?” but I pretended to not hear. If the office was burning down, I’m sure someone would tap me on the shoulder, but it sends a message (and they knew this) that I’m working now, please don’t interrupt me. In fact, I encouraged other staff to do this as well, other than our receptionist; for her, the phone was not classified as an interruption.
2. Our second area is saying no to the interruption as it occurs. This can occur for many reasons and if the interruption is actually occurring, then you need to consider why. Go back to your time audit and determine what you haven’t put in place to substantially reduce interruptions. Here are a few examples:
Time Management Example: Your staff interrupts you to ask how something should be done. You have documented systems and processes and you know this is in there. You could give them the answer, but don’t! Instead, nicely say to them that you know this is fully explained in the staff handbook, you think it’s under the title of xxx and invite them to look it up. This is training; they will soon stop asking you and start being self-sufficient. Whilst it might be good time management from their perspective to save time and yes, be a little lazy, it’s not good use of your time.
Time Management Example: You pick up the phone and it’s a Telemarketer. Don’t wait for them to draw breath (I truly believe some are born with exceptional lung capacity and never need to draw breath) but interrupt and say “Excuse me, I’m on the ‘do not call register’” …. I can assure you that will stop that call really quickly. Or simply “Excuse me, I have a finance broker, thanks, bye” and yes, do hang up. This can be done politely but be strong. Don’t wait for them to run through their 3 minute spiel – you do neither yourself nor them a favour. If you won’t buy, then let them move onto the next prospect that might.
Being organised covers a few different areas. It will start with planning which is so critical and which ultimately reduces the need to become a firefighter. Planning isn’t just around goal setting or project management, but can incorporate anticipating what could go wrong, strategizing how to avoid that scenario and then putting in place systems and processes to assure it all goes smoothly. Now you’re not spending your day as a firefighter flitting from disaster to disaster. Getting a little bit of organisation into your day will help you as well.
Time Management Example: I knew a business owner a few years back (not a coaching client of mine, might I add) who did not have her diary organised. She frequently doubled up on appointments and had to reschedule, she would not turn up to meetings or would be confirming a meeting for a time and date which was wrong because the meeting had changed and she’d forgotten to amend the details. I know she was stressed about her situation. In the age of ultra-technology, there are so many different options, which allow appointment syncing between devices and managing reminders. I switched to a digital diary and absolutely love it. I synced between my devices (I used iCloud for Windows to sync Apple products with a non-Apple PC) and the only hiccup was the human factor. Then, I got into the habit of putting appointments straight into my phone, confirming there and then as we booked it.
Delegation is a huge area and can be broken down generally into two areas: high skill and low skill.
Time Management Example: The high skill area can be an area where you are not an expert, but where the ideal person for the task is in fact an expert. One example is setting up a website. Some people will spend a week learning a program, then flounder around for several more weeks trying to set this up, and then finish with a mediocre result and several weeks of loss income.
A similar area is bookkeeping. Unless you’re a bookkeeper, this is not good use of your time. One of my coaching clients almost a decade ago was a very prominent specialist. At that time he was charging around $180 a consult (which lasted 15 minutes) so his hourly rate was essentially $720 an hour. He would spend around 3 hours a week bookkeeping. Yes, he was good at MYOB, but this cost him $2160 a week in loss income. We put a bookkeeper in place for $60 an hour who took 2.5 hours (as the expert she was faster) and his weekly cost was $150. In this example, once I pointed out the maths, this coaching client understood very quickly. Even if your hourly charge out rate is say $60 an hour, then it’s still viable because the expert is almost always going to do the task better and quicker.
Time Management Example: The low end skill area is another great area to delegate. Yes, you can clean your house or office, wash your car, clean your pool, mow your lawns or file the paperwork. Should you? Again, my specialist and I would not have to do these tasks. Even within my business, when I had income producing staff able to earn $70 an hour, it was not good use of their time to be filing, buying the office supplies, emptying bins or deleting old emails. For these tasks I employed a junior for around $10 an hour and had quality income producing staff on good hourly pay rates who were quick, efficient and only spending time on income producing activities.
