Everyone has limited capacity (yes, even you). Do you regularly feel that there is not enough time to get everything done?
As a small business owner, you are in the unenviable position of having to deal with everything. The buck stops with you, so you need to be on top of strategy, sales, marketing, customer service, finances, HR, regulatory requirements and much more. It’s exhausting!
With so many demands on your time, it is easy to work non-stop, but still feel that you have achieved very little at the end of the day.
“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss, American Entrepreneur
With limited hours in the day, time must be spent channelling your skills into areas which result in progress. This is only possible if you delegate or outsource those tasks which drain your time and energy.
Optimise your time by only using it for the essential things. I recommend reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
The capacity challenge
Working more productively depends on understanding how you spend your time at work.
I know you already have a long list to get through this week, but I am going to challenge you to set aside an hour to map out your working week.
I have prepared an Activity Tracker and you are welcome to download it below to assist with this challenge.
How is your work time being spent?
The first step is to work out how your time is being spent. Some hours will be devoted to billable client work. Time also has to be allocated to developing your business and completing administrative tasks. You could ask members of your team to complete this tracker to review who is working efficiently.
Do you find yourself in endless meetings where nothing is resolved, struggling to stay active on social media or buried in emails? Would you, therefore, benefit from more time to personally speak with clients or potential customers, or time to review progress and plan the future growth of your business?
Where does your time go? Write it in the Activity Tracker.
As you work through your list, consider the priorities. You may find it useful to check out my previous blog for help with this.
Peak production during your working week
Now you can work out how many hours you have available to work each week.
Not all months are the same length, so a rule of thumb would be 4 weeks per month or 20 working days. However, there will be holidays and bank holidays and potentially also sick days to take off that total.
An 8-hour working day actually ends up being more like 6.5 hours once Lunch, tea and toilet breaks are taken into account.
For an average month, 20 days at 6.5 hours each means 130 hours a month for work. Does that sound right to you? Do you work more, or less, hours each month?
How much of that time is allocated to clients, billable hours: work that can be directly translated into money? How much time is available for non-client admin work?
Now look back at your Activity Tracker. Do the hours match what you have identified above as available time? If not, consider what can be done to address this and so bring them into alignment? Which tasks can be delegated? Which tasks are not a priority?
Are you a lark or an owl?
Optimum productivity is dependent on a good sleep pattern, lunch breaks and time to relax and recharge, so factor these in.
Now consider when are you most alert and focused during the day, this is often thought to be early in the day but this is not the case for everyone. Knowing when you are at peak performance is important for time management. Those tasks requiring greater creativity, critical thinking and attention to detail should be scheduled into this part of your day.
To enhance productivity, you should put in place measures to minimise potential disruption during these times. Avoid checking emails or social media and divert your phone to voicemail or ask someone else to take your calls for that time.
“Don’t confuse activity with productivity; many people are just busy being busy.” – Robin S Sharma, Author
Look at the list I challenged you to write. For each task that you are completing, I want you to question whether you are the right person for the job. Yes, you may be perfectly able to do it, but is it the best use of your time and skills? Identify tasks that are repeatable and could be automated or delegated.
Think also of the things that you aren’t so good at. If you outsource these tasks to a specialist, you will find that they are done better and faster than you could do yourself.
Time management focuses on where we can add the most value. Delegate tasks to other team members or outsource to specialists so you can free up time to concentrate on the work that needs your skills, expertise and experience.
The other great thing about freelancers is that you only pay when you need their services, so outsource those time-consuming jobs. You can then work on generating profits, enabling growth and personalising customer services.
What are you worth?
Calculate the number of hours you worked in total last month, client and non-client work. Even if you have a set rate for a day or an hour, this will have to be offset by the time you spend working on the business and not getting paid for it.
Every task you do that takes your time but doesn’t ultimately earn money brings down your salary. If you are busy being busy, the bottom line is your earnings are being eaten away.
Your actual salary is the amount of money you pay yourself from the business divided by the hours you work. This can be an eye-opening exercise. Is it shockingly low? Make sure you are earning enough without working all hours and running yourself into the ground.
Focus your attentions on the things that absolutely bring in money from your customers. Reduce anything you do that you cannot say has a definite impact on sales. Minimise everything else or find a smarter way to work by automating or outsourcing these tasks so they don’t eat into your precious time.
Get some help
Do you often feel that you are cutting it fine? Outsourcing can help you to put systems in place, plan, be prepared and get on top of things before they become urgent.
My business services include creating and branding documents, assistance with a specific project, customer communications, process improvements and other office support. You can contact me to discuss your requirements and how I can help your business.
Mapping out the working week helps identify patterns and time-wasting tasks that neither benefits your organisation or your clients. Efficiency measures can then be introduced.
Working smarter may take time to get used to. It takes a conscious effort to change habits and to trust that freelancers can deliver what you need. Get started by listing the important tasks for this week and identifying who is the best person for the job.
Capacity Challenge Activity Tracker: Free Download
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