As much as it’s in an entrepreneur’s nature to want to do everything themselves, learning to let go of certain time-consuming activities is critical to taking back control of your schedule and staying ahead of the curve. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to stay laser-focused on the bottom line.
The upside is that in the era of big data and analytics, virtually everything is measurable — including productivity. If you’re strapped for resources, learn how to drill down to the essentials by figuring out how to focus your energy to make the greatest impact.
Time Management Essentials
With only 24 hours in any given day, and countless tasks to tackle, volumes have been written about how to regain command of your schedule. As a business owner, it’s important to know where your time is spent, how much of an impact your actions are having on your organization and whether there’s room for streamlining and optimization. A brief look at important points to remember here that can help you determine where to focus include:
- The need to set fixed office hours during which others can contact you, block off times during which you can’t be disturbed and educate colleagues on which contact methods you prefer them to utilize when reaching out.
- Leaving room for white space, or empty hours in your schedule for deep thought and focused effort.
- Waking up early, before most of the world, and using these wee hours (5 a.m. – 8 a.m. daily) to devote time to important initiatives or personal needs such as meditation and exercise.
- Focusing on completing hard tasks before ticking smaller items off your to-do list, in order to ensure that you’re getting the most of out each day and staying on time and on budget.
- Regularly stopping to chart business goals and milestones and keeping and reviewing a workplace diary that can help you determine where you spend your time — and if it’s really going towards achieving meaningful objectives.
As a general rule, if a task does not directly impact the bottom line or help you in your efforts to achieve long-term goals, remove it from your schedule. If a job can be done a minimum of 70% as effectively as you’d do it yourself, and it’s a non-essential effort (or a need that involves little interaction with customers), outsource it.
Likewise, with the rise of technology and online automation, more repetitive and time-consuming tools and tasks (data entry, research analysis, content management, payroll, etc.) can now be offloaded to artificially intelligent apps and tools. Keep in mind that millions of small-business owners face similar challenges as you do. Rather than assume it’s necessary for you to perform a task personally, always look and see if you can quickly delegate it to a digital stand-in.
Activities to Focus On
As a business owner, try to remember that your role isn’t to micromanage. It’s to be an effective team captain and empower employees to do their jobs while leaving them ample room to run with productive new ideas and concepts. That said, there are several activities that executives and entrepreneurs should always stay on top of, such as:
- Brainstorming business opportunities
- Planning new products, services and concepts
- Mentoring and managing employees
- Driving financial results
- Keeping cash flow solvent
- Bringing business in the door
- Plotting organizational strategy
- Staying attuned to customer needs
- Building strategic partnerships
- Reviewing and refining tactical approaches
The key to knowing where to focus your efforts is to determine which activities create the highest value (both in terms of actual dollar value and springboards to opportunity) for your business. You can do this by asking yourself three simple questions:
- Is engaging in this activity bringing me one or more steps closer to completing a major task or goal?
- How does performing this activity help me boost the bottom line and/or create additional opportunities for my organization?
- What resources, insights and capabilities does my business gain from pursuing this effort, and how adaptable are they to helping our organization meet other needs or demands?
Once you’ve identified high-value activities, try to commit to accomplishing one to three each day. You can then strive to schedule your working hours in such a way so as to emphasize getting related tasks done first. While it’s not always possible for a busy small-business owner to accomplish these tasks in the wake of everyday happenings and unexpected events, it’s important to keep them in focus. Doing so can help you stay more on-target and motivated as you work to achieve big-picture objectives.
As a general rule, if a task does not directly impact the bottom line, or help you in your efforts to achieve long-term goals, remove it from your schedule.
As you consider new initiatives, make sure you get the most out of them by asking yourself three more questions:
- Financial gains aside, how can you always ensure that you’re finding ways to win from every opportunity that you elect to pursue?
- What level of flexibility can you create for your business by pursuing specific tasks — and just how readily can you repurpose tools, technologies and insights gained from completing them in new and novel ways, or use them to quickly pivot to new opportunities?
- How successfully and rapidly can resources and learnings garnered from your efforts in any given area translate to other contexts, industries or areas of business opportunity?
The more you ask yourself these questions, the more productive as a business owner that you’ll be.
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