Business owners are a busy bunch of people! They are always running from here to there, answering emails while eating lunch, and trying to put out fires all day. Tell a business owner that you have a solution to solve all their problems, and they may answer “That sounds great! I wish I had the time to learn more about it.”
When I get that type of response from my clients, I place my hands on their shoulders, look them in the eye and say, “If you don’t have the time to do something correctly now, when will you find the time to do it over?”
We are all given the same 24 hours each day. The ones who are successful in managing their time properly are the people who treat time as a currency; it’s money in their pockets. They don’t squander their time; rather they guard it from time robbers, and make sure they keep some in reserve in case of an emergency. If they have time left over at the end of the day, they can use it however they wish.
How can you effectively manage time in your busy day? Below are five simple strategies to help free up valuable minutes and hours each day. Start using these tips and you will see a better return on your investment of time.
- Set Your Agenda the Night Before– Successful time management starts with a solid plan. Don’t wait until the day has started to determine your objectives; prepare your agenda the night before. Today is when you execute your plan. At the end of today, you decide what needs to be done tomorrow. The better your plan, the better your chances of success.
- Hit the Ground Running – One common thread among successful business owners is waking up early. This means getting to bed at a reasonable hour so that you get a good, full night of sleep. The earlier you wake up, the more time you will have to achieve your goals for today.
- Tackle Your Toughest Tasks Early – It makes sense that you address your toughest tasks when you have the most energy. As the day goes on, you will lose energy and focus. It makes completing complicated tasks that much harder. If necessary, break down a big project into bite-sized nuggets so that you can complete the task in stages rather than trying to jump the Grand Canyon in one shot.
- Delegate Non-Essential Work – “Busy” work such as creating folders for your filing cabinet or going through spam email is not going to help you achieve your main objectives. If you have an assistant or someone to whom you can delegate such tasks, do it right now! Busy work is not productive work. Stay focused on the goal in front of you and don’t let non-essential work be a distraction.
- Beware of the Time Robbers – It happens in almost every company. You have people who come into your office, unannounced and with no appointment. They sit down and start asking you about your weekend, and then proceed to tell you everything they did over the past 48 hours. Between these unscheduled meetings, taking the 20-minute personal phone calls in the middle of the day, and playing games on your phone, the time robbers can steal half your work day. It’s imperative for you to push ALL of these items to the end of your work day. Stay focused on your agenda and you will see a measurable difference in productivity in no time.
Once you have freed up enough time, you will need to fill it with productive action items. Here are two excellent uses for your newly-found time.
- Take Breaks – When I started my new routine, I set my alarm for every hour on the hour (9, 10, 11 am, etc…). When it went off, I stood up and either walked around my office for 10 minutes or went outside to feel the warm sun on my face. Sitting in your chair for hours on end is bad for your body and mind. Get up and get your blood circulating. It makes a big difference!
- Think About the Big Picture – When was the last time you took a 20k foot view of your business? Such a view allows you to see where you have been, where you are now, and more importantly, where you are going. This view will help you recognize the root cause of problems as well as see future opportunities.
As I’ve often heard from successful entrepreneurs, “Time is the only currency that matters.” Focus on effectively managing your time, and you are well on your way to success.