While each day comes with a fair ration of 24 hours for everyone, most entrepreneurs find this amount of time hardly enough to accomplish their plans for the day. Only if there were a few more hours of day light to make some extra sales, to visit and make presentations to more clients, to collect and bank payments, the list of wishes is endless. This only illustrates that time is the most precious, perishable and irreplaceable resource an entrepreneur can ever get.
Nevertheless, a closer look reveals that indeed, few entrepreneurs make effective use of their time. Having fixed their mind on a defined way of going about their daily activities, most entrepreneurs find it hard to change towards more productive time management procedures. This happens regardless of their awareness that the more they strive to make better use of their time, the more it enriches their businesses and their personal lives.
Research shows that most persons can indeed improve their productivity thrice or four times without having to increase the number of working hours. What is the secret here? By first recognising that it is not the amount of time that you spend working that counts, but rather, the value that your activities add to your business.
This underscores the importance of the basic principle of setting your priorities first and then doing the right thing at the appointed time. Granted, most of the time consuming activities done by entrepreneurs are driven by good intentions either for the business or for the self. This not withstanding, setting priorities right can have a great impact on one's productivity.
In setting priorities, an entrepreneur should be able to break down the various activities that compete for his or her time into four categories:
Important and urgent
These are demands that even though not previously planned for, they can not be postponed. If the drainage pipe blocks and the filth threaten to flow into your premises, it is clear that you shouldn't postpone calling the local Water and Sewerage Company to come and fix the mess before you start losing business.
Less important but urgent
These are problems that require immediate action to keep a business running smoothly. An example is arranging for someone to stand in when a receptionist calls in sick.
Less important and not urgent
Unfortunately, this is where we waste much of our precious time. There are many business tasks that can be delegated, such as inspecting the loading and off-loading of supplies.
Important but not urgent
This category covers demands on our time that when attended to lead to future payoffs. One example is planning. These are the tasks that make the most difference in how a company functions, yet a lack of urgency makes it easy to never get around to them.
Benefits of effective time management
The range of paybacks that an entrepreneur reaps from managing time wisely can not be exhausted. Through conscious effort and better focusing, the entrepreneur can determine what is most important to the success and growth of both the venture and the self. Some of the benefits of such an approach to time management are as shown below:
Increased job satisfaction
Few things in life can be as satisfying to a business person as being in control of his or her circumstances, getting important things done, and being more successful in growing and developing the venture. This gives one a high degree of satisfaction with their work.
Improvement in the esprit de corps of the venture
As the entrepreneur and others in the company experience less pressure on time, there is better morale to work and better results are achieved. Although the total amount of time the entrepreneur spends with other individuals in the company may in fact decrease, the time spent will be of better quality, allowing him or her to improve interrelations. This also makes more time available for the entrepreneur to spend with family and friends.
Reduced anxiety and tension
Worry, guilt, and other emotions tend to reduce mental effectiveness and efficiency. As a result, decision making becomes less effective. On the other hand, effective management of time reduces concerns and anxieties, allowing for better and faster decision making.
Good management of time saves the business person from the mental and physical fatigue, poor eating habits, and curtailment of exercise that arise from jam-packed schedules. He is thus able to sustain high energy levels and long working hours, thanks to better time management practises.
Time Management Tips for Solo Entrepreneurs
Have you of late felt as though the whole world is craving for a share of your scarce time? Sometimes things get crazy enough for solo entrepreneurs to know what to do first. But it doesn't have to be this way all the time; here are some tips on time management that will help you to stay on top of it all:
1. Put your to-do list in writing and prioritize it. Studies show that people who write their lists down are 90% more likely to complete their list than those who do not.
2. Be realistic about how long it takes to get things done. Block out a reasonable amount of time on your planner, especially if it's an appointment where there's driving time to consider.
3. Schedule time with yourself, without interruptions. Do this at your most focused and productive time of the day, preferably in the morning.
4. Don't multi-task. People have found out that they get more productive when they focus on one task at a time, rather than juggling a dozen different projects at once.
5. Learn to say no even to a friendly request. Sometimes adding just one more thing to your to-do list means incurring an extra expenditure or staying at work an extra hour. Ask yourself if you really have the cash, time and energy to handle that one more task.
6. Don't let common distractions sidetrack you. Emptying the trash basket isn't an emergency - you can do it later on.
7. Try to combine like tasks. If you have lots of phone calls to make and emails to send or respond to, make all of the phone calls first, then tackle the emails.
8. Keep all your contacts in one place and within easy reach. Do whatever works for you, whether you keep an address book in your day planner, in Outlook, or in your Palm. You need to have fast and easy access to phone numbers and email addresses.
9. Use waiting time productively. When waiting for an appointment or travelling, catch up on reading business magazines, writing correspondence, or jotting down creative ideas for marketing your business.
10. At the end of each day, plan for the next day. Write down tomorrow's to-do list, prioritize it, and then clean off your desk.
© 2007 John Wanjora
First Published in Small Medium Enterprises Today Magazine, Nairobi.