As a business owner, you need to effectively manage people, finances, sales, and all of the responsibilities of the business. But at the end of the day, it’s your time that typically goes unmanaged. Most business consultants agree that if you’re not in control of your time, then you are probably not in complete control of your business. In fact, under these circumstances, the business may be controlling you, which is not conducive to sustained business growth.
We’ve all learned time management skills at one time or another during our business lives, however, their application in a small business setting are tested well beyond the capacity of most people. Time management needs to be more than applying a skill or developing a habit; it needs to be tactical, with a true business objective, detailed action steps, tracking, accountability and evaluation.
Assess Your Strength and Weaknesses
Effective time management begins with a complete understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. A time management plan needs to capitalize on your strengths, which may include certain management functions, business development, strategy or other operational aspects of the business. Weaknesses might include delegation, prioritization, financial management, administrative details.
Prioritize Your Business Functions
Compile a complete list of the functions that are performed in the business broken down by frequency – daily, weekly, etc. Then sort these function by their priority beginning with essential functions and non-essential functions. Essential functions are those that can only be performed by you or a key person in the business. Non-essential functions can be performed by any person given the proper training.
Align Essential Functions With Your Strengths and Opportunities
As the business leader, your time must be spent exclusively with essential functions. Ideally, you will only undertake functions for which you are strongly suited or are keys to business opportunities. Then list those essential functions for which you have little propensity. Outsource or hire for these activities so you do not spend an inordinate amount of time on them.
Color Coordinate Your Calendar
Map out your business week with all functions, essential and non-essential. Then apply a color code of green, yellow and red to the functions. For example, activities that generate revenue are coded green. Activities that don’t directly result in revenue but are important in advancing business goals are coded yellow. Activities that neither generate revenue nor advance key business goals are coded red. Most non-essential functions should be coded red.
Delegate all Non-Essential Functions
A business owner should not be working in the red, only in the green and sometimes in the yellow. While this may be easier said than done, the number one time killer for business owners is any time that is spent on non-essential functions. Most of these can be performed by a part-time employee or a virtual assistant. If it takes some time and expense to train someone to perform the function, the investment will pay off quickly and with big returns when you’re time is freed up for green and yellow activities.
Outsource Your Weaknesses
Trying to perform essential functions that are not your strength could actually hurt your business. They can cost you and your business time and money especially if they take excess time to perform because they aren’t an area of competence or if they are performed inadequately. As examples, marketing, legal, financial, and human resources are all essential functions; however, they can also all be performed on an outsourced basis. And, because contracted individuals doing specific projects are usually paid for performance the business can often save money.
Time management for business owners is not about habits or skills — it’s about taking a tactical approach to organizing, prioritizing and delegating business functions that result in the business owner having the time to work on the business, not just in the business.