Master Time

Time Management for SMEs To Keep Your Schedule Under Control

Are you an SME in need of some time management hacks? Read on how to get your schedule under control if you’re going to grow your business.

Time Management for SMEs To Keep Your Schedule Under Control

You’re collapsing under the weight of all of your work. You need to get your schedule under control if you’re going to grow your business. It all started so well. You founded your business and work started to flow in. For a while, you could handle it all. Every task went through you and it all ran like clockwork.

Then your business started to scale. People know who you are now and they want your services. That’s awesome, but it also means you can’t do things the way you used to. All of those tasks that you managed at the beginning are now swallowing you up. You don’t have enough time to do everything.

You’re just like Gold Key, one of ActionCOACH’s clients.

Gold Key came to ActionCOACH Adam Barnard as a start-up. The company builds houses. We helped them to create processes that allowed them to build 100 houses in its first 12 months. The processes we helped Gold Key put in place ensured it scaled safely as well as quickly. They have a clear workflow that wastes as little time as possible.

That influx of work could have put great demands on the owner, Timothy Trickey. Without his ActionCOACH’s help, this successful business would have collapsed under its own growth! It wouldn’t have been the only one. 60% of small businesses close within three years in Australia. Over 30% of small businesses make it to the four-year mark in New Zealand.

Poor time management is often part the problem. Many of these businesses have plenty of customers and they just can’t give them the service they need. Their reputation collapses and the business follows. Worse yet, you’ve ploughed so much time into the business that you’ve lost all semblance of a work/life balance. Good time management in SMEs is the key.

Striking the Work/Life Balance

A joint study from Now Sourcing and Family Living Today shows the importance of striking a good work/life balance. They looked at the work/life balance in 38 countries. They found that failing to strike the balance leaves you 1.66x more prone to suffering from depression.

It’s a major problem. Your first order of business is to get your life back under your control. These three tips can help you.

Work/life Balance Tip #1: Focus on Productivity

UK-based ActionCOACH Brian Doubleday says:

“Rather than measuring what needs to be done in terms of the time it will take to achieve it, look for ways to make your processes more efficient so that you can do more in fewer hours.”

Loafers Artisan, one of ActionCOACH’s clients, highlights how a focus on productivity helps:

Loafers Artisan is a bakery that uses traditional techniques to make amazing bread. The business felt like it was at capacity when it came to ActionCOACH Paul Roach. They had a limited window of 3-4 hours for delivery, which led to really intensive production periods.

Paul ran all of its DiFOT – (Delivery in Full On Time) processes back to see where the inefficiencies lay. That led to a 7% boost in productivity. Constant refining of these processes and timings helped the bakery output 400% more products over a four-year period.

The message is simple. Your processes may make you less productive, which damages your time management.

Work/life Balance Tip #2: Delegate Effectively

ActionCOACH Simon Ellson says:

“Good business owners understand the value of hiring people smarter than themselves to do a job right. An excellent manager and a well-trained crew can do wonders for your bottom line.”

We can come back to Loafers Artisan to see what effective delegation achieves.

“Loafers Artisan had a major problem with staff retention. It’s also a business that runs 24/7, 363 days per year. That didn’t leave a lot of time for owners Alaine and Damian to spend together.

Paul Roach helps them to create points of culture that they live and breathe. This has helped them to boost staff retention by 50%. That means less time spent on training new people and more time spent on delegating tasks to the experts they have in the team.”

You need the right people to help you find your work/life balance. Focus on culture to create a workplace that people want to be in. That means your training doesn’t go to waste and you can build a team of experts who can take a lot of tasks off your hands.

Work/life Balance Tip #3: Learn to Say “No”

If you’re trying to take every opportunity that comes your way, you’re never going to find time.

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett.

Finding the work/life balance means saying “no” every so often and respecting your own time. That may be “no” to more work or “no” to doing tasks that someone else in the business should do.

ActionCOACH Kate Muldoon says:

You need to increase the level of respect and value you put onto your own time. If you don’t respect and value the time you have set aside for high order priorities that are schedule for you to be successful in your life or business then you can’t expect others to respect it.

