Time: we all get the same 24 hours each day. It’s up to us to organize ourselves to make the best of those hours. As the new year starts, we at SCORE know that time management is one of the challenges that small business owners face. Like, how do we run our businesses, do marketing, AND accounting by ourselves or with limited staff? It all starts with learning how to manage our time effectively. One of our SCORE Mentors, Allan Himmelstein, has graciously taken one of his presentations and converted it into an article for us. As he wrote, “Even time management experts can improve.” In that light, we hope this will help you make some New Years Resolutions that you actually keep and help you run your businesses more efficiently. Enjoy!
There are so many distractions today with cell phones, social media, email, and texts, that it has made time management increasingly difficult. Additionally, the idea of multi-tasking is a myth. Moreover, every time you are interrupted, it can take up to 20 minutes to get back to the original task at hand. Focus is key.
What are some of your main obstacles?
- Our inability to say NO is first and foremost. Saying “NO” is a learned skill. There is a certain fear in saying “NO”. Many employees are afraid to say “NO”, so consequently they take on too much. Or, they allow situations to take over rather than them controlling the situation.
- How many times per day do you check your cell phone and how much time does it take? I read some statistic that said the average person opens their cell phone 100 times per day. Is that necessary?
- Avoiding tasks that you really don’t want to do but must do.
- NOT delegating, especially when you are doing tasks that you like to do but can be done by someone else.
- NOT using technology to its fullest. The average app like Outlook is only used to 5% of its potential.
- NOT setting appointments with yourself, and consequently allowing interruptions.
- Having a messy desk, and consequently looking for that missing piece of paper or even a missing e-mail. (Editor’s Note: If it takes me more than 5 minutes to find something, I’m disorganized and need to take some time to get organized.)
- NOT prioritizing your tasks and what is most important to get done.
There are many ways to overcome these issues. However, you must commit yourself to them.
Steps to Getting Organized
- For two or three days, make a list of all your activities and the amount of time you spend on each. Also rate them in order of importance. You may find that you spend an inordinate amount of time in areas that are not so important, but easier to do.
- Put your cell phone on vibrate (or “do not disturb”), and leave it another room, so you can focus at the task before you. Set specific times of the day when you will open your cell phone and e-mails. In general, push yourself to open a maximum of 4 times a day.
- Set an appointment with yourself to do the bigger tasks, and break them up into smaller units. You don’t have to do the whole thing at once. It's like having a garden. You may plant one day, weed the next, and then fertilize the third day.
- Before you start your day, have a TO DO list and prioritize each item by A, B, or C. The A’s must be done, the B’s can probably wait a day, and the C’s are just not that important.
- Many times we think it is easier to email or text than have a conversation. However, communications are frequently misunderstood when using texts and emails which lead to endless email trails or texts.
- Set up email rules in your email program, which automatically file and move messages into folders so you can address them later.
- Look to automate repetitive tasks using App tools. Pick a software program (i.e. Outlook) that you are already using and discover at least two new things it can do for you.
- Take a class, watch a tutorial, or invest in teaching programs to learn how to get the most out of these apps that can save you time and trouble.
- Create form email responses in a text file for messages that you send regularly. Just copy and paste when you need it and edit as necessary.
I hope these help you get you better organized to start the new year with clear picture of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
And don’t forget that a SCORE mentor can help you streamline, plan, and guide you where you want to go — for FREE!