This week will see the clocks go forward an hour and the official start of British Summer Time. The evenings will be getting lighter, invitations for early season barbecues may start arriving, and having to stay late at work will become more and more unappealing.
This blog will explore some ways you and your business can start working in a smarter and more productive manner, where you’re focusing on the tasks that grow your business and make you money and spending less time on the ones that don’t. And they won’t require you to work longer hours, so you will be able make the most of the lighter evenings.
How to save time by focusing on the important tasks
Using a time management matrix will help you identify how best to manage and spend your time and your life. Categorise your tasks by first asking is the task important? Second, is the task urgent? Each task should then fall into one of the below categories.
IMPORTANT, URGENT - must do these things now
These are items that need to be dealt with immediately e.g. customer complaints, processing orders, important meetings. Incoming prospect calls.
IMPORTANT, NOT URGENT - must plan time to do
This is what you should focus on for long term achievement of your goals e.g. goal setting, strategic planning, R&D and training, and on a personal level, keeping fit, providing for your retirement and showing your family how much they mean to you.
NOT IMPORTANT, URGENT - find a better way
These tasks should be delegated, systemised, or dumped e.g. interruptions, non-productive meetings, some phone calls.
NOT IMPORTANT, NOT URGENT - eliminate or ignore
Timewasting activities e.g. browsing the internet, nuisance phone calls, gossiping.
As a business owner deciding to outsource tasks can save your business money and time and therefore should be a priority to continually try to identify which non-core activities of the business could be outsourced. Common examples include payroll, office cleaning and plant care, security, printing services, distribution and mail order fulfilment.
To help you decide what services you should outsource you need to first consider whether it gives you a high or low competitive advantage, and second whether the ability and cost-effectiveness of your in-house team is high or low.
Organise your week using a time planner
Utilising a time planner to organise your week, month or year will help you prioritise important tasks and stop the minor or less significant tasks taking over! A daily ‘to-do’ list is a very effective time management technique. You should organise your list so that more important tasks are prioritised - a good system for this is to grade the items on your list using the A, B, C, D and E system. Under this systems D stands for delegate and E stands for eliminate. Use your list as a map of how to get through your day.
Another handy hint with ‘to-do’ lists is to prepare them the night before, there are two reasons for this, firstly it will be much easier to switch off and relax at home without having to worry about tomorrow and secondly you are more likely to be objective when you prepare the list the day before. For example, if the most important task is to make a phone call that you really don’t want to do – then by preparing the list the night before you will make it the first ‘A’ item and are more likely to do it first thing in the morning. If, however, you do the list the following morning you may put it off, and the more you put it off, the more it will play on your mind and distract you from all your other tasks.
A well devised filing system can save you untold hassle
We spend so much of our time looking for things we filed because we can’t remember where we put them in the first place. Therefore to save yourself precious time your filing system must be organised, whenever you file a piece of paper, or save a word document, ask yourself the question: “When I come to look for this in 2 months’ time, where will I think of looking for it?”
When filing items try to stick to categories and file with similar items, colour coding or labelling folders and where possible tell colleagues where you have filed certain important documents.
Business meetings eating away at your scarce time?
Before arranging a meeting ask yourself, “Is this meeting necessary?” or would an email be more appropriate? If a meeting is necessary then it’s a good idea to plan what is to be covered by writing an agenda and distributing it at least 24 hours before the meeting so that everyone is prepared.
It is important to start and stop the meeting on time - don’t wait for the latecomers. It is not fair on everyone who has turned up on time if you do wait. During the meeting cover the most important items on the agenda first therefore if you run out of time for the less important items these can wait until the next meeting or even be dealt with in an email. Summarise each item and get closure and agree the next steps before moving on to the next item on the agenda. It is also useful to create an action plan with responsibilities and deadlines so that issues raised in the meeting can be followed up.
By following some of the above hints and tips you should soon become more efficient and feel more productive at work and begin to claw back a few precious hours of time to concentrate on more important things!
“The whole of life is but a moment of time. It is our duty, therefore to use it, not to misuse it”
Plutarch - Greek historian