Time management strategies for business owners

Time management strategies - A stressed out young woman sits at her desk with her head in hands

Time management strategies for business owners

As a business owner, you often feel that you are being pulled in a million different directions and you never have enough time to get the real work done.

Time is the one thing we can’t get more of, so we should all be trying to gain efficiencies in our most valuable resource.


The cost of ineffective time management

Your job as a leader is not to be stuck in the weeds. Whenever you shift to do tasks of lower value compared to what you do best, you’re reducing the amount of potential value you can deliver to your business.

It doesn’t mean that the things you are doing have no value. However, when you look at what you are capable of and what you are focusing most of your time on – there is often a cost. An opportunity cost.

Instead, you should try to focus on doing the high-value tasks that will move the business forward.


The Four Ds of time management

The first step is to do an audit of how you spend your time. Keep a journal for a day or a week, or alternatively review your to-do list or calendar. Track where your hours are going and what you’re doing. Then you’ll be ready to run them through the Four D lens.


Delete, Delegate, Defer, Design


1.  Delete

The first of those Four Ds is to simply delete.

And you really need to be ruthless with this because there are some things that simply don’t need you for them to get done.

There are many emails that should just be deleted. There are meetings that you don’t need to be in. There are tasks that you just don’t need to do. Delete them.


2.  Delegate

The second D is to delegate. What things are you spending time on that really could be serviced by somebody else?

Some things need to be done, but do they have to be done by you? Is there an opportunity to hand this to an assistant (or virtual assistant), what about operations staff or someone on the sales team? Can it be outsourced to an outside contractor?

Delegate when you know a task has to be done but can be done by somebody else.


3.  Defer

The third D is defer.

We all have a to-do list, but to be honest, every business owner should have a “stop doing” list. In other words, these are all the ideas and things that you know have some merit, you’ve got a good feeling about them, but they’re a distraction from the core things you’re meant to be doing right now.

You don’t have to let them go never to be seen again, just put them on your “stop doing” list. Then set a reminder to review them next quarter to see if anything should move over to your actual to-do list.


4.  Design

The fourth and final D is design.

And by design, this means design it out.

This is perfect for those repetitive issues or tasks that come up again and again. You may have to spend a little bit of time ‘designing things out’ but it will be worth it.

For example, perhaps you are on a mailing list and receive regular emails that you don’t always have time to read. They eventually start clogging up your inbox but you don’t want to unsubscribe because sometimes you do want to read the emails. You can set up an inbox rule so that these emails automatically go to another folder and skip your inbox. When you are ready to read these emails, you can just open the folder and start reading.

If an automated workflow can save you time, it’s worth setting it up.

One of the greatest things that Amazon ever did was introduce package tracking links into emails when people made purchases. Suddenly, a whole pile of their customer service calls went away. Customers could answer the most frequent question – “Where is my parcel?” – by clicking the tracking link. This is a great example of how to design out a problem out of your process and free up more time for you.


How can we help?

A successful business is never done and is never perfect. It’s a constant process of tweaking, fixing, making tough choices and being accountable for performance.

Our business improvement advisors work with clients to tweak, fix, grow and future proof. We give you hands-on help to get your business moving.

You can find out more about working with Marsh & Partners here. As your Absolute.Account.Ability partner we’re on a mission to make your business life better.

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