Time is one of the most valuable resources you contribute to your small business. Concerted effort, innovation, creative brilliance and resourceful planning all take time. You may not be an expert at all the skills necessary to run your business, but you’re the lynchpin that keeps the wheels turning. You can buy more materials and hire new people, but you can’t rent, borrow or buy more hours in the day to build your business. These tips will help you reinvent your day with time in mind.

Dealing With Small Business Time Traps

Get ahead of the game – If you spend your days putting out fires, you’re in reactive mode. Anticipating problems and finding workarounds before disasters happen will free up your time and make your business run more smoothly. Once you have some proactive planning in place, train your staff to switch to plan-B without supervision from you.

Prioritize tasks – It’s the dreaded P-work, but you hear it a lot because it’s important. If you’re in the middle of landing a big account, you don’t want to have to stop to unlock the petty cash drawer. When you step back to look at the things that are getting in the way of your high level tasks, there’s probably quite a bit of housekeeping involved that can be performed by others. The rest should sit in two piles: time critical tasks and repetitive tasks that have to be accomplished – just not right now. Once you start prioritizing tasks and delegating the small stuff, you’ll have more time and use time more efficiently.

Chart your day – If you just don’t know where the time goes, take an average day and chart it out. Make a note of all the functions you perform, the unexpected tasks, the interruptions, and the time you may be wasting because you either can’t do something well (like typing), or you’re foundering because you’re not sure how to proceed. When you learn what the time wasters are, you can address them one at a time. Get someone to answer the phones and greet visitors; use dictation equipment or voice recognition software to draft correspondence; hire a consultant (or ask a mentor) to help you deal with complex issues you’re having trouble sorting out on your own.

Draft a schedule – If you spend too much time looking at emails, surfing the web (doing valuable research, mostly), conducting meetings, or talking on the phone, you know it. Do your meetings really need to run as long as they do? If you set an agenda, will the process be faster and more efficient? Start asking these types of questions about repetitive tasks you know are time intensive. Some strategic analysis and clever scheduling could solve a few problems for you.

Encourage your staff to participate by starting a time reclamation project. Offer a small incentive to employees who come up with time saving strategies for their own activities. That way everyone will be pulling together to make the minutes count. They’ll better understand the changes you’re making in your approach to their requests and interruptions too.

Keep a clock in easy reach to monitor how you’re doing throughout the day. Make it a big clock — big enough for you to see the seconds ticking by. It’ll be a graphic reminder of what you’re trying to accomplish.

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