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Too much to do, too little time? If that’s the story of your life right now as you run a small business, then you need to make important changes. Changes that may help your sanity, your relationships, and your business’s bottom line.
Does this sound like you?
Owners of small companies often find themselves so engrossed that business becomes all consuming. That’s understandable: It happened to me too. But when this carries on for months, it’s unhealthy.
Time is a limited resource — something we can never get back. If the work / life balance breaks down, that creates a spiral of stress and lack of sleep. This can impact your personal relationships, self-confidence, and business judgement. And any time off is no longer ‘quality time’. Rather, it’s time spent worrying.
If this is happening to you right now, then it’s time to reset the clock — and take back time.
You cannot fix everything in life by following the ground rules I’m about to suggest … but you can bring order to the chaos and make the best use of every hour.
10 ground rules for smarter time management
Rule #1: Take a super-hero reality check
You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman, even if you look great in tights. There’s a limited number of things you can do in one day — even if you get up at 6am and work until 10pm. But crazy hours should be the exception, not the rule. Work regular hours and just accept that sometimes you can’t fit in everything. Get over it!
Rule #2: Focus on your business goals
Have a business plan and keep it up to date. Then translate this into operational objectives for each month. This will help to keep your activities on track while giving you focus and believe that your business is getting somewhere.
Rule #3: Fit safety valves
Every week, plan the week ahead. Make sure you block out hours in your calendar to spend time with your staff — and time to think. Switch off your mobile phone at these moments. Think of these times as pressure-release safety valves that are very necessary to stop the rest of your business (and you) from overheating.
Rule #4: Think one day ahead
Every day, review your plan for the following day. It’s easy to arrive at work at 9am and be totally blown off course by emails, texts and calls until the dust settles at lunchtime. Instead, let your diary control the agenda and the other things can fit around your schedule, unless it’s an absolute emergency.
Rule #5: Avoid distractions
Get used to living with an overcrowded inbox. Your job is to get things done, not to spend hours reading emails or getting sucked in by social media. And if alerts are distracting, turn them to silent … so you don’t lose concentration when you’re focusing on key tasks.
Rule #6: Be tough with emails
Apply the Defer/Delete/Delegate/Do test to every email you receive. Keep your replies short and to the point. Having time to tell stories and write witty emails is a luxury — that some other area of your business could end up paying for!
Rule #7: Use trusted experts
Seek external help where needed. Google is great for finding answers. But in many instances, it’s no substitute for asking an expert, whether it’s an issue on anything from operations or marketing. Work with professionals that offer a pay-as-you-go business model.
Rule #8: Be fair to yourself
Don’t be too harsh with yourself. Running a business takes guts. It’s a steep learning process and everyone makes mistakes. As long as you’re willing to learn from them and you’re open to good advice from others, you’ll keep heading in the right direction.
Rule #9: Take time for yourself
Life is not all about work. Don’t ignore public holidays or forget to book vacations and weekends away. These breaks will lift your morale and strengthen personal relationships. Taking time out can also help you to keep everything in perspective.
Rule #10: Keep going
Start from Rule #1 again. It’ll get easier as these ground rules get bedded in — and the benefits become evident.
I rely on a few tools to increase my productivity and stay on top of things. TimeCamp is the one I use for time tracking and management. A tool like this can support you whether you use it to bill your Clients or at the end of those days when you wonder where your time went.
Nobody is perfect, though, and I happen to break my own rule here and there. For example, I’m writing this post on a Bank Holiday!
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