Generally, time constraints occur in the following three most important areas for an entrepreneur:
- Critical decision-making for business
- Planning for growth
- Family and personal interests
Time management is a skill that a lot of us struggle with. Most of us plan for the day in the morning, but end up frustrated since we do so many other things during the day which were not planned for. Quite often, we do not even review our day! Busy business owners are just that: busy!
What kind of work is keeping you busy?
In business, one has to make a clear distinction between strategic and tactical work. Strategic work is the work you need to do to define the results you are there to produce. Tactical work is the work you do to produce the results strategic work has defined. When you think about your day, you really need to understand what percentage of your time you spend in each area. It is quite obvious that without strategy being well-defined, tactical work does not lead you anywhere. You need to understand and appreciate where the greater value for your business lies.
Even when you know that you need to focus on strategy, how do you carve out time in your day for strategic work when you are just trying to stay on top of the day-to-day fire-fighting routine? This is a question I hear all the time from my clients. It does not matter if you are a retail store owner, a small manufacturer or an IT set-up; everybody, it seems, is struggling against time.
It is very critical for SME owners to understand time management, with the clear intention of freeing themselves from routine work. In this process, you will start identifying accurately how much of your time is spent on productive activities that directly contribute to the results you want, and how much of your time is spent unproductively. This is a revealing process, and will help you identify areas for improvement very quickly.
Below are some of important tips on time management:
- Prioritise and stay focused: Evaluate your daily tasks and prioritise. Even if you can do nothing today, what are the one or two items that absolutely must be done?
- Delegate as much as you can: Let go of the idea that nobody can do what you do, the way you do it! With the right systems in place, you can properly delegate the routine work that takes away most of your time.
- Work on deadlines for yourself and your employees: Set reasonable deadlines for all jobs, and stick to them. Hold yourself accountable, just as you would an employee.
- Attend to critical tasks on priority: Those unpleasant but critical tasks that you put off can come back to haunt you in so many ways. A situation may become more acute with time.
- Learn to say no: Beware of over-commitment! You are the only one who can truly protect your time. Learn the art of saying no politely, but firmly. It may displease some in the beginning, but in the long term, all concerned will appreciate you for your behaviour.
Building a successful business requires the ability to see the big picture even while one is immersed in the details. There are hundreds of decisions and activities that require your attention; however, imagine the impact you can make if you can effectively establish priorities and focus your attention in a way that your everyday decision-making becomes aligned with your big-picture vision. Eliminate all those areas which unnecessarily keep you busy and take away your focus from strategic work.
CChaitanya Shah, SME – Financial & Growth Navigator. He can be reached email@example.com and +91-9322232039.