“How can I manage my time better?”, is a question that crops up with alarming regularity. For entrepreneurs, this can have serious implications on their business – luckily there are steps they can take to prevent a productivity gap from opening according to Instant Offices.
Bryan Hunter, head of digital marketing at Instant Offices says, “It’s important to think ahead, and to plan day-to-day operations. In business, you are constantly overloaded with information and deliverables, while managing people, so interruptions are inevitable. At Instant, prioritisation is key because the company is growing so quickly – when you focus on completing what’s the most important, pre-planned task, it allows you to avoid interruptions or unnecessary distractions.”
- STICK TO A SCHEDULE, TRACK EVERYTHING
CEO of Square and Founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, explains the paramount importance of being disciplined and practiced when it comes to his time. Having successfully worked full-time at two companies (yes, 16-hour work days), Dorsey attributes his thriving time management on ‘theming’ his days. This is how he does it:
Monday: management and directional meetings Tuesday: product Wednesday: marketing, communications, and growth Thursday: developers and partnerships Friday: company, culture, and recruitment Saturday: hiking, and other personal interests Sunday: reflection and strategy
Additionally, he recognises the necessity of scheduling and making time for interruptions – flexibility is part of the job – if they do not impinge on the day’s broader objectives.
- ASSESS YOUR TIME SPENDATURE, MEASURE PRODUCTIVITY
Make a list of the tasks you do regularly, and those which consume most of your time. Assess how you could be undertaking them more efficiently (consider process sheets for lengthy tasks).
If you’ve allocated an amount of time to a task, and it took you longer than expected, what are the reasons? Take five minutes before every task, call, or conversation, and decide whether the results were achieved, and if not, what can be done to assure different results in future.
Ruben Gamez, founder of Bidsketch, starts his day by asking: “Which one of these tasks will have the biggest impact on my business? What can I get done that will speed up or make other projects unnecessary?”
Priorities constantly change, so it’s important to ask these questions on a regular basis, especially during the busy festive seasonal and holiday times of the year.
- FOCUS ON WHAT YOU DO BEST
There’s no need to do everything yourself. Delegate tasks to employees who you trust in meeting and exceeding expectations (you’ll end up wasting even more time giving a task to someone who doesn’t have the skills or knowledge to do the job).
Richard Branson shares this perspective: “…you must [also] understand the art of delegation. I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back. The company must be set up so it can continue without me.”
- BUNCH ROUTINE ACTIVITIES & INTERRUPTIONS
If it’s a mundane time-consumer, like checking your email, or updating an internal task tracking tool – assign yourself times to perform these tasks. A recent productivity survey reported that more than 70% admit to checking their personal emails at work. 33% even check it 3 times a day!).
Louis Venter, CEO of MediaVision says that, “it’s important to prioritise tasks that are holding people up from doing their job, I find I start with these so that the team can get on with their day. I then look at my tasks and go from there. Making sure you have uninterrupted blocks of time is also key to ensuring that you remain productive throughout the day rather than waiting for ‘quiet time’ because that’s rarely available!”
- KEEP EMPLOYEES IN THE LOOP
Meet with your team first thing in the morning for a short pow-wow to prioritise the day’s tasks. Communicate with employees when you are unable to make a meeting or complete a task. You’ll end up wasting their time with being unable to plan their time efficiently, which is a loss for the business, especially at the critical year-end period. Setting a strict time limit on meetings is another way to be productive and strict with your time.
Ten people in a meeting, for an hour a week, equates to ten billable hours lost. Ensure that only people most relevant employees to the meeting attend; if there’s something that can easily be communicated via email, opt for that instead.
- STOP PROCRASTINATION & MULTITASKING
If you regularly avoid doing certain tasks, take the time to assess why this is. Procrastination leads to rushed work, mistakes, and, ultimately, uncertainty about the quality of work. It’s best to schedule more time than needed for tasks that put you off. Don’t multitask: focusing on one task at a time will double productivity, work output, and creativity.
If a thought pops into your head, rather than stopping what you’re doing to find a solution to that nagging query, write it down. Make a list of things you need to get to, after you’ve completed what you needed to get done.
- UTILISE YOUR PEAK ENERGY TIME
Whether you’re an early riser or late-starter, use peak times of energy to optimise work output and save time.
For Scott Britton, cofounder of Troops, targeting early mornings is key: “I’m usually up at 5:30 a.m. and reserve the beginning of my day, when no one is there to distract me, for my most important activities, which can include everything from working out and meditation to writing new pitches and strategically thinking about my business.”
- ELIMINATE THE NEGATIVE
The last thing you need at the time of the year when you need everyone to pull their weight, is knowing that they all would rather be buying Christmas presents and sipping on a gingerbread latte. This creates a negative environment to work in, so it is critical to set out the importance of this time of year to the business.
Negative employees drain the motivation and creativity out of everyone in the room. Assess the impact of their behaviour, how it compares to their colleagues, and make clear the debilitating effect that such negativity has on the wider business. Context and the impact of personal behaviour can often shake team members into becoming more aware of their outlook.
- DON’T NEGLECT YOUR PERSONAL LIFE
Manage time with the people you care about most. An unhappy home life will creep its way into the office. Physical fitness and personal interests are important, too; balancing work and home will leave you more satisfied and rested. Entrepreneurs and business people testify to the immeasurable gains by focusing on your personal life.
Brian Dyson, the former vice chairman and COO of Coca-Cola, likens life to a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air: “You name them — work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls — family, health, friends, and spirit — are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”
- CHANGE OF SCENERY, TAKE A BREAK
Step out of the office! Working in a different atmosphere, like a coffee shop or café, will revitalise you. Inhabiting a ‘third space’, removing yourself from the distractions of work and home clutter, will result in a more productive environment.