A large part of what we do involves talking to business owners, startup founders and executives. In doing so, we obtain some good insight into their businesses, their personal lives and (most importantly for us) the problems and challenges that they’re facing.
A common theme that runs true with nearly everyone we speak to is that of ‘not having enough time’.
Lack of time is often cited as the primary reason for issues such as lower rates of business growth, slower sales, business inefficiency, staff problems, poor communication, late delivery and more.
In our experience, time is very rarely to blame. Time management however, is a real problem.
Be clear about your goal
When addressing time management, I think it’s important to first take a step back and review your goal or goals.
What are you actually trying to achieve as an individual or organisation? What’s the objective in all of this? If you don’t know, you really ought to.
Being a busy fool is no fun.
Set a goal, and then assess all of your activity against it. Ask yourself ‘Is this taking me closer to or further from my goal?’. If it’s not taking you closer, should you really be doing it?
I recommend the G.O.S.T. process for identifying your goal and turning it into actionable steps.
Goal: What’s your measurable high-level business aim?
Objectives: What are the targets that you need to achieve to hit that goal?
Strategies: How are you going to achieve each objective?
Tactics: What are the concrete steps you’ll take to deliver each strategy?
Map this out with your team, and regularly check your workload against this guide. If you’re all busy doing work that doesn’t fit into any of these criteria, well…you’re due a conversation.
One of the most under-appreciated skills that any business leader can have is that of being self-aware. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is an incredibly useful way of dealing with time constraints.
How do you improve your self awareness? Just ask the people around you to tell you what they think you’re good at, and what they think you suck at.
Spend some time with your friends, family and colleagues, put them at ease, reassure them that there will be no ramifications if they’re honest (!!), implore them to give you the truth and listen to what they have to say.
Hopefully that process will rid you of any competency illusions, it might enlighten you as to some hidden strengths and can be combined with your own common-sense appraisal of your strengths and weaknesses.
Are you spending 10hrs a week wrestling with spreadsheets when you know you’re really good at negotiating deals or motivating a team?
Focus on your strengths and delegate or outsource your weaknesses.
I don’t really believe in the modern business narrative that tells us we can all be good at everything and that we ought to focus a lot of energy on improving our weaknesses. We don’t have time for that. Get an expert. Double-down where you’re strong.
Where do you deliver real value?
Part of the process of understanding your strengths and weaknesses is to understand where you deliver real value. The value that you get paid for delivering. The value that solves real problems.
If you’re an author, for example, it’s unlikely that you deliver real value in spending hours every day answering emails. Your value is to be found in the deep, creative writing process.
We've all been suckered into thinking that all of our busyness = value delivery, but it really doesn’t.
Work out where you add real value, and make that your priority each day. Everything else comes second.
Learn to say no
Now this one can be tricky. Most leaders are either in a corporate structure that incessantly demands more and more from each of us OR they’re entrepreneurs, who are by definition somewhat addicted to work.
It really isn't easy to say no to work, but sometimes you just have to. It can be best for you and the business to say no.
If you are clear on both your goals and your strengths and weaknesses, you now have a solid platform for assessing new demands on your time.
Does this work take you closer to the goal? Are you the best person for the task?
Organise your days and weeks better
Without trying to get too simple with it all, maybe you just need a daily to-do list and a weekly progress meeting?
I like to start each day with a to-do list. What do I need to achieve today to take me closer to the goal? To-do lists are normally made up of my Tactics that fit under each Strategy.
Holding yourself and others accountable to each other for progress via a weekly team meeting is a good idea and normally improves communication too.
I recommend having one person who ‘runs’ the meeting to a set agenda, and pushing through topics in efficient fashion. The point is to facilitate progress, not to chat meaninglessly about ‘stuff’ for 30 mins. Be fast. Be clear. Be brutal where necessary.
Stop glorifying being busy. Be productive.
Finally, being busy isn't cool. Being productive is. Stop making yourself feel better by telling others about how busy you are. We’re all busy. When you’re on Facebook 40 times per day but also whining about your ‘insane’ workload, I’m not really interested.
If you'd like to know more about how we can help your business to grow, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org - we'd love to talk.
When you first start out in a new job or a new venture, days and moments are characterised by enthusiasm, the buzz of progress, the sweet aura of mental stimulation and success.
But it vanishes ever so quickly, doesn’t it?
We get comfortable. We establish routines. We slow our pace. We lose that hunger. That powerful hunger.
Don’t. Stay hungry.
Remind yourself of why you started, and fix your sights on the goal. Maybe you’ve forgotten what that goal was. That’s OK; take a day to separate yourself from the hubbub of your regular movements and go back to basics. Why are you doing this
Many employees speak with jealous tones of those in self-employment or at the top of a business structure or start-up. But it’s harder than they think. Having a boss does have advantages; the accountability, the help in time of need, the advice, the drive and expectation.
When things get comfortable, when you’re not working to put food on the table, it’s easy to take your foot off the loud pedal.
But in doing so, you’ll make so much less progress. You’ll live to regret what you COULD have achieved. What you could have been. What you could have done for others.
You only have one chance.
Don’t slow down. Stay hungry.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had so many conversations about networking, business relationships, confidence and communication.
So many people are lost in a muddy world of confusion, and it’s not getting any better.
It’s so easy to dive into the detail of ‘how to’ X,Y or Z and try to create a foolproof or analytical model for success in relationships or networking. I don’t think there is one.
Humans are all so different, and react in many and varying manners to each other and the environment around them. We also have different responses on different days (and sometimes on the same day) based on how we feel and what’s going on around us.
My advice to anyone struggling with this is to keep trying to just…be human.
Throw away the guise of ‘professionalism’ and just…be human.
Be a real person. Be you. The real you.
Talk to people. Say hi. Ask questions, listen, respond, laugh, relax.
Don’t worry about finding sales, what others think, your image or who you’re talking to.
Businesses are built on friendship. Friendship is built on honesty and value.
Be the real Angela, Paul, Sam or Jo. Just talk.