Time Management for Small Business Time Management is really a bit of a myth because time is essentially fixed. Time is a finite resource. We all have exactly the same number of hours in the day and days in the week. When it comes to time management what we are really trying to achieve is task management. So, what can we achieve in the in the 1440 minutes we have a day? When expressed in minutes this sounds an awfully long time doesn’t it. If you think about the amazing things that you can actually do in in a single minute, for example sending a thank you note email to a client, phone a business associate to arrange a one-to-one meeting or on a personal note make yourself a cup of coffee. “My favourite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time” – Steve Jobs What is Time Management A dictionary definition: “the analysis of how working hours are spent on the prioritisation of tasks in order to maximise personal efficiency in the workplace” The aim for most people who run a service based small business is to minimise the amount of time spent on ‘winning the work’ and ‘admin tasks’ versus ‘doing the work’ or ‘revenue generating’. Our goal is to reduce the non-revenue generating time and increase the time spent on client work. Evidence suggests that if you are unable to make a decent living working on client work for 60% of the week then your prices are too low. Frequently we underestimate the amount of time we need to allocate to admin tasks, marketing, accounting and a contingency for the unexpected overruns and activities which we hadn’t accounted for. Time Management is all about working smarter not harder for better productivity. We all have the same 24 hours in the day so why is it that some people achieve much more than others? The answer is simply good time management. We need to shift the focus towards results and away from activities, concentrating on what is effective and efficient and avoiding being busy for the sake of it. Why is Time Management important to Small Businesses? Great work-life balance is a common goal many aspire to, but find difficult to achieve, particularly when you work from home and have family responsibilities. If you are working part time in order to look after children before and after school, then your working day is going to be significantly shorter than if you are in a traditional corporate job. It might mean that you have to split your day into several parts. I know that some people manage to get up before the children, do an hour before breakfast and equally put in several hours in the evening, which takes great discipline and drive. Having control over how you allocate your time is cited as one of the main reasons that people leave the corporate 9-to-5, however because many of our small business clients are still tied to traditional working hours, it is challenging to buck the trend and work when you have the time, rather than when you feel you should be working. One thing you do have control over is shifting the number of the hours you work on non-revenue work to revenue generating work. If you charge £50 an hour then every extra hour you shift away from non-revenue generating work towards chargeable client work, makes a huge difference to your revenue. Move 10 hours a week and that’s an additional £500 added to your revenue, over the course of the month this is £2000 or £24,000 a year. So, you can see that simply moving 10 hours a week makes a huge difference to your income. The shift isn’t something that can be achieved overnight but it is something that can be planned for and worked towards. So why is it that we hear everyone say they’re so busy all of the time? Time management isn’t just about the working week. With a total of 168 hours in a week, if we take away the average recommended eight hours sleep a night, that leaves 112 hours, deduct 35 hours a week working, and we are left with 77 hours a week. 11 hours a day so-called free time, time to spend with family and friends, on daily chores and personal interest – allowing time for doing nothing! Time is the only finite resource. When it comes to running a small business, I like to think about the two limited resources of time and money. Sometimes we can find more money by borrowing it, being more economical or raising prices. The only way to expand our time is to use it more effectively or use money to buy in help (outsource) and therefore gain more time. Targets for Small Business ‘What gets measured, gets done.’ – The simple act of physically recording a goal and putting a target on it acts as motivation to achieve it. In my experience of running small businesses there are actually very few figures you need to keep an eye on to determine whether you will hit your goal for the year. It’s actually monitoring them and shifting your effort when things aren’t going to plan that’s the most important thing. If you are a consultant, coach, freelancer or solopreneur a business plan can be a simple one-page document. The kind of figures you need to monitor are your sales, cost of sales, gross profit, expenses, pre-tax profit. In addition to the numbers in your simple business plan you may also have targets for, number of clients, number of products, average sales order value, marketing costs, operational costs. So how do you focus on the revenue generating as opposed to the non-revenue generating. SMART Goals for Small Business Any goals you create should conform to the SMART principle and be: Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time Bound When it comes to analysing time, simply remember that every goal needs a plan, every plan is a set of processes or actions, and every process takes time. Being productive is about managing tasks or actions to work smarter not harder, always focus on the end result