Efficient Time Management for Business Owners
Being a small business owner requires you to wear many different hats. Sometimes you might be required to wear four or five different hats on the same day! From being the Marketing or Partnerships Manager, to Customer Support to even being the CFO or Accountant. Every day presents new tasks, opportunities and challenges. Many business owners work considerably longer hours to make their dreams come true, and many wear long hours as a badge of honor, but it doesn’t need to be that way. We have some simple changes that you can make to your working habits to get super efficient with your time, and guess what, you can choose to either work less, or do other tasks, with that extra time you win back!
Time management needs to be treated like any other skill you would develop as a small business owner. In a similar way to learning about how to run a campaign on Google Ads, or to create a cashflow forecast, you can invest time and get better at how you manage your time. Why? Because it’s super important! In fact, it might be the most important investment you can make. As a small business owner, you generally are the most critical, informed, and sometimes the only resource you have to make your business a success. So maximising your time and getting more efficient just means more work gets done. To put it into perspective, an extra 30 mins a day, extrapolated out over the course of a year, can mean an extra 10 days of output.
So how do you go about getting more efficient with your time? Well, you have completed the first step by starting here. Congratulate yourself, you have recognised that you want to get better. No really, this is super important, as many business owners never invest the time or effort in improving their time management skills. Now before we go any further, it’s important we set expectations, getting this right will not happen overnight, and it’s likely you will need to take one step backwards before taking two steps forward. So, let’s be clear, be patient and invest the time in getting this right, as any short-term loss in time, will be more than made up for in the long-term. So let’s begin.
1. Record where you spend your time today
To get a grasp of where you can save time, you first need to understand where your time is going today. To do this, create a simple spreadsheet and on the X-axis, list out the days of the week your normally work e.g. Monday, Tuesday. On the Y-Axis, leave that blank, you’ll use that for recording all of the tasks you work on.
Once this is setup, over a typical two week period, write down the tasks you work on, and put the corresponding time you spent on the relevant day of the week. It’s important you note down the task and time as you do the work, as it’s very easy to forget what happened during the day if you try and do your time tracking after work.
To make it easy to track your tasks and time spent, we recommend you download the Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets app on your phone.
Tip! Make sure you record your tasks for at least two weeks to get a full picture of your workload.
2. Identify tasks that can be removed, replaced or delegated
After the two weeks are up, tally up the numbers, and sort the tasks from lowest to highest. Contrary to what you might first think, it’s best to start by looking at the tasks you spend the least amount of time on. If you’re spending a lot of time on something today, it’s likely to be for a reason. Look at the list and think about which tasks could potentially be removed, automated or delegated.
Let’s start with the items that can be removed. Perhaps there is a daily task that you do out of habit, but the reality is, it adds little to no value to your business. It could be attending a daily call with your team, or reviewing a marketing email before it’s sent. In most cases, the tasks that can be removed will require you to have confidence and trust in someone else doing the task without your consultation. If you don’t feel sure, that’s fine, test it out. Instead of attending the daily meeting, set expectations on what outputs you want to see, and get someone to email you a daily summary. Same with the marketing email. Don’t review it, just be clear to your marketing team about what you want to see. By removing these tasks you can save a lot of time.
With so many new tools and technologies in the market, now is a great time to see what can be automated. Instead of manually sending reminders when a customer fails to pay an invoice, you can use the Thriday business account invoicing feature which automatically does it for you. Instead of manually calculating your cashflow forecast, the Thriday app can do it for you. Tools like Zapier and Integromat can allow you to set up similar automation for everyday tasks. For a small fee, these tools can literally save you hours.
Delegation is a great skill to practice, it not only makes your life easier but by giving added responsibility to other team members, it motivates them to step up and take more pride in their work. Everyone likes to feel that the work they are doing is contributing to the success of the business. To delegate effectively, clearly define, explain and in some cases, document, what you’re expecting from the person taking on the task. Train them and make them understand the importance of the task, and then setup processes to monitor performance.
3. Review the remaining tasks and brainstorm improvement areas
After reviewing all the tasks that you think can be removed, automated or delegated, it’s time to see what can be done about the tasks you still have on your plate. Rank the remaining tasks in order of importance and let’s get started. The best way to brainstorm what to do with these activities, is to think about how you would train somebody to do them for you. By thinking about how you would train a team member, it forces you to think about what steps make sense and what don’t. Is there any steps within the task that can be removed, automated or delegated. For example, if you draft a monthly summary email for your team that talks about performance and targets, you still might want to do that. However, can you get someone in your team to draft sections of the email, or to review it on your behalf. Perhaps even a ghost writer could do the job. Get creative, get smart and you’ll be able to figure out some changes that again, free up valuable time.
4. Test and learn
Now it’s time to start implementing the changes you identified. It’s good to pace yourself during this process and avoid making too many changes at once. Rapid change is not only difficult for you to get used to, but your team might struggle as well.
Start working through your list, and make sure you spend an appropriate amount of time to get the best results. At this stage it’s super important that you monitor the results and track how the new process is working. If things are not going as expected, or you are not saving the time you expected, then review what can be tweaked to extract more time savings. With these things, the first attempt is not often the last. By monitoring your results, you will also have new ideas, or think of new tasks you can remove, automate or delegate. Don’t get too disheartened if you don’t see instant results, it takes practice to make perfect.
5. Review periodically
Managing your time is not a ‘set and forget’ activity. It needs to be something you do on a regular basis. We recommend quarterly. You’ll find over time that new activities and tasks creep into your weekly schedule, and without reviewing them, those tasks can become a time burden quite quickly. So to get around this, put a reminder in your calendar, and repeat the process again at the end of each quarter.
Now that you have learned how to do it, make sure you stick to keeping on top of it. It’s easy for bad habits to creep back in. It’s also important you train any team members you have on how to the same. You want everybody in your business to perform and optimum capacity. Now that you have all this extra time up your sleeve, there is only one more thing to do, work out what you are doing to do with it...