By Cleveland SCORE
Small business owners and employees are faced with time challenges due to multiple responsibilities. Time management practices can be incorporated into business routines, thus supporting business success and reducing the level of stress.
Small business owners are faced with a time challenge due to the need to juggle multiple responsibilities. Additionally, employees may be experiencing work overload, especially in the current work environment. While it is common to consider hiring additional staff to alleviate these issues, this may not always be a feasible solution. To better handle responsibilities, owners and employees can incorporate the use of time management practices in their daily routines. Successful time management is important not only to business success and goal completion, but also to reduce the level of stress on the owner and employees and improve the professional reputation of the organization
What exactly is meant by time management? It is the ability to plan and complete daily activities in a timely and efficient manner. While we cannot change the number of hours in a day, we can manage ourselves and what we do with our time. What are the components necessary to move toward better time management? Time management practices necessitate that you plan your day, identify goals to be accomplished, prioritize work and monitor progress toward completion of the planned goals. In addition to time management practices, there are also other steps that can be instituted to assist with managing time.
Benefits related to effective time management can be rewarding. First, it helps eliminate stress. As your tasks are completed, there is a sense of progress. Second, as a manager and owner you will have more time during the day to spend on planning goals and objectives going forward. Third, there will be more time to accomplish current goals and objectives.
While this sounds easy to accomplish, there are many pitfalls that can distract you from practicing time management. To successfully incorporate these practices into your work routines, consider the following.
- Identify areas where time may be wasted – These are activities that steal away valuable time and impact the completion of other more important tasks.
- Set goals correctly – Make sure your goals are set reasonably. Utilize the SMART method – Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
- Prioritize tasks – Focus on tasks that are urgent and important. Not all important tasks may be urgent. Those that are both urgent and important should be handled immediately. Those that are important but not urgent, can be scheduled for a better time. Urgent but not important tasks may be delegated. Tasks not urgent or important can be set aside and completed time permitting. For those that are urgent and important as well as those that are important and not urgent, create a “to-do” list that ranks them by high, medium and low priority. This allows you to complete the highest priority tasks.
- Set a time limit on tasks – By setting a time limit for completion, it helps you focus and work more efficiently to complete the item.
- Utilize a planning tool – While it is not necessary to utilize an automated tool, use of one can be helpful. Automated tools such as, but not limited to, Rescue Time, Focus Keeper, Toggle and Drop Box can provide information and status for tasks at your fingertips. They can retain a list of tasks by priority as well as be used to keep notes on actions completed, open questions/items requiring follow-up and finally completion. It is also a convenient way to monitor task activities daily.
- Delegate – Assign tasks to others that have skill sets, interest, appropriate authority and experience to complete them. When delegating, be specific on the task and expected outcome. Also build in a monitoring process to oversee progress.
- Avoid procrastinating – Occasionally tasks are not pleasant or seem unmanageable. For these, break them down into smaller tasks such as preparatory tasks required prior to completing the larger task.
Time management practices can assist in creating a more productive work environment, however there are other outside distractions that may also impact productivity. These need to be managed as well to gain the full rewards of time management. Following are some of the more common outside distractions that may interfere with your ability to practice time management.
- Smartphones – Individuals view their phones on average 51 times a day. Phones are utilized for many things such as calendars, emails and texts, shopping lists, and listening to podcasts. To reduce the distraction created by usage during work time, schedule times during the day when your phone will be on “do not disturb” or airplane mode.
- Emails – While emailing is a crucial part of business communication, it can also be a distraction. It is a common practice to check the email box every time a notification is received. To help manage time spent on this, consider turning off notifications and schedule a review of emails periodically during the day. If there is an emergency that requires your immediate attention, most likely employees or management will notify you by phone or in person.
- Clutter – Disorder and clutter is a constant reminder of everything that needs to be done. As such you may tend to find concentrating on a single important task is difficult. To reduce this distraction, try to keep paper items in appropriate files, utilize technology to retain papers when appropriate and keep your workspace generally well organized.
- Multi-tasking – While most individuals use multi-tasking with the perception they can get more accomplished, the reality is it slows you down, stifles creative thinking, and allows for more errors. To avoid this, step away, mentally prioritize the tasks at hand and continue working based on priority.
- Micro-management – It is important that as an owner or manager you know what is going on in the workplace, however continual hands-on involvement can impact not only your time management but also that of the staff. It can be disruptive and stifle individual growth and creativity as well as destroy trust between management and employees.
- Setting needless & strict policies – Unnecessary policies cause stress on workers and impact their ability to perform at the top of their game. Review policies on a periodic basis to ensure they are reasonable and necessary to the operation.
- Meetings – Meetings are notorious for being time consuming and non-productive. Before scheduling a meeting consider if it is necessary or if there are alternative ways to communicate the information. Possibly use of emails, phone calls, or other technology applications can serve the purpose appropriately. When a meeting is necessary, develop an agenda giving reasonable time for each topic. Keep meetings to one hour or less and monitor the time for each topic. Additionally, the use of facilitation techniques allows you to keep the meeting on pace and topic.
Without the ability to effectively practice time management the results may be poor workflow or inability to compete goals and objectives timely and effectively, wasted time, poor quality of output and possible damage to reputation when tasks are not completed timely and with good quality.
In the event your business may have a unique need for outside assistance with operational issues, growth initiatives or other business matters, SCORE mentors can offer you expertise and support. Mentors with a wide range of technical and user experience are available upon request.
The Cleveland Chapter of SCORE was founded in 1965 to foster and support the small business community in Northeast Ohio through mentoring and education. There are currently 80 volunteers with experience in the fields of business ownership, managers, accountants, attorneys, and other business fields that are ready to share their knowledge through mentoring. For more information about our services for small business visit the website at www.cleveland.SCORE.org or call (216) 503-8160.
In addition to mentoring services, there are also webinars and on-demand classes listed on the website. To attend a webinar visit the site and register. Following are upcoming events in April:
Seminar Title Date & Time
Contracts 101 April 10 – 11:00 AM
New Product Development – Developing April 12 – 12:00 PM
How to Get a Small Business Loan April 13 – 1:00 PM
Managing Sales for Your Business April 13 – 7:00 PM
Benefits of Volunteering with SCORE as a Mentor April 18 – 1:00 PM
The Power of Capital April 18 – 4:00 PM
New Product Development – Commercializing April 19 – 12:00 PM
5 Strategies to Run a More Efficient Business April 25 – 1:00 PM
Strategic Planning for Growing Your Business April 25 – 7:00 PM
Plan Your Website for Online Success April 26 – 12:00 PM
Growing Your Business through Acquisition April 27 – 7:00 PM