Business Owners: Put time back into your day

Business Owners: Put Time Back Into Your DayTravis Snider

By Travis Snider, Small Business Accelerator Lead Instructor & Business Coach

Business owners and managers are constantly battling the clock. There’s never enough time to get everything done. All of the work feels important and urgent. How can anymore be added to the list?

We discuss time issues frequently in the Small Business Accelerator Program. This is a program of collaboration and coaching focused on growing businesses at double digit rates while helping owners work less. The Accelerator is part of EvCC's Corporate & Continuing Education Center. 

Owners say they are consistently overloaded with most working in excess of 50 hours a week. Many, in fact, work 60, 70, or more. They say all of the work feels important and must be done right. So how do you grow a business while working less? Where do you find time? Here are a few guides that may give you some of your time back.

1. Identify your “most valuable and profitable” priorities.

While everything seems important, a few tasks are absolutely vital to your success. Identify the top 5 priorities that only you can do? Allocate 60% of your time to them. Discontinue or delegate the rest.

One way to identify such tasks is to put a value on your time. If you’re worth $200 per hour, make sure you avoid a lot of work that can be done by a $15 an hour assistant. Many owners constantly do lower priority work because they don’t have someone to delegate it to. If this is true for you, find an assistant to the President and concentrate on the more valuable tasks.

2. Know where your time goes.

Knowing where time goes provides an opportunity to understand it and make adjustments. Most people have trouble tracking time, even for short periods. But by doing so, you can gain insight into your personal patterns and preferences. The purpose is to learn to use time more effectively and profitably.  

  • Track time for two weeks. Track the big stuff. Estimate the small things. The key is knowing whether you spend 60% of the time on high priority items or 30%. There is an enormous difference between 60% and 30% and the impact should be in your pocketbook.
  • Identify the biggest interrupters. What’s causing the most trouble? It may be too many “gotta minute” meetings, lack of training (people don’t know what to do) or lack of systems and procedures. Once you know the biggest problems you can work to eliminate them.

3. Set goals on a weekly basis, then refine each day

To be effective in getting things done, you need a plan. Consider setting goals for the coming week. There will be interruptions and overruns on larger projects so a week becomes more reasonable in planning most projects. Be sure to set deadlines. Things that can wait can be given an “over the hill” priority. That means it stays in the to-do list, but won’t get worked on this week.

Once you have weekly goals, set goals each day. Don’t plan for more than 6 hours of work or more than 5 or 6 items. Things happen. Leave room for the unknown.      

Take the worst first. Get them over with. With the toughest jobs out of the way, the rest of the day goes easier.

Review results. Keep track of what you accomplished. Ask yourself if you’re satisfied with the results. If not, make adjustments.  Give yourself an award if you were awesome.

4. Get things done or assign it to someone who can

Here are some ideas suggested by successful entrepreneurs that may free up time. Most owners normally work 2,500 or more hours a year. If less critical tasks can be reduced by 30%, 700 hours per year may become available for other purposes. What could you do with an extra 700 hours per year worth $200 or more per hour? 

  • Identify peak times for energy. Identify your peak hours of productivity and schedule important tasks then. Work on minor tasks during off peak hours.
  • Have a plan for drop-in visitors (“gotta minute” meetings). Let the staff know you won’t be available for these meetings except at certain times of the day. Schedule 1 or 2 times a day for them (10 minutes per person for a maximum of 30 minutes total). Longer discussions should be scheduled with set time limits.   
  • Create a Stop Doing List – Make a list of wasteful things that consume your day. Take one of these each week and find ways to eliminate it from your life for good. Create procedures to keep them from reoccurring.
  • Use Time Blocking. Set aside blocks of uninterrupted time (1 to 2 hours) to handle important projects which require concentration. Don’t allow interpretations except for “customers” who must talk to you or unusual emergencies.
  • Delegate! Delegate! Delegate! – Many things that are important can be delegated to others. Find the right people and train them for what you want them to do.  Make this automatic.  A good Assistant to the President is worth his/her weight in gold. 
  • Train continually - Train your staff to respect times that are uninterruptable. Teach them to make decisions within their capabilities. If problems arise, train employees to develop solutions to problems before bringing them to you. 

5. Control meetings

Staff meetings chew up enormous amounts of time. Often, they drone on forever and end in misunderstandings and inactions. Know the purpose of each meeting and what you want to get out of it.

  • Don’t schedule one unless it’s necessary.
  • Have an agenda, always. 
  • Understand decisions and outcomes before you leave. Keep notes of:
    • Issues discussed (just the subject, keep it short)
    • Decisions made or conclusions reached. Identify dissent and who can’t make a commitment to the decision.
    • Responsibilities assigned and due dates agreed upon.
    • Topics left undecided. Determine if they are to be put on the agenda again or dropped. 
    • Distribute notes to all participants.
  • Start on time, end on time.  Don’t let the meeting drift.

These are a few of the ideas suggested by owners to control their time. By focusing on the “most important and profitable” priorities 60% of the time, successful owners can improve their performance, grow their business, and work fewer hours.

Learn how the Small Business Accelerator can help your business. The Small Business Accelerator--Signature program begins in September. Space is limited so secure your spot today!

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