You just need the confidence to add “no” to your vocabulary.

The Barriers to Good Time Management

Striking the right balance isn’t possible if you’re dealing with the barriers to good time management for SMEs. Think of it like a foot race. The finish line is your goal of striking the right balance. Every hurdle in the way is something that wants to trip you up and set you further back.

These hurdles include the following:

Barrier #1: Allowing Too Many Interruptions

When was the last time you got to sit down and actually focus on work? The average person receives 90 emails per day when they’re at work. That’s 90 interruptions that disrupt your flow. Then there are all of the phone calls, impromptu meetings, and fires that you’re putting out.

It’s too much. You can’t possibly focus when you face so many interruptions. That’s what happened to Bellbird Web Solutions, which is an ActionCOACH client that struggled with time management:

The owner of Bellbird Web Solutions, Megan, carried out a time analysis with ActionCOACH. She found that she spent far too much time on tasks that didn’t serve the business. All of these interruptions just shifted her focus.

ActionCOACH helped her to create a default diary, in which she scheduled all of her most important tasks for the week. A weekly operations meeting also helps her to prioritise these tasks. Now, she knows what she absolutely needs to get done. She casts the interruptions aside to focus on these prioritised tasks.

Better yet, her diary means that she’s not scheduling too many tasks in. That’s a major problem for a lot of businesses. Megan now schedules a time slot for every task and she sticks to it. If the task is going to run over, she reschedules more time for the task later on. This means she avoids multitasking and deals with less stress.

Barrier #2: Procrastination

You can always do it tomorrow, right? Sure…you could. But all you’re doing is making tomorrow’s burden even heavier. Procrastination means you’re constantly putting tasks off. The stuff you move back has to take priority over whatever else you had scheduled.

That means you’re constantly falling behind. 20% of people procrastinate so badly that it puts their work at risk. And it affects your relationships too. You have to spend more late nights at work, which means less time with your family.

That’s bad time management and it’s going to catch up with you.

Barrier #3: Fear of Failure

What do you do when utterly terrified of something? You avoid it at all costs. It makes sense. Why do something that scares you when you can stay in your comfort zone and keep doing things the way you always did?

The problem is that this attitude is what got you into your situation in the first place. A fear of failure can lead to you putting off scary or difficult tasks. Worse yet, the task plays on your mind. You’re thinking about it constantly when you’re at work and when you go home.

Time Management = Self-Management

Here’s the secret to great time management. It’s not about managing time at all. Instead, it’s all about managing yourself. Time isn’t the real problem that you’re dealing with. Instead, it’s all about you. Just look at the barriers and tips we’ve shared so far.

Every one of them either looks at a behaviour that you need to change or helps you to make a personal change that benefits your business. We all have the same number of hours in the day. You can’t manage that time. But you can manage yourself to make sure you make the best use of that time.

That means time management = self-management.

The truth is that you’re never going to have the time you need to complete every task in the business. That’s a good thing because you don’t want to run out of work.

Accepting that you’ll never get to everything helps you to relax and start managing yourself. From there, you can start working on how you can communicate your personal skills to your team. They’re the people who’ll pick up the tasks you can’t do so you can focus on the stuff you can do.

It’s okay to not do everything. Accepting that fact helps you to manage yourself, which gives you freedom. That’s how you achieve the ideal work/life balance.

Proactive vs Reactive Time

To manage yourself better, and thus take control of your time, you have to understand the different ways you can spend your time. You can split that into two types of time:

  • Reactive time
  • Proactive time

Reactive time is the time that you spend reacting to problems and putting out fires. If someone comes into your office with a problem that you end up solving, that’s reactive. If you open an email and have to do something “urgently”, that’s reactive too.

Anything where someone wants you to use your time to help them is reactive. Reactive tasks are:

  • Usually not important, though they seem to be urgent.
  • Offer few, if any, long-term benefits.
  • Safe and simple.
  • Things that take up most of your time when they should really take up less than 20%.

