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.