7 Time Management Tips for Small Business

1. Know when you are Productive vs Unproductive?

How can you be sure when you are productive or unproductive? It’s easy to identify when you are personally productive.  It feels good.  Things run smoothly, you are responsive, motivated, pumped.  You have brain power, a clear mind and you know exactly what to do and when to do it.  However, indicators that you are lacking in productivity are not always obvious.  Stress is the most obvious but it can also be things like absent-mindedness, procrastination or distractions, email that dominates your time, being behind schedule or increased conflicts.

A productive team has little conflict, is motivated and works cohesively to a common goal.  Round pegs are definitely in round holes with the team working very much with their strengths and solving the weaknesses.  Most importantly a team will have simple and clear systems of operation.  Additionally they are lead, not managed, which means they are more autonomous rather than foot soldiers.  Where, by contrast, an unproductive team will have dominant personalities that rule or dictate.  Conflicts are common, communications are weak and resource is constantly wasted.

  • Be really clear and realistic about what your timeframes are and when you want to achieve.
  • Where do conflicts occur?  When are they occurring with your team, your clients or your suppliers?  This can be an indication of where you have productivity sink holes.
  • Do you have a clear process and procedure?  Have you identified what your quality management systems are?
  • What does your space look like?  Is the clutter around you taking up energy?

2. Identify Where You Procrastinate and Why.

When I ask people what procrastination is, they tend to respond with what they procrastinate with. “Facebook!” they call.  Or they’ll say, “Putting things off until later!” They’ll say.  The truth is, we’ll always do first,  the things that give us the greatest pleasure, the greatest reward.  Something that is hard or difficult, we’ll put off.  Typically, something that is hard is something that is unclear.  The action steps and process need attention.

  • What is it you value most and what is it you value least.  The thing you value most will always take precedent and the thing you value least you’ll put off until later.
  • Take projects off your “To Do List” and break them down into clear actionable steps.

3. Identify your Time Management Style.

When you can identify what your personality type is, you will have a clear picture of what you can achieve quickly, what you’re good at.  Likewise, you can learn where you waste too much time or get distracted.  For example, I am a detail orientated person.  I love detail.  Give me a database and I’ll succeed.  However, I can get lost in the detail.  Sometimes, I can spend too much time making sure everything is perfect when it doesn’t need to be.   Now, imagine for a moment, you’re working with someone like me.   You’ve assigned me a task with what you think is a simple outcome or result.  As your team member, employee, client (whichever) I may put off on giving you the outcome because you haven’t given me enough detail to complete it.  Do you want it black or white?  Does it need to be up, down or sideways?

  • Take a personality test to identify what your hidden strengths & weaknesses are to find out what your dominant traits are.
  • Learn how to work with your colleagues, clients, contractors and family around their time manage style.
  • Establish what personality traits will cause you to get distracted.

4. Simplify Your Organisation Methods

The key to being organised is to simplify the process. The easier it is, the more likely you (and others) will adopt it.   How much time do you spend looking for things, whether it be physical things such as a pair of scissors or a digital file you’ve saved somewhere.

  • Find simple systems to streamline everything you have to deal with on a daily basis, not just work but your family life, social life, sports, hobbies etc.
  • Learn how to automate your processes as much as possible
  • Schedule everything!  Even the low priority stuff.  That way you’ll never forget it and it won’t occupy your brain power.

5. Take Control of Your Email

Gone are the days of faxes, memos and even standard mail.  These days, people tend to project manage via email.  We receive general instruction or important information in the same way we receive newsletters or links to cat videos!  How do you prioritise this?  How do you sort and clear this on a daily basis.  The average person spends up to 2 hours a day processing their email.  Adopting systems of automation for filing, prioritising and categorises emails and tasks can give you back this 2 hours a day.  That’s typically 40 hours a month you could give yourself an extra week in your month at that rate.

  • Automate your prioritisation of emails to focus on important people
  • Turn off the email alert that pops up for every email.  It’s a distraction. Set alerts for the important people
  • Use the rules function (or labels function in Gmail) to autofile your emails.
  • Utilise tools as Quick steps to create repeat actions with one button.

6. Equip Yourself with Tools

What systems do you use to manage your paper?  Try researching methodology around note taking.  What mapping tools do you use to map out your project?  I know lots of people that use post-it notes and a blank wall.  Is your filing systems simple? If you have a massive In tray on your desk (or in your email) then the answer is probably no.

These days people are using popular tools such as Evernote, OneNote to replace traditional methods of collecting paper, notes or information and to keep everything at hand on the go.

  • Follow Lifehack websites and blogs.
  • Utilise time saving tools such as Hootsuite or Postplanner to manage your social media marketing.
  • Use free online project management tools such as Trello or Wunderlist.
  • Track your time using an online tool such as Toggl.com.

 7. Simplify Your System for Success & Growth

The stronger your systems and processes are, the more productive you will become.  When you have a clear process to follow, you’ll find the steps easier to follow.  More importantly, as your business grows, you will be easily able to delegate to contractors, vendors or new employees.

  • Your business policies set you apart from your competitors.  They can also come from your vision or mission statement.  Policies are your “Why” we do this.
  • Procedures are the step by step methods you have for how things are done, or you’d like things to be done if you’re delegating to another.  Procedures are your “How”.
  • Ensure you have a system to regularly review your procedures for refinement or updating.
  • Ensure you have considered your procedures around OH &S, complaints and quality improvement.

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About the Author:

Barbara Clifford is a Productivity & Time Management Expert based in Brisbane, Australia.  She has spent over 20 years working in time precious industries such as film, hospitality and marketing.  She has always had a burning passion to create order out of chaos. Seeking knowledge around systems, processes, gadgets, apps and stationary for whatever will organise the working world.  Barbara is sought after like a beacon in a sea of chaos to provide professional clarity in the business environment and to simply GET THINGS ORGANISED! From gay Bars in Melbourne to remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia, from Not-for-Profits to alternatives in aged care, Barbara has a diverse career with rich and dynamic experiences. For more information visit www.timetamer.com.au