or goal. Time Management Targets for Small Business Time management targets are particularly important if you have family commitments especially if you look after children. It’s unrealistic to set yourself the same business targets for someone who works in the corporate nine till five; or has no caring possibilities. Research shows that working long hours isn’t necessarily productive. So, if your working day extends long into the evening on a regular basis, it’s time to set some targets and put some time management practice in place. A time management target might be that you want to save 10 hours a week reducing your work schedule from 45 to 35 hours over the next 10 weeks. If you set this goal, then it complies with the SMART principles of goal-setting: It’s specific and measurable – saving 10 hours It’s achievable – 10 hours out of 168 shouldn’t be too challenging It’s time bound – 10 weeks 10 hours a week over a period of 10 weeks is just a shift in behaviour of 1 hour a week. How many hours did you work this week? Information is King for Small Businesses In order to meet our time management target, we need to carry out a time audit. Over the next week use a calendar with half hour intervals marked on it, to monitor and record all your task both work-related, and personal. It’s just like filling in a food diary for a dietician but being truthful with yourself. At the end of the week or better still a fortnight you’ll have a picture of exactly how you spend your time so when it comes to making adjustments to how you spend your time, they’ll be no guesswork. Once you have completed your time audit, calculate the following: Total number of hours worked Total number of hours spent on client work that is revenue generating (invoiceable) Total number of hours spent on non-revenue generating work such as, marketing, accounts, IT, admin etc. Now ask yourself how much additional revenue you would make a week by switching 10 hours from non-revenue to revenue generating work in other words the aim is to shift our focus towards doing the work rather than winning the work and admin time For example, if a time audit showed you work 45 hours a week and that 50% is spent on revenue generating work i.e. 22 ½ hours. Increase the percentage of revenue generating work to 60% per week (27 hours) If your hourly rate is £75, revenue increases by £337.50 per week. That’s an increase of over £15,000 per year! Small Business Mindset Many small businesses suffer from an unproductive mindset which includes a lack of vision, weak processes and poor habits. We discussed the vision in the section on targets by demonstrating the importance of having written goals. Weak processes arise when we have no plan or schedule, and even if you have great processes they can be sabotaged by poor habits. The main poor habits include, lack of focus, being easily distracted, perfectionism multitasking, procrastination and overcommitting. Here are some practical advice tips for a productive mindset.
- Reflect on and plan your day.
- Reduce decision-making to what matters by using the 80/20 rule.
- Work with others. Collaboration and positive peer pressure really help’s with motivation and sticking to a set of tasks throughout the day. You’re less likely to be distracted and be more focused on what needs to be done.
- Get an accountability partner. Join a business incubator, or pair up with another small business owner and hold each other accountable for your SMART goals, your projects are less likely to slip.
Small Business Efficiency Reorganising your ‘to do list’ into a workable document can be very helpful. List the task and then assign two labels to each task – whether they are urgent or non-urgent and whether they are important or unimportant Collate the tasks into four groups:
- to do first – important and urgent
- to do later – non-urgent and important
- to delegate – urgent and unimportant
- to eliminate – unimportant and non-urgent
Examples: A report for a client by the end of the day is important & urgent To register on a training course to learn a new skill is important & non-urgent Buying a ticket for a conference by deadline is urgent but less important so could be outsourced (delegated) to a virtual assistant. You are less likely to have listed eliminate activities, but, beware of them creeping into your daily schedule e.g. the social media rabbit hole! Time Management for Small Business Summary Our time management goal is to reduce the non-revenue generating time and increase the time spent on client work thereby increasing income without working more hours. Go back to your targets and ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have the information you need to hit the targets you set yourself for time-saving?
- What resources do you need to achieve your target?
- What changes do you need to make to have the right mindset?
- What impact will better time management have on your revenue and your work life balance?
Whilst you may wish to shift your time towards revenue generating work, you may also want to spend more time with your family and improve your personal life by having time to pursue a new interest. Saving 10 hours a week is totally achievable. Good luck! 12 Tips for Small Business Time Management
- Use paper or a software-based schedule for planning
- Organise your workspace
- Breakdown large tasks into small tasks
- Batch similar tasks together
- Start with the outcome – reverse engineer
- Add time in between planned tasks – it always takes longer!
- Have a contingency plan
- Allow for the unplanned
- Learn to say ‘no’ or ‘not at the moment’
- Outsource to a Virtual Assistant
- Reduce social media time
- Turn off notifications
Small Business Software for more effectively managing your business – small-business-software.co.uk