Of all the resources available to business leaders, none is more finite than time. No one needs reminding there are only 24 hours in a day, but many entrepreneurs and business owners still act as if somehow they'll find more hours stashed away in a corner somewhere. In the end, mismanaging their time can lead to unresolved business issues and a continual sense of frustration over time wasted or misspent.
It doesn't have to be that way. By employing a few effective time management techniques, you could find reservoirs of time you didn't think existed and you may achieve more than you did in the past. Look over these time-saving tips and consider applying them to your professional (and personal) schedule in 2017:
1. Get comfortable saying no. As your business grows, there can be ever-more demands on your time from employees, customers, vendors, and others. In some cases, it's best to take on some of these demands, but for many situations, an effective strategy is simply saying no. It could be difficult to meet with everyone who wants a chunk of your time, attend every meeting, business lunch, or networking event. Yes, it's difficult to say no "because you want to pay it forward," notes business advisor Bill Trenchard. "So many people have helped you. You want to do the same. But you have to draw the line somewhere."
2. Exert discipline with your calendar. Left to haphazard management, your calendar could quickly fill with time-sapping activities that may have little to do with moving the business forward. Taking a more disciplined approach can help alleviate this problem. Speaker and columnist, Ariana Ayu, offers these helpful action steps:
- Schedule key items that must be done into your calendar. Don't let people fill your schedule for you.
- Block off chunks of time to devote to a specific activity or function.
- Move non-critical social media activity to the end of your day.
- If a particular activity stalls your forward progress, move on or ask for assistance.
3. Set new guidelines for business meetings. Few activities consume more precious time than business meetings. According to a study by Bain & Company, senior executives commit to more than two days every week to meetings with three or more employees or coworkers. Any meeting "that starts just five minutes late costs a company eight percent of that meeting," resulting in "a loss that would be untenable in any other resource category."
To save time, establish new guidelines for meetings in your business (or at least for you personally). Don't hold a meeting if communication via phone or email will get the job done. Let others take a meeting where you don't have to attend. When meetings are necessary, "sticking to an agreed-upon agenda, keeping attendees focused on the topic at hand, and standing up are methods to keep meetings efficient and effective." (And less time-consuming.)
4. Eliminate distractions and interruptions. Business owners are human, which means they're as susceptible to distractions and interruptions as everyone else. Chief distractions include phone calls and email that don't have to be handled immediately, non-essential Facebook and Twitter usage, becoming immersed in endless back-and-forth texting, etc.
Interruptions include welcoming anyone who knocks on your door or allowing yourself to get drawn into a casual conversation with someone while on the way to the bathroom or getting a cup of coffee. (There are more appropriate times to engage in these types of interactions than when you're pressed for time.) Again, discipline is the driving force behind making this big change in your routine.
The New Year is a great time to restructure your time and reduce time-wasting activities that generate no ROI. By making effective time management techniques part of your new routine, you'll likely move to a new level of efficiency and productivity in the year to come.