It’s not about having enough time, it’s about how you use the time you have. Most “time management” tips will tell you how to save some time. My view is different – when you know clearly what you should be doing and feel motivated by it… you’ll do it. Rather than trying to save time, focus on USING time in the most effective way and they greatly reduces the chances of you misusing minutes and hours on things.
So here are my top 5 tips to use your time most effectively:
1. Have a plan
Create a plan for the next five years, then for the coming year as part of it, and then for the next 90-days. If you don’t think you have time for this you should seriously question your commitment to running a successful business. This is a non-negotiable – you MUST have a plan. Everything else flows from the plan.
2. Schedule the goals for the next 90 days
In your 90-day plan you need to identify a few goals that will be completed. For a sole-trader this might be one or two big goals and for a company with lots of staff it might be five or ten goals, but I recommend having one main theme per quarter (eg lead generation, training, sales, cost reduction, recruitment, or whatever).
Allocate ownership of each goal to ONE person. Have that person create a calendarised plan containing a “what, when, who” breakdown of the tasks necessary to complete the goal. Agree milestones and review dates. Now here’s the most important point – put all the review dates and key actions into each person’s diary so that time to work on the projects is reserved ahead of time. Do this and you’ll be massively productive, fail to schedule the time and the goals will not be achieved and everyone will tell you “we didn’t have enough time”.
3. Follow-up and manage – top priority!
As the business owner or manager, recognise that your most valuable time will be spent following-up with everyone assigned to achieve goals. Schedule meetings early in each goal and then part way through and before the end. A common mistake is to say “do this in a month’s time” and then leave them to it. After a month you find they haven’t started or they went down the wrong track! Don’t leave it so long that you catch them failing – it’s your job to ensure they succeed.
4. Productivity = Knowledge x Skill x Motivation
Check that each of your assigned goal owners have the necessary knowledge. And also check that they’ve had the necessary practice and guidance to develop the right skills. Let me explain – you could read a book about brain surgery and work at understanding it, but the skill to actually perform it comes with guided practice. In the workplace, just because you’ve told someone what to do or even how to do it does not mean they will be able to do it!
Then comes motivation. If someone is assigned a task that they lack motivation to complete, or lose their motivation, there’s little chance it will be completed to deadline or with quality. Check at the outset and continually check on the motivation of the team leader and team. If you think you’re not very good at motivation… a vital business skill… there’s a great goal for next quarter – get good at it! Give yourself the role of CMO (Chief Motivation Officer).
5. Show Gratitude
Too many business owners and managers believe that their employees should be grateful that they have a job and almost never say thank you, let alone demonstrate gratitude in more imaginative ways. On the contrary – if they’re good team members you should consider yourself lucky to have them in your team and constantly show your gratitude. And if they’re not good team members – you either need to be better at recruiting or at training. Thank team members for arriving on time. Thank them for attending meetings on time. Thank them for completing projects even if they’re late (in which case you need to apologise for letting them down – no team will deliver late if you managed them well).
When you show genuine gratitude, you’ll definitely have a lot more to be genuinely grateful for.
So who’s stealing your time?
In case you hadn’t guessed, the uncomfortable answer to the question I posed at the start is that no one is stealing your time. The reality is that you’re giving it away. Focus on the important goals and let everything else be squeezed out.