A Business Owner’s Most Important Asset
1. the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past,
present, and future regarded as a whole.
If someone were to ask me, “What’s the hardest thing to manage in your business?” my answer would be “my time,” always. As a business owner, when catastrophe hits, you can always replace lost business and lost revenue, but you can never replace lost time. It’s crucial to have a duplicatable time-management strategy (or strategies!) that you can lean on so that you know where your most valuable asset is running off to and how to get it back!
Over the past 20-some years since I’ve been working in the corporate world, I’ve tried a lot of strategies in order to manage and track my time, and the following are some of the more successful ones. These are the strategies I find myself falling back into when I’ve hit a bump in the road, or when I’m trying to determine my “One Thing.” (More on this in a new blog post coming soon!)
Write. It. Down. Everything. All the time.
The basic principle is this: write down everything you’re spending your time on, and how much time you’re spending. The easiest way to do this is to write what time you started and what time you ended, and then do the math at the end of the day when you’re reviewing how productive you were.
Going through emails for 30 minutes? Write it down.
Meeting with your team for 2 hours? Write it down.
“Taking a break” on Facebook for *gasp* 15 minutes?? Write. It. Down.
If you were to commit to this for even just one week, it can offer you an insane amount of insight in to where your precious time has been spent. You may discover that you have a problem client who has managed to drag you way over scope on their project. Or you may discover that you spend so much time explaining things to one employee that you need to do some more training with him or her.
I could do a whole other post on the value of having a yellow-pad and functioning pen at your side all the time. I use mine for my time tracking, for ideas, for to-dos and everything in-between. This process will seem tedious and like a waste of your valuable time in the beginning, but you’ll thank yourself for doing it in the long-haul. If you’re a techie, there are about a million apps and online time tracking systems – many of them even integrate with popular project management and CRM software. Whatever your preference, find a way to track your time and use it.
Categorize and Analyze
At the end of your day, put it on your calendar to allocate 10 minutes to look over your time tracking results (and write that down too!). Take a look at the types of things you’re spending your time on, and look for ways where you can be more productive. Could you group all of your email responses into a single block twice a day so that you can spend less time being reactive? Some other categories you might utilize include: team meetings, phone calls, lead generation, follow-ups, errands, breaks and non-income-producing tasks. Looking at your day from a statistical, analytical standpoint will help you to step back and figure out where things can change so that you can be more productive and a better asset to your company.
Give Yourself a Deadline
Now that you’ve identified where the problems are, you can start controlling your day, instead of it controlling you. Start by looking at the categories you’ve established, and then breaking them down into a measurable block of time. For example, if all week you’ve spent an average of an hour handling email each day, then put two 30-minute blocks on your calendar to handle email – one early in the day and one later in the day. That way it’s a standing appointment with yourself and you can feel confident that it’s a) not going to get forgotten about and b) you can handle other things without worrying what’s coming in, and therefore getting yourself out of a reactive state. Continue tracking your time and make adjustments to your blocks as necessary. You can even turn this into a game! I’m a generally competitive person, and it actually helps me to focus to know that I’m racing the clock to get something done.
I highly recommend utilizing a calendar for this approach. In our agency, we use Google products, and my calendar is often full of blocks for me to handle tasks in my queue, in addition to the meetings and calls that I have. This way, I know when I can actually handle another request for a meeting, versus filling my calendar with them and not getting anything else done.
Don’t Be Afraid to Delegate
Your effectiveness as a leader isn’t simply defined by how well you can juggle 50 tasks and how many all-nighters you can handle. It’s defined by how well you can empower your team and how seamless your company can run – even when you’re not around. You have to start by hiring the right people, and then you build your success by training those people to handle things the exact way you would handle them yourself, and you empower them to make decisions for the benefit of your client. If your team can operate without every decision being made by you as their boss, that means that everyone can focus and get more done and clients will reap the benefits. I wrote more about employment strategies in this article.
As you develop your own time management strategies, I sincerely hope they bring you less stress, more profit, and an overall better work environment that you can be excited and passionate about. If one of the strategies above works for you, or if you find something else that works even better, don’t keep it to yourself! Pass on your success story to another struggling business owner, or even an overwhelmed team member, and show them that there is a light at the end of the time-vacuum tunnel!