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Real Edge

13 tips to being effective with your time in 2024

The challenge for most business owners isn’t keeping busy hour by hour, day by day – that’s easy.  It’s actually doing things that give real results and grow their business.   Generally speaking if you’re busy as a leader, you’re doing it wrong. When you’re busy, you’re more likely to make poor time-management choices — taking on commitments you shouldn’t, or prioritising mundane tasks over crucial ones. A vicious spiral kicks in: your feelings of busyness leave you even busier than before.

There is a commodity in your business which is more important than money – that’s time.  You can always generate more money, but you can’t create more time.  A good way of reinforcing this is to put an hourly $ value on your time – based on your value to the business.  This may be $40/hour or it may be $450/hour.  Either way, it will highlight the amount of money you are wasting with unproductive tasks.

To stop wasting time, I’ve outlined what I think are the 13 simple principles most successful business owners live by.

1. Log 1 full day – this has to be the first step

Carry a notebook with you, and log everything you do for the day.  That’s right, everything – to the minute.  Thoughts, activities and conversations.  Try to make it a typical work day.  This will let you see how much of your time is being spent on productive tasks, which give you great results.  As well as how much unproductive time you’ve spent and what absorbed that time.

Maybe even try a second day – just to make sure!

Then plan to spend 50% of your work time on those activities that you’ve identified produced the greatest results.  It’s been shown that 80% of our results comes from only 20% of our time.  Imagine what would happen if you shifted that up towards 50%.

2. Get organised

Start with a weekly reminder or alarm to look over your calendar for the coming week. Each Sunday afternoon when your alarm goes off, just take 5 minutes to look at what events you have coming up for the week. When you find that’s easy and you do it without thinking, try setting an alarm for every afternoon (4-5pm) to look at what’s on your calendar for tomorrow.  I personally prefer afternoon rather than late evening – which can disrupt your sleep.

3. Use a 5-min Journal

You may have heard of this idea, and thought that it sounds a little airy-fairy.  However there is science behind it that proves that it makes us more effective (and sometimes happier).  You can start by using a small piece of paper each morning, or you can go straight to the proper 5 min journal booklet.  Either way, it helps ensure that you achieve the most important things each day, rather than just being busy ticking off a massive to do list.

4. Not Urgent – but Important

Don’t say Yes to everything.  See the time management quadrant below.  One of the killers of time efficiency is spending too much of our day in the bottom left quadrant –  Urgent but not Important.  Putting out spot fires, most of which when you boil down are not all that important to your business success. 

Try printing this quadrant out and place on your office wall.  Each week, try to spend a little more time in the top right quadrant –  Important but not urgent.  It’s been said that business success and growth is in direct relation to the amount of time owners can spend in the top left quadrant – which has definitely been my experience when coaching business owners.

5. Commit to ONE thing per day

This is linked to the 5 min journal concept.  So, if the journal idea doesn’t work for you, commit to take action on one thing on a daily basis.  Sounds easy, but most of us start the day with an e-mail, then put out a fire, then another….the day is gone with almost nothing to show.  The key is to commit to one thing from this list every work day.  Some may not apply to your business, but you should replace with others that are:

  • Write an e-mail to your top clients
  • Send 1 personalised thank you e-mail to 1 prospect
  • Ask one client for a referral
  • Create a simple system that makes life easier for your staff
  • Add one page of content to your website
  • If you’re not happy with your website- take a step towards getting it sorted
  • Test one new up sell offer today
  • Bundle 3 products into 1 and create a new name
  • Ask one customer for their feedback
  • Ask one customer what else they would like to buy
  • Offer one free bonus “just as a way of saying thanks”
  • Create a customer survey to find out what they want
  • Organise a client focus group to review your business
  • Offer your clients a live seminar-bring in guest speakers
  • Ask 5 clients if you can take them for a brainstorming lunch
  • Find out what your clients fear the most
  • Visualise your perfect business and life for 5 minutes
  • Write one article for your newsletter
  • Write one blog entry
  • Post one comment on your company social media site

The compound effect of this one per day action plan over one year is huge.

6. Social media

Turn off all social media alerts during the workday.  This includes Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp.

7. Do not disturb

Everyone likes to think that they can do more than one thing at a time.  The truth is that humans can only do one thing at a time – this goes for women & men.  Multitasking is the number one enemy of being effective with your time.

  • Put your phone on flight mode for 30 minute blocks when an important task is required.
  • Try not answering the phone every time it rings
  • Turn off e-mail notifications – pop ups and audible.  Even just seeing an e-mail pop up makes you less effective.
  • Place a Do Not Disturb sign on your office when you really need to get work done.  This may sound a little over-the-top, but people will get used to it, and you’ll be surprised at what you can get done in that time.

8. Declutter

Try to get into the habit of decluttering your desk before you go home.  Not a fun task, I know.  But one that will pay huge dividends in your personal productivity.

9. Clear your inbox weekly

Don’t let your inbox grow to hundreds of e-mails.  Try to get into the habit of clearing your inbox to 0 at the end of each week.  Either action an e-mail and file away, or delete.  In both situations they’re out of your view, subconsciously unclogging your brain. You’ll be amazed at how much head space you gain, to think clearly about what you need to do next.

10. Delegate

But don’t make the mistake of doing this without making sure that your staff have been informed, trained and equipped for the task.  This is a common and painful mistake.   Having good staff is a part of this, but even good staff need to be informed and ready.  In many cases, you only need to do this a couple of times before it’s off your hands forever.

11. Avoid your employees

This may sound harsh, but it’s for everyone’s benefit.  Your staff, even the really good ones, will eat up your time and energy, with well-intentioned attempts to get your attention.  Part of this is the “Teachers Pet” syndrome, and part of it is not wanting to risk making a mistake by making decisions for themselves.  Either way, I suggest you try to move your office away from the main work area, or try working from home or a satellite office 2-3 days per week.  Remember your job as a business owner is very different to their job as employees.

12. Schedule breaks

Don’t work solidly for more than 40 minutes at a time.  You can, BUT your quality and results will go downhill fast.  After 30-40min of solid uninterrupted work, ie. no distractions from phone or e-mail, get up walk around, go outside for a 5min walk, or even sit quietly in a room, ie. meditate.  You’ll see much better results for your business by doing this.  You can even try the Pomodoro Technique.  This is a proven method to get more done in less time.

And finally my favourite tip – it actually works!

13. Create time for your friends and family

Life can’t only be about work.  You should make time to recharge with friends and family, including regular holidays.  If you’re feeling burnt out, and just don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere in your business, take a holiday.  Even a short break in a different environment will see you achieve more when you return.

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