“Time management” are two words brought up in any discussion of running a business. They’re perhaps also two of the most crucial words for any business owner who is seeking long-term success. But “time management” can mean so many different things to different people. For me, time management relates to the choices a business owner makes every day.
Successful time management is all about making choices. What you choose to focus on will get done, and everything else will not – which means your time-management choices directly impact your business’s success. And it’s not only your choices – the team you’re leading will take their cues from you. If you opt to spend your day collecting overdue invoices, for example, your team will assume that’s a top business priority and shift their attention to collections, too. Suddenly, nothing else is getting done.
So how can you focus your time on the important stuff, when there is so much demanding your attention? Here are three ways to make your time more productive as the leader of your organization.
Be proactive to avert “crisis mode”
Time spent putting out fires is less time spent on running and growing your business. It’s best to implement systems and processes that will reduce the number of crises you face.
To accomplish this, you must first be willing to shift your mindset away from wanting to be a firefighter. It can be exhilarating and satisfying to solve one problem after another, but it’s actually time-consuming and inefficient.
Instead, put your time and attention on running your company. Start by spending an hour each week identifying the top three crises that take up your time, and strategize on ways to prevent those from happening. It might not be as “exciting” as crisis management, but you’ll be more proactive and get out in front of any potential issues. The excitement will come afterward, when you actually have time to come up with, and implement, new ideas for growing your business – business initiatives, products, marketing plans, customer acquisition strategies and more.
Even when you plan ahead, problems can come up, but that’s OK. When they do, rather than be the reactive problem solver, look at some of your company’s past issues and see if there’s a common cause. Discuss with your staff how to fix the situation so it does not happen as often, or even better not at all. That’s where you can bring value to crisis management, versus just solving problems as they come along.
Constantly being in reaction mode is chaotic and it reduces your profit margin. It’s not a good way, long-term, to run a business. Proactive change is a more solid foundation for growth and success.
Lean on your team
Trying to do everything yourself also isn’t a good way to run your business long-term—especially when you have a capable team around you. Delegating is a key part of managing your precious time to focus on what you should be doing.
Delegation comes down to good planning and system implementation. The more you can plan how the work is going to go, the easier it will be to delegate. Distributing tasks takes them off of your plate and frees up your time to think about how you can improve and expand your business.
Plus, the more you delegate the less time you’ll personally spend in crisis mode. Typically, when an owner is putting out a lot of fires, it’s because they are the only one who knows how to handle a given situation. Train your team how to deal with the most common emergencies so you can focus on how to prevent them from happening the next time.
It can also be easy to get sucked into doing the day-to-day work rather than overseeing your company. This might be necessary when your business is small and/or new, but as it grows, your priority must be on running it. Tasks like customer service, bookkeeping, writing social media posts, etc., all have to be delegated to staffers. Otherwise, there will be no one to do the things that only you can do. Remember, your role is leading, not doing. Next time you think “it’ll be quicker if I just do it myself,” think again – maybe spending an hour training someone now will save you ten hours next month.
Help your staff with their own time management
Your time efficiency has more impact if your staff also manages their time well. Start by setting a good example—many employees are looking at how you operate to help them gauge what the company culture is. As you go, they go.
So, if you’re doing something that’s not really your job, but theirs, they’ll likely become insecure and turn to an easier, less critical task. Stop doing their work for them and offer your employees encouragement and support. Assure them that this is the work they should be doing, and someone else can handle that “easier” task.
Also, confirm that your staff knows what they are doing and that they have all the tools and information that they need. It’s hard to be productive and stay on task if they don’t have what’s necessary to do their job.
Holding employees accountable will also help keep them on task. Make sure you, or someone, is looking at what staffers are doing – asking them to report on progress toward goals and any issues they’re facing. People will do the work that someone is paying attention to. That can really help your team be more productive, and can be done in a very positive, encouraging way that builds a strong team. And you can model this behavior by reporting your own progress toward larger company goals as well.
Your mindset is the most important thing when you’re managing time. Treat your time as precious, and remember that to be successful, your business needs you to invest your time wisely.