Taking longer than you should
This time management area covers a few different things. It might be that you take longer to do something because you don’t have sufficient information, or you don’t have the skills to complete the task, or you don’t know what to do next. It may well be that meetings are stealing your time or you are procrastinating. Here are some practical tips:
Time Management Example: You are booking an appointment and you go back and forth with the person deciding on a date and place. First email “do you want to meet?” then “does Thursday suit you?” then “no? Ok, what about next Tuesday?” then “Tuesday 9am?” then “No? What about 4pm?” then “where would you like to meet?” …. You get the drift of this long saga, a month later it’s still being organised. You have two options here, either pick up the phone and just do it OR take charge and give the person 3 dates with times (vary it) AND suggest a location. Two quick outgoing emails and it’s done.
Time Management Example: You’ve been given a new Eftpos machine. It can’t be that hard? Perhaps not, but instead of spending an hour sitting with the thing, reading the manual and working it out, when you pick it up from the bank ask for a 5 minute tutorial from your helpful banker (hopefully they are!) Even if they say “no need, it’s easy, you’ll work it out”, take control and be a little bit firm. “I’m sure it’s simple, so can you give me a quick 5 minute overview?”. If they still say no, perhaps you’re with the wrong bank.
This can take many forms and cover everything from creating shortcuts, systemizing processing, implementing templates and cutting out the activities which just simply are not good use of your time. It’s important to have the right tools to be time efficient. A little bit of blatant promo here, I have a great e-book on my website called “Going Paperless & Increasing Business Efficiency” https://www.donna-stone.com.au/ebooks/ . Here are some more great practical examples:
Time Management Example: Do you pay your staff weekly? Don’t! Switch to fortnightly pays. Yes, I know your staff will say they prefer weekly, but it’s not their choice. Who owns this business? Give them heaps of notice, and then change this over, they will get used to it soon enough and you’ve now almost halved your time (or a staff member’s time) spent on payroll.
Time Management Example: I absolutely love templates! Do something well once, save the format or template and then use that template over and over. Everything from proposals, to appointment confirmation emails to welcoming a new client aboard. If you do anything repeatedly, setup a template and have these all in one spot for easy access. Even better, if you have staff, ensure they use these too, so they are all not wasting their time repeating the same thing over and over.
Time Management Example: It’s a statistical fact that we spend 2.7 hours a DAY watching TV. We spend another massive amount of time on Facebook. Cutting back (or cutting out) on non-productive activities like watching TV gives you back time you could better spend elsewhere. Even if you took an hour of TV time and instead read educational material (or listened to audios) all the things you’d learn would improve your skillset and likely increase your earning capacity.
Whilst there are many more areas you can improve on time, my last area I‘ll cover in this blog is batching. This is doing the same type of activity all at once. One simple example is if you cook a casserole or stew, then you make enough for several dinners. It takes almost no extra time or effort, but will save you a heap of time.
Time Management Example: Paying bills is a wonderful example. Set a day in the week (or fortnight) for bill payment. My day is Wednesday. If you give me a bill on any day of the week (even Thursday) I will advise that “I’ll fix that up on Wednesday – that’s my bill payment date”. Some people might have hoped for payment sooner, but that strong statement 99% of the time works. I do stick to it of course; be sure to do what you promise.
Summing it up
Get the right attitude around your time and understand that time is a resource; so don’t waste it. If you’re procrastinating, work out why. Look at what is happening now (audit yourself and your business or ask me to) and then plan and put in place strategies to improve your time mastery. Implement the steps and in 6 months do another review. I recommend you review your situation at least annually as we (or our team) do tend to drop back into bad habits if we are not constantly monitoring and tweaking what we’re doing.
As a business coach I am always working with clients to improve their efficiency, which ultimately will improve their bottom line profit. I will guide clients on how to use their time best, maximise their income earning ability (and that of their staff), so if time management is an issue for you in your business, please contact me and we can talk about your challenges. Call me on 1800 77 65 61 or email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.