Do you feel like screaming – STOP – leave me alone! I need more time!?
Owner managers of small and medium sized businesses have an interesting balancing act to work in order to keep ahead of their schedule, they often have to be the king or queen of multi-tasking and in the end of the day all responsibility and accountability stops at their door, hence the person under most time pressure tends to the boss.
In my experience from dealing with entrepreneurs, the following scenario is quite common and really crept up on these people over time, unplanned and by accident, read-on to see if you recognise anybody.
It is Monday morning 7am and the owner has arrived early, before all the other staff comes in and before the phone starts ringing off the hooks, clients, suppliers and employees start taking over your schedule, so you could just get some work done. It is your favourite time of day without interruptions. As soon as 9am passes, all hell breaks loose and welcome back interruptions galore. You have some great people working for you , but yet somehow the receptionist doesn’t manage to fend off those telemarketing interruptions and finance is now also passing you account queries, not to mention the fact that all difficult clients always end up being referred to you. At times you feel as if all you ever do is answer phones, deal with people conflict, staff not performing or taking liberties, in all honesty you sometimes even question whether they are committed to the same company goals as you or whether they ever considered that their job description actually entails the duties they were supposed to perform. Anyhow as soon as 5.30pm arrives, you can relax again and work in peace for at least another hour or two to finish off that one urgent request and look into your jam-packed e-mail inbox. The next time you look at your clock, it reads 9pm, no wonder you feel drained, tired and hungry and you finally decide to call it a day and vow to make up for it at the weekend. On your way home you question, why being in business is great? And sometimes you even dare to contemplate that your nastiest alter ego, came up with terms and conditions for the owner manager work arrangements.
Does this story sound all too familiar?
The reality is time management is vital for every owner/manager and whilst days like the one above will probably happen to even the best time-keeper under the sun occasionally, they should never be a regular working pattern. In my work on the RTE show ‘How long will you live’ I am invited when business owners are not managing their time and due to the stress that they put their bodies under, they are likely to shorten their lifespan and attract all sorts of stress related illnesses, anything from high blood pressure to heart conditions etc. Obviously the participants tend to have one thing in common, definitely never making time for themselves or even to look after their own health. As busy owner managers, they often forget to look after the one resource that drives everything; you wouldn’t expect your car to continue working if the fuel ran out or the engine gave up, so why expect it from our body?
The start to resolving lack of time management is always to become aware of how you currently spend your time. With my clients I would ask them to track every 15 minutes of their day from start to finish for 2 weeks, including breaks and interruptions and I ask them to note who interrupted them for what reason, to establish trends. When you are aware of where your time is going, you can actually take charge and change it. The tracking exercise will show some very interesting trends regarding quick coffees, quick questions, communication deficits with staff, training issues and delegation problems. So in order to start resolving the problem with time, analyse how you spend it at the moment.
The next step then is to list all your tasks, roles and regular occurring responsibilities, start with annual items, then narrow it down to quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily tasks. On a year planner you can map out expected peak times, where you need to allow for more staff, more delegation and plan to have time for yourself. With the various lists identified, I then ask clients to translate the list of duties into an ideal week plan, where if they had full control over how they spent their time this is how they would use it. I ask them to map this out on an A4 sheet, broken down in hourly blocks, whilst taking into account when they are most alert and work best on difficult or complex jobs, in the least alert body clock time of day I ask them to schedule meetings, because you always pay attention with a person in front of you.
Once you have your ideal week designed, then the goal is to work 1 perfect day as planned per week, not 5 just 1. If you hit 1, then aim for a second perfectly planned day. If you don’t hit 100% any given day, don’t worry, most of us will find that if you work at an 80% as per planned time, your satisfaction and productivity rate is well above average and you start sensing feelings of accomplishment and getting things done. Also be aware that there are odd days where only 40% goes according to plan, these are the ones to accept as exceptions and learn from for future reference.
The rest is a case of choosing between the typical time management actions: Do, Dump, Delay or Delegate!
If you are curious on how you could improve or fine-tune your skills, fill out the wheel of success in time management. For each spoke on the wheel give yourself marks out of 10 of how well you perform on this element (1 meaning very bad and 10 meaning there is no room for improvement, you have mastered the art already). At the end connect the points and hopefully your wheel can actually drive your business forward, if the shape looks no-where near a wheel and has lots of edgy points, then you are in for a bumpy journey. The good thing is though that you have identified your areas for improvement.
Enjoy the road-trip to time management success!