Time is a precious thing, especially when running a small business. You might feel there are never enough hours in a day to get everything done.
Each day has 24 hours, 1440 minutes and 86 400 seconds, it never wavers. Time is constant. If time is continual, then why do we feel like we can never get everything on our to-do lists completed in one day?
When you learn how to prioritize effectively you will notice that your tasks are getting completed at an alarming rate and you are gaining efficiency in what you’re doing. Learning how to prioritize doesn’t come naturally to most people, and even when it does it can be hard to stick with, but if you want to increase the time you are spending with friends and family instead of working in your business, its best to follow these tips!
Write down everything you must do today. Now, break it down even further into these simple categories.
Important and Urgent – These are tasks that MUST be done. Do them first.
Important but not Urgent – These are tasks that at first glance appear important, but after further analysis aren’t. Set yourself a future due date and tackle them at another time.
Urgent but not Important – These are tasks that affect clients or your service but have little to no value in the long term.
Not Urgent and not Important – These are tasks that give you the illusion that you are busy, only go to them when the rest of your list is complete.
After you have established the different tasks, write down your Important and Urgent tasks for the day and as you complete them check them off. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and when the day is done that’s what we all strive for!
This is something that bites a lot of business owners in the behind because they don’t plan for items or instances they know are coming. While you can’t always see the future, it is true that you know your business better than anyone and can anticipate needs. Always keep yourself organized with either an automated system (Trello, Asana, Dubsado) or a traditional calendar with due dates written right in.
The other aspect of planning ahead falls into your daily schedule. Before you leave at the end of each day, take fifteen or twenty minutes to write down all of the tasks that you would like to complete the next day keeping in mind the prioritizing tips from the section above. It allows you to decompress after a busy workday.
Keeping a list or memo on your phone is also a great resource. You might not always be at your desk when an idea or task strikes you, but there is a 99% chance you will have your phone on you or in very close proximity. That keeps you from forgetting important tasks and staying organized.
I know, I know, this is easier said than done. We live in a world that tries to distract us every few seconds. Whether it be with social media, your cell phone, a computer game, a customer or employee, chances are you get distracted many times during the day.
While sometime this can’t be helped or is part of the job. Write down every time you get distracted for one week. Note every time an employee comes and talks to you (work related or not), every time you answer a text message, get distracted by social media, or playing a game or app. After the week is over reflect and calculate the amount of time in a day you are losing to these distractions.
Once you have calculated the amount of time lost to distractions (trust me, it will be a lot) make it your goal for the next week to minimize all distractions that you can control. Turn off your cell phone when you’re in the office, close your office door to minimize employee interruptions, put social media blocker apps on your laptop, and see how much time you gain from these changes.
Track Your Time
Time tracking is a great way to figure out how much time you are spending on a certain task and how you can reduce this time and make yourself more efficient. There are many time trackers out there, but my favorite is Toggl. It allows you to specify each task you are doing and even categorize your tasks into sections and provide accurate reports.
Once you have established the amount of time spent on each task, come up with ways that you are able to make these tasks more efficient. Can you automate them using different systems? Can you delegate them to an employee? Are you waiting for information from another person? Will you get better with experience? Should you take a course to improve your skills? There are many ways to cut down the time you spend on these tasks, be sure to choose a method that is right for you.
After reading this article don’t expect to be a time-tracking productivity master overnight. It takes years of hard work and discipline. Even the best of us slip sometimes, but its so important to get back on the wagon and to not lose hope. We all get given the same amount of time in a day, how will you spend it?