Time is precious and never more so when it comes to your business. Whether you are sole trader or running a much larger enterprise, managing time, productivity and desired outcomes can seem like an impossible juggling act. In this post we look at the fundamentals of time management in business and how you can make it work effectively.
The Impact of Time on Business
Much has already been written – and will continue to be written – about time and its use in any business endeavor. Problems occur when time is seen as an end in itself and not just a resource, albeit a very important resource.
Not the least cause of this misunderstanding is the fact that most workers at all levels in the full gamut of organizations from heavy industry to financial services tend to be remunerated on the basis of time – through hourly or annual rates.
But it has to be said that mere attendance has never made a dimesworth of profit for anyone and that these pay-for-time arrangements owe more to convenience than reality.
Everyone – not just those on rates relating to piecework or sales – is really being paid for the outcomes of their activities. The difficulty here is that time is easy to measure and monitor whereas accounting for outcomes – especially those associated with individuals – can be a much more complex and nebulous matter.
As a result many managers devote their attention to the attendance and visible efforts of their people rather than the outcomes of what they do.
The Effect of Personal Time Management
The cornerstone of your personal time management therefore is to understand fully the outcomes required from your own job and by extension, those of your people. They will have much, if not everything, to do with what you do for your customers.
We’re talking here about the very purpose of your job. Can you express these requirements in measurable terms? If not, how can you know whether you’re succeeding?
There are four elements that make up customer needs: quality, quantity, delivery, and price.
Ideally, given the option, most customers would go for perfect, now and free as their preferred arrangement. However, providers of goods and services are subject to the constraints of resource availability and costs, business overheads, and time constraints relating to production and delivery. Any agreed compromises will also allow for a necessary margin for profit.
These requirements, expressed in measurable terms are the basis of sound time management.
A Quick Time Management Exercise
Start with a blank pad and pencil (or your electronic equivalent of choice) and make a to do list of all your forthcoming anticipated activities. Now review the list and assign priority to those items that contribute most towards the purpose of your job.
The most important of these will be number one and so on and will not only attract you early attention but also large chunks of time. Less important things may also command a high priority in terms of early action due, for instance, to associated deadlines which impart a level of urgency, but clear them in as little time as possible.
Your list will now consist of activities falling broadly into four categories:
Now schedule your activities into your diary paying particular attention to priority and time allocation. Carry out the tasks and review the results regularly to improve your scheduling skills and to learn from variances in actual versus planned outcomes whether any operating problems have been highlighted.
How’s your time management? We’d love to hear about your success and failures, tips, tricks and techniques you employ. Leave a comment below and let us know.