It would be easy to think that 19th-century writer, Leo Tolstoy, was thinking of the challenges a small business faces, when he wrote, “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” How many times do we think about or talk about time in a day? How much more productive could you become if you were able to manage time better?
Consider time as a measurement of the progression of events, with an emphasis on “progression.” While everyone has the same amount of time–1440 minutes each day—why do some people seem to have more of it than others? Most every saying about time can be applied to a business. Time is money — time flies. Time is lost, but seldom is it found. Time cannot be replaced or put on hold, but it can be killed or wasted. Time is a wise counselor. Time can be invested. Time brings all things to pass.
Time management is the result of proper planning and analysis. The business manager must know and apply sound management techniques, anticipate and identify the source for any possible issues, and analyze the results to maintain an efficient workplace with the outcome of raising productivity. Of all managerial resources, time is the most discussed but least understood. No one has enough, yet everyone has all the time in the world. Time is not the problem in the workplace. The way time is spent in the workplace is the problem.
A successful time management process is personal, and it must match the manager’s circumstances and style. Changing old habits requires an effort, but it offers benefits beyond increasing productivity. The result is the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction for completing work activities by the end of the day. It is the freedom made possible by a system where the “to do” list items are checked off. It is enjoying going to work because “the same old same old” is not the same anymore.
To understand the best time management skills, it is essential to realize that many of the beliefs for time management in a business setting are merely false.
- An active workforce equals accomplishments. (AKA, Busyness doesn’t necessarily result in business). Staying busy means a lot of business is being done because busy workers accomplish the most. “Busyness” and “business” are not necessarily related. Until an employee has proven a proficiency for results, it is a mistake to believe that just because an employee is busy, they are getting work done. Employees must have a plan before they start work. It is a poor use of time to get started on any work without a plan. Taking the time to create a strategy for completing the task at hand saves time and guarantees a greater chance of success.
- The owner or manager always make the best decisions. The owner, or anyone who has “been around for a while,” possess the knowledge to make the best decision. There are times when longevity and familiarity hamper open-mindedness for seeking a new or more progressive way to conduct business more effectively. Often non-management and lower-level management employees can offer insight for ideas and methods to improve the business by making it more efficient.
- Practice delegation to save time and increase efficiency. Delegation saves time because tasks are completed faster. Effective delegation saves time, but initially, it takes more time. Consideration must be given for what should be delegated. Expectations must be communicated, and time for coaching and counseling, along with analysis, must be allowed to achieve the desired performance. While not a shortcut to avoid responsibility, delegation saves time only if it is done effectively because training others to accomplish the goal can leverage valuable time. A manager who refuses to delegate or, when he does, does not ensure that employees can do it correctly, will be less efficient.
- Some managers are irreplaceable. Many managers have illusions of Concluding that the business could not survive without their continuous attention; some managers pass up vacation, work long days, and weekends and wonder why they are not appreciated more. Their refusal to let others make decisions increases their workload and paperwork has the opposite outcome of proper time management.
- Managers who are successful are the most efficient. Successful managers know how to manage their time best. Having excellent time management skills does not ensure success. Managers can be instrumental at some components of management but may be performing unnecessary work.
- An open-door policy means always being available. An open door improves a manager’s effectiveness in dealing with his or her team. Unfortunately, the open door has come to expect the door is always open. Availability does not guarantee success. On the contrary, the always available manager finds it impossible to get his or her work done. Active managers should plan for unavailability or quiet time without interruption.
- A good manager can fix every problem. Identifying problems is the easy part of problem-solving. Much effort and time are wasted solving the wrong problems. Failure to determine the real issues causes the manager to waste time.
- “Shortcuts” save time every time. Many supervisory shortcuts are time savers. People talk regularly about saving time—often in ways that compromise their effectiveness and ultimately cost more time. Cutting an important conversation short in the interest of time may leave a problem unsolved and allow it to turn into a crisis. Deciding prematurely on a project without a thorough analysis of the options can lead to a wrong decision—wasting much time, effort, and money in the end.
- Most items on a “to-do” list will never be checked off. There is never enough time. A common complaint is that a manager can’t complete all the tasks and responsibilities of the assigned work. There is a simple approach that will confirm if adding to the leadership team is necessary to sustain or increase profitability. Or, if strategies are required to increase the manager’s effectiveness, who may appear busy but is not sufficient. Consider a simple, two-week system that will yield the answer. During the first week, set aside 15-20 minutes at the end of every day for an evaluative discussion. Consistency is essential. Discuss what obstacles prevented the completion of the unfinished work. List any distractions and label them as isolated or recurring. Distractions and other circumstances that prevent a manager from finishing the desired work should be identified as essential or non-essential to goals and objectives. The second action step is to track every task for one week. At the end of each day, the manager should use the information to tally the amount of time spent on each task. For example, the amount of time speaking with staff due to an unrestricted open-door policy, or time spent fielding complaints from customers who were dissatisfied with the resolution offered by employees for their complaints, time re-working for one of the employees who wasn’t trained or doesn’t care about completing his/her work. If this two-week action plan does not reveal specific areas needed to improve efficiency or remaining on task, such as delegation of particular tasks or creating a policy that limits the amount of time spent on working to resolve staff issues, it is time to modify your expectations for this manager or add to the team.
What does this mean for the small business?
Consider all the areas of the business that are directly impacted by efficiency. Seek input from the team to identify areas for improving productivity. The result is always greater effectiveness. Effectiveness equals success. Success equals profits.
Work with the team to understand that while managers who efficiently manage their time are effective, the reverse may not be true. An inefficient manager can still be effective when they are motivated to exceed the time frame, but these managers are more likely to burn out and quit. Managers who refuse to delegate and train others to do part of their work put the entire business at risk in the event they leave or are unable to work. The adage, “time is money,” is never truer than when applied to a small business. Costs to the company to replace and retrain may include lost relationships and revenue.
At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information: