This article first appeared December 22, 2011.
I’ve just started up and seem to be working all waking hours (and some sleeping ones too). It’s getting ridiculous and I wondered if there are ways that I can cut down my workload.
I seem to spend half my time negotiating with suppliers or in client meetings that seem to drag out forever. I’m scared to scale this back, though, in case my business suffers.
What can I do?
There are a few options for you to consider:
Time management is a skill that is necessary to develop in any business, especially one with limited resources.
I would suggest that you review what you are spending your time on and what “outputs” you achieve with your time.
By this I mean, for each section of your day, at the end of a meeting or discussion or even work you have done by yourself, give yourself a scorecard of the quality of the output.
You can break this into a few categories and the following list may be helpful:
- Essential for the survival of my business (important)
- Essential for the future growth of my business (important)
- Solving a problem today (urgent)
- Okay, but neither urgent nor important
- A waste of time
Even if you “marked” yourself for a week, you may find it useful in determining how and where you are spending your time.
I would be surprised if you don’t find a number of items in the four and five group.
Then the challenge will be to ensure that you don’t participate in these activities in the future.
Focus is another important attribute required in business. At the commencement of each meeting, I ask everyone to articulate what the purpose of the meeting is and what outcome we expect, ie. (a) purpose – to review the latest promotion and (b) outcome – to decide on whether we will run this promotion next month again.
Then any discussion that goes off this path can be quickly stopped and the conversation brought back to the key points.
This requires collaboration and discipline but is probably the major area where you can cut back on wasteful time.
Productivity is another area you can develop. In addition to managing your time so you ensure it is spent on important and urgent tasks, do the work as quickly as possible.
Don’t handle a piece of paper more than twice if possible (don’t shuffle from one in tray to another), make informed but quick decisions, spend time efficiently by multi-tasking as often as possible (do lists in the car when traffic is slow), return all your phone calls while driving.
Invest in your knowledge of technology, use soft copy folders for quick access to documents and use an iPhone or Android smartphone so you can quickly do emails anywhere and everywhere.