Time management is a really old story. Sure, there have been a few interesting ideas thrown into the time-management ring every now and then, but in reality it’s really quite boring.
Well, not if you run a small business. Many of us talk-the-talk about time management but in reality, very practise it properly or indeed, at all. In most small businesses, getting high levels of productivity can be very challenging, particularly if the work environment is not tightly structured and people are left to their own devices to do their work.
It is not difficult to be very busy. You can spend each day rushing around being very,very busy. It’s another matter being productive. In my experience, most managers in small businesses look at how busy people are far more than they look at productivity. And productivity does not equal busy.
Time management is defined as the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity.
It is very easy to turn up to work on Monday morning, plough through the week and provide little value to the business. What is needed is goal directed effort, and there are several ways this can be put into place:
- The default diary. Using this system, you work out the time needed for the various regular duties and responsibilities that you have and assign them to time slots in our diary. Then it’s down to self discipline to stick to the schedule. Pro’s: Ensures that balanced and adequate time is allocated across all areas of responsibility; once set it can be continually used. Con’s: Requires self discipline to make this work. Needs special work in the case of set events or varying duties.
- The weekly plan. For people whose duties vary from project to project, this is the best approach. It requires that a weekly plan is worked out every week for it to succeed, wherein time requirements can be estimated and allocated. Pro’s: Very flexible. Con’s: Needs to be done each week
As a manager, responsible for commercial outcomes, it is important that time management is in place as part of the company ethos and that attention is paid to creating an environment of effectiveness. An environment of effectiveness involves having everyone trained and respectful of each others time and need to be productive. Everyone understands the the jargon and the principles of the time management system in use.
A discussion on Time Management cannot be held without referring to the underlying need for clear goals. It is only against goals that any form of time management makes sense. By starting with a goal, this can be broken down into manageable pieces that can then be organised, prioritised and finally scheduled. In other words developed into a plan.
It could be argued that time management is at the heart of any successful human endeavour. Certainly insofar as time is a finite or “scarce” resource, it must receive attention from its users for its careful and judicious use. So despite it being an old and boring story, effective time management in business is one of the key business fundamentals.