Proactive time is the time you spend on the tasks you need to accomplish for yourself. The time you set aside to work on your novel is proactive. The tasks that you complete to serve your business, rather than the people in it, is proactive time. These tasks are usually:

  • Things you’ve set yourself that have a direct benefit for you.
  • Often a little scary as they require you to step outside of your comfort zone.
  • Forward-focused
  • Part of a larger strategy to help you run your business how you want to.

Splitting Time Between Reactive and Proactive

You’re going to split your time between both of these to run a successful business. It’s when you lose the balance and focus too much on the reactive that you run into problems. Time management problems manifest and you lose your work/life balance.

Matthew, who runs a computer repair company, is an ActionCOACH client who knows this all too well:

Matthew came to ActionCOACH with a simple goal. He wanted to make his business less reliant on him so he could spend more time with the church. He needed a better work/life balance.

One of the problems he had was that he was too reactive. When a problem came up, Matthew was the man to solve it. He hadn’t created systems inside the business to handle these issues.

With his business coach, Matthew started working through the ActionCOACH 6 Steps to Massive Results program. This helped him to take a more proactive approach to his time. Now, he can spend one day per week on proactive tasks. He hopes to boost that to the point where he only spends one day per week at work.

Creating a more proactive approach allowed Matthew to take control of his time. It also meant that he started creating a business that could work without him.

Now, he’s not spending as much time reacting to what’s around him. Instead, he’s looking to the future and can create steps for the business to follow so that it can scale.

Time Management and Planning Tools

You’re not left to your own devices when it comes to time management. ActionCOACH offers plenty of tools to help you along, including:

Default Diaries

Remember Megan from Bellbird Web Solutions? She used default diaries to get her schedule under control. A default diary isn’t your main work diary. Instead, it’s a plan for specific times during the week or month that you’ll set aside for tasks that you’d do in an ideal world.

If you want to get proactive, you need to have one. Megan’s default diary is a constant reminder of the things she needs to do. That means she’s not scheduling in tasks that she doesn’t have time for.

The Skills Fun Matrix

If you’re the busiest person in your business, you have an issue with time management. The Skills Fun Matrix is a clever little tool that helps you to put how you spend your time into perspective.

Create a quadrant on two axes. “Skills” runs up the y axis while “Fun” runs across the x. Mark the (0,0) point as low, while the end of each axis is high.

  • You should have four boxes. Now split, all of you tasks as follows:
  • Low skill and low fun tasks go into the bottom-left quadrant.
  • High skill and low fun goes into the top-left quadrant.
  • Low skill and high fun tasks go into the bottom-right quadrant.
  • High skill and high fun stuff goes into the top-right.

All of the stuff that falls into low skill and low fun are tasks that aren’t helping you grow your business. Yet you’re probably spending loads of time on them. It’s the tasks in the top-right quadrant that really need your time.

Covey’s Time Management Matrix

Covey’s Time Management Matrix is pretty similar to the Skills Fun Matrix:

Here, it’s the bottom-right quadrant that contains the tasks that you need to skip. The top-left tasks are the most important and urgent for your business.

Time Management Tips & Techniques from the Experts

The best people to learn from are those who face the biggest demands on their time:

Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” - Oprah Winfrey.

Dedicate your time to the high fun and high skill activities. Spending too much time on the little things drains you and leads to all of the problems discussed here.

“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.” – Arianna Huffington.

Spending a lot of time on something doesn’t automatically mean you’ve done it well. You might just end up wasting time that you could have spent on something more important.

“Lost time is never found again.” – Benjamin Franklin

Stop wasting time on the things that either don’t matter or that you can delegate to other people. You’ll never get that time back.

- Advice From Warren Buffett, Stephen Covey and The World’s Leading Business Coaches

How we can help

The key to time management for SMEs is to learn how to manage yourself more effectively. You’re responsible for the business and it’s your behaviours that define it. Figure out where you really need to be spending your time. Delegate effectively and don’t let all of the time management barriers trip you up.

And if you need a little help, ActionCOACH is here for you. We’ve worked with many business owners who found themselves struggling to manage their time. And we can do the same for you. If you want to find out how, Click here to book a discovery session.

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