What would you do if you were able to free up a month a year?
If you can free up an hour a day, you’ll free up a month a year for yourself. If you’re a business owner, that could be a breakthrough thought! What would you do if you were able to free up a month a year? Perhaps you’d use it to focus on growing your business. Or maybe you’d simply take four weeks’ additional vacation. Either way, it would be great simply to have that choice. You can do that by using time management principles.
Here are four tips to help you on that quest:
Work out what you should be doing
Many small business owners spend way too much time doing things they should not be doing. It’s natural to get involved in everything when you are in start-up mode – after all, the funds are not there to invest in more people. But as soon as your business starts to grow, it is imperative that you work out how you can best contribute to your business and let others do the rest. Focusing on just three big-ticket items can make a massive difference.
For example, as the business owner you might decide that you should be spending your time:
- Closing large, complex sales
- Nurturing major customers
- Developing your people
If that’s your choice, then get everything else off your plate. Your starting point should be to make a list of everything you do over a two-week period then make a plan to remove all items but your top three from your list. It might take you a couple of years to do that, perhaps at the rate of one or two items a month, but when you get there, you and your business will be literally transformed.
Plan your day the evening before
There is nothing wrong with checking your email last thing before you go to bed at night. While you are doing that, look at your calendar for the following day and plan out how you are going to get everything done. If you find that you regularly don’t get things done, it could be because you are overscheduling. Here are some rules of thumb to follow to help you achieve what needs to be done each day:
- Keep your days light. For example, you might find that any more than three sales calls a day is too much in that you simply don’t have the time to properly follow up on them in a timely manner.
- Deal with the most difficult thing first. This could be a call to a disgruntled customer, or that chat you know you need to have with your attorney. Get it out of the way early otherwise it will fester and weigh on your mind all day.
- Decide on just three things you will achieve the following day, then when you’re planning out the next day, make sure you achieved them. You’re much better off knocking over three things a day than having a list of 25 items and achieving nothing.
Learn to say no
World-renowned thought leader and author, Jim Collins, advises business owners that as their business grows up, the business owner should find themselves saying no 20 times more than they say yes. How insightful is that? How many times do you say no? T o customers, to new business, to your team? As your business matures, you don’t need to take on everything that walks through the door. Instead, you should become extremely focused on exactly who and what forms your market and your best buyer. You are in control and you should build your business by design so that you are doing what you want with whom you want. As a key performance indicator, the number of times you say ‘no’ during a week would have to be right up there.
Change the way you respond to email and phone
Many business owners find their inbox is way too big and monopolizes their day. They also cite emails from customers as a major source of interruptions. So you need to stop being held hostage to your email. We know of business owners who have a note on their email footers that they only check their email twice a day and if it’s urgent, please contact the office by phone. It’s a neat approach. You should certainly turn off those annoying pings (“you’ve got mail”). Never look at email when you are working on something else. There is nothing so urgent that it won’t wait 90 minutes.
Similarly, just because you have a cell phone doesn’t mean you need to answer it the second it rings. Consider using your mobile as a voicemail service. Tell your customers they can leave a message and your will get back to them within a couple of hours. That is almost invariably good enough. Technology is terrific but don’t let it own you.
Using these time management tips you can get in control of your life, and you’ll find that you are more able to delegate. Set yourself that goal to free up a month a year and gift yourself with a great reward when you get there. You’ll be glad you did.