There are many ways to address time theft and refine your time management strategies. Through a solid understanding of how you currently spend – and waste – time, you can determine which strategies you need to implement to correct unproductive behaviour.
Here are the final set of 9 ways in which you can turn less of your time into more money:
1. Keep Your Filing System Organised
If your data isn’t organised properly, you will waste hundreds of hours searching for documents you need on a regular basis. This includes both electronic and hard copy files; they need to be organised and upto date.
Customer databases and enquiry records are worth their weight in gold. You can’t afford to get behind when updating this information, or poorly store it for later retrieval. There are many easy to use software programmes that will manage and organise customer databases for you; it doesn’t need to be a time consuming or tedious exercise.
A simple way to manage information is to keep it in short, medium, and long term files for both hard and electronic copies. Create shortcuts on your desktop for folders or files you constantly access. Have short-term files available on your desk, medium-term files available within an arm’s reach, and long-term files stored in cabinets.
2. Clearly Communicate – Never Assume
One of the biggest issues for time management in business – and likely the world – is miscommunication. This is a dangerous issue that can cripple any business, including yours. Establishing and enforcing clear policies on things like accurate notetaking, task assignments, and phone messages will ensure the people you deal with understand the importance of clear and accurate communication.
The easiest habit tostart tocurb miscommunication is simple: write everything down. Carry a notepad, and jot down key points, figures, agreements and deadlines. Don’t assume you’ll remember later – you have at least a hundred other things to remember.
Some other simple strategies are:
- Return all communication promptly, including email, letters, faxes and phone calls
- Repeat back phone messages, phone numbers and other figures to confirm you recorded the information correctly.
- Record appointments in your mobile or diary the moment you make them. Otherwise, you will forget.
- Double check and confirm everything – addresses, phone numbers, meeting locations and times.
- Maintain accurate customer contact logs with dates, times, and phone numbers.
- Post checklists in your office for routine operations procedures.
- Announce any changes tothe policies and procedures manual immediately.
3. Stop Duplicating Efforts
This is a key element of time management that is closely related toeffective communication. Studies have continually shown that many businesses often duplicate and triplicate efforts that need only be completed once.
When you have clear systems and procedures in place, your people will not need to “reinvent the wheel” each time the task needs to be completed. Meeting minutes and individual task assignments will ensure everyone is on the same page and understands their personal responsibilities.
Simple examples of this include re-reading your to-do list each hour to determine what is the next important item. If your list is already structured by priority, this is a needless task. If two employees are working on similar projects, but unaware of the other, the work will not only be inconsistent, but the efforts will be duplicated. These are easy problems to fix, once they have been identified and communicated.
4. Say Goodbye to Procrastination + Perfectionism
Procrastination is something we all face at one time or another – and likely have since our school days. However, given the pace that the world operates at today, you will only fall behind your competitor if you allow procrastination to rule your day. So how do you avoid it? It’s simple. Stop, and just get started, no matter how boring, tedious, or painful the project may be. Reward yourself by crossing each step off your to-do list.
Many small business owners also fall victim to perfectionism, which can be paralysing. The fear that there isn’t enough time or resources to “get it perfect” will sometimes stop you dead in your tracks. Perfectionism can also hinder your ability to delegate and say no to tasks you believe no one else can complete “better”. Do the best you can with the time and resources you have – and just get started.
5. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan
Have you ever placed an advertisement on the fly because it was “cheaper”, “faster”, or “more urgent” than creating a marketing plan? Do you and your people have a clear idea of where your business is headed over the next six to 12 months, or five years?
Many studies show that less than 10% of small businesses have up todate marketing and business plans, as compared tothe majority of large companies and public companies, which have both.
Marketing and business plans take time and effort to create – but they work, and pay off in spades. They also save you time and money as compared to a haphazard strategy.
With a marketing plan in place, you will have an idea of how many ads you will be placing in a year, which will earn you a volume discount. Your marketing materials will complement each other, and deliver the same message to the same target audience. Designers will charge less for a package of collateral than for individual collateral items.
A business plan will provide you with a guide to reference when making decisions. You can repeatedly ask if the endeavour at hand will contribute to your overall vision, or just seems like a good idea or price.
Remember that planning includes both short and long-term time frames, and applies to both your daily to-do list, and your marketing budget. It provides you with a means to measure your progress, assists in identifying priorities, and helps to manage your time.
6. Avoid Needless, Impromptu and Unstructured Meetings
This may seem like a time theft issue that is out of your control, but it’s not. You are in control of your own time, and through strict scheduling can establish a structure for internal and external meetings that everyone around you can work within.
Minimise impromptu internal meetings by letting your people know when you’re available for a “quick chat” and when you are not. If it is important, ask them to schedule a time to meet with you that works with both of your schedules. This not only saves you time, but encourages your people to find solutions to their own issues, and only approach you with more urgent or challenging matters.
You can’t avoid having meetings, but you can avoid having unstructured meetings. Ask for or create an agenda for each meeting you attend, with a clear objective and an amount of time allocated to each item. This will keep your meetings focused and on task. If a meeting does run late, give yourself a reasonable buffer, and politely leave for your next appointment. You can always follow up with a colleague to catch-up on the pertinent items you may have missed.
7. Establish Clear Policies + Procedures
A clear policy and procedures manual is like a marketing or business plan – it takes time to create, but ultimately saves everyone in your company time, money and effort. A step-by-step guide to “the way we do things here” is an invaluable resource for your existing and new staff, and provides clear expectations for how you like things done.
Too many businesses make up policies and procedures on the fly – creating dangerous scenarios where mistakes are made and expectations are not clear.
Some items that should be included in a comprehensive policy and procedures manual include:
- Customer relations
- Customer enquiries
- Customer complaints
- Late Payments
- Salary structure
- Bonus structure
- Employee review
8. Keep the Right Set of Tools
The equipment your business needs to operate (and grow!) effectively should always be on hand, or easily contracted out. This is specific to each company, and closely related to costs – including the cost of your time.
Whether you are a high-tech business or local retailer, knowledge of the latest advancements in technology will increase your efficiency. It will help you stay on top of the competitor, maintain your position as an expert, and perhaps provide an easier way of getting things done.
Always ask yourself if these purchases are essential to your business – could perhaps make these purchases from a second hand dealer to minimise cost? Is it more cost effective to outsource or sub-contract the tasks to someone with access to this equipment, or to buy the equipment yourself?
If your business relies on tools and technology for daily tasks then obtaining the best quality you can afford is crucial.
9. Maintain Your Equipment
This may seem obvious, but you’ll understand the importance if your network server has ever crashed, or point of sale system has malfunctioned. Your business can be slowed to a
stand-still if your equipment is not in good working order. Of course there are instances that can’t be predicted, but regular maintenance of your essential equipment will reduce these occurrences and help to anticipate when old equipment needs to be repaired or replaced.