What’s the biggest challenge your business will face heading into the New Year? According to a Connecticut Business and Industry Association survey, the primary challenge facing most small business owners is improving profitability and growth. The answer to solving this challenge for some business owners has been to burn the candle at both ends. Long hours might be sustainable for brief periods, perhaps during your company’s busy season, but in the long run you risk burning out your employees and yourself. If you’re looking for a solution to working more efficiently, then you should take a look at your time management strategy. Here are some time management tips:
Time management is one of the few things you can really control in a business environment, and the rewards of successful time management skills and strategy will not only include higher productivity but also a more favorable work-life balance (which, as we’ve covered on this blog before, is becoming more and more important to millennials in the workforce). With the New Year just around the corner, here are a few time management resolutions for you to consider that will help you more efficiently manage your business.
1.Base your daily schedule on when you’re most productive
Have you ever had a day where you felt you were 100% productive from dawn until dusk? If you’re like most people, then these days are probably few and far between. More likely is that you experience ups and downs in your productivity levels over the course of an average day in the office. One major insight into how to manage time is this: Trying to plow through a 9-to-5 workday that isn’t structured around your own personal productivity levels can open the door for mistakes and poor quality results. If you find that you have trouble staying productive over the course of an eight-hour day, consider managing your time around your own personal productivity ebbs and flows.
Start by figuring out if you’re an early bird or a night owl. If you have the most energy at the start of the day, then prioritize the most important and time-consuming tasks for the morning hours while saving busy work, such as answering emails, for the afternoon. If you’re more energetic later in the day, then focus on busy work in the morning while saving bigger projects for the afternoon.
2.Limit distractions by avoiding notifications and browser windows
Second among our time management tips: It might be easy to figure out what times of day you’re most productive and schedule your work around that pattern, but it’ll be significantly more difficult to stick to that plan. The problem is that there are some things you can’t prevent from happening, such as a client or customer emergency, so more often than not you’ll have to stop what you’re doing and put out a fire or two over the course of a workday. Steelcase compiled some research on the frequency of distractions in office environments, and the reality is that the average office worker is interrupted or distracted every three minutes during the workday. Worse, it usually takes about 23 minutes to return to a task after being interrupted. Those little distractions can add up to hours of lost time, derailing your carefully laid time management plans in the process.
While you may not be able to prevent every interruption from happening, you can control how often they happen. For example, rather than checking your phone whenever you get a notification, you can set aside a 5-minute window every 90 minutes to look through new text messages or social media alerts. In addition, you can close out any unnecessary internet browser windows on your computer so you’re not tempted to log on to Facebook or Instagram every few minutes. Taking small steps like these to reduce distractions will add up in the long run, giving you a little extra time to be productive.
3.Run more efficient meetings
Third of our time management tips: How often have you found your schedule fill up with meetings at the beginning of the day? Meetings often rank as one of the top killers of office productivity, and there are few things more frustrating than sitting through a pointless discussion when you could be using that time to knock a few items off your to-do list. Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can run meetings more effectively to get your employees back to what they should be doing: getting their jobs done rather than talking about it.
One of the most important things you should do before a meeting is to identify a clear objective. What is it you’re hoping to accomplish by bringing your team together? Once you have that in mind, you can draw up an agenda that allots time to everything you need to cover in order to accomplish your objective. Sticking to this agenda and the time you’ve allotted for each item will prevent attendees from going off on tangents or hijacking your meeting. A clear objective and agenda will keep everyone focused, allowing you to run an efficient and productive meeting. After the meeting, email a follow-up note to attendees that clearly states what was accomplished and any new assignments or deadlines that were discussed. This will help you ensure additional time isn’t lost revisiting what was already discussed in previous meetings.
One final thing to consider when discussing how to manage time is that your business partners and employees may all need a different strategy to maximize their productivity. Talk to your team about their schedules and consider offering some flexibility with their hours so they can find the best structure that works for them. Making time management a priority for not just yourself but also your entire business can be the first step towards a more productive year.
Written by Jeff McDonough
Director of Human Resources, Union Savings Bank