An entrepreneur’s time is precious especially with so many demands vying for your attention. It isn’t always easy to know how that time is best spent but there are some steps you can take to ensure that your valuable time is always focused on where it is needed the most:
- Identify time-wasting activities
- Embrace technology
- Learn to delegate
- Avoid distraction and procrastination
Putting these simple steps into practice can help you effectively use your time wisely so you can focus on business-critical activities, improve your offering and expand your enterprise.
Identify your biggest time-wasting activities
The first step to freeing up more of your time is to undertake a daily activity audit. This involves identifying and tracking the tasks you carry out every day.
Prioritise these activities in terms of business ROI. Always ask yourself: If what you’re doing doesn’t impact the success or strategy of the company, should you really be doing it? The obvious answer is no. Any menial or non-business-critical task that can be carried out by somebody else should be it by a colleague or a freelancer.
Many successful entrepreneurs apply the Pareto principle here, as coined by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto:
‘Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.’
The key here lies in pinpointing the 20% of your tasks that are likely generating 80% of the value – and an activity audit can help you to do that.
Managing your tasks in this way keeps more of your schedule free for what’s important – driving sales, improving your offering, and expanding your business. Always organise your day and set priorities!
Technology has revolutionised the business world in countless ways – not least through its ability to speed up laborious tasks. Many of the often cited entrepreneurial timewasters – dealing with email, processing admin, etc. – can now be streamlined with easy-to-use apps and software. In addition there are many fantastic project management and task management tools which will assit you with keeping track, streamlines your work flow and allows you to delegate tasks effectively.
What tasks could you streamline with technology?
- Email: Google’s ‘Priority Inbox’ and Outlook’s ‘Focused Inbox’ can help to ensure you only see the emails that require your attention. Other tools such as Unroll.me summarise subscription emails and other clutter into a neat, quick-read digest.
- Social media: Hootsuite, Buffer, and many more apps offer easy scheduling to make managing social media for you and your clients a breeze.
- Accounts: From accounts packages such as Sage and Xero to expense tracking apps like Expensify, there are numerous ways to streamline your accounting process.
- Project management: With so many apps available from time-trackers (such as Toggl) to task-managers like Trello and Basecamp, there’s no reason why project management should be eating up your time.
The best tech on the market is no longer only available to large enterprises. The tools to help your company work smarter are now accessible, and most importantly affordable for businesses of all sizes – from startups to multinationals.
Master effective delegation
The quickest way to free up your time is to delegate tasks to others. Despite this, it is something that many entrepreneurs and business owners fail to do effectively.
It’s understandable to feel a little uneasy about delegating important tasks. It’s the concern that a third party won’t give it the same focus. However, if you delegate effectively, you can be confident that your work is in safe hands – and you’ll have more time focus elsewhere.
- Define: Start by determining the tasks you wish to delegate – these should be time-consuming tasks that could be handled elsewhere or menial tasks that don’t need your input.
- Assess: Next, assess the skills and resources needed to carry out each task.
- Assign: Match the task with the colleague or freelancer most suited to it.
- Explain: Explain the task clearly. This includes the work required, as well as its importance.
- Agree: Agree on how the task will be carried out and when it is to be completed.
- Feedback: Offer feedback if necessary, both good and bad. This will help speed up the process in the future.
Avoid distraction and procrastination
Distraction and procrastination can eat away at your time throughout the day. Before you know it, wasted minutes turn into wasted hours. And a lot of them. The average worker gets distracted every 11 minutes throughout the working day. Worse still, it then takes an average of 25 minutes for their attention to return to the job at hand.
Unfortunately, in the modern world, distractions can be hard to avoid. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep you focused:
Silence your smartphone: If a task is important enough, it demands your full attention. So set aside the time it needs, and put your smartphone on silent and out of reach. As the average person checks their smartphone every 12 minutes, you’ll be surprised how much more time and focus this simple step can offer.
Constrict your computer: With the endless distractions of the internet, just a click away, banishing your smartphone may not be enough. Software that restricts the sites you can visit on your computer during the working day can help here. The majority of users report saving between two and three hours per day with such apps.
Try the Pomodoro Technique: Pomodoro is a time management technique that involves splitting work into 25 minute chunks followed by a short break of a few minutes. Working in this way has been shown to minimise procrastination and distraction and improve concentration.
Time is precious: Ultimately, time is the entrepreneur’s most valuable resource. Any trick or technique that can help you find more hours in the working day should be embraced. The more time you have to focus on your core business, the more value you are adding to your company every single day.
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