You may like doing certain tasks for your business, or you may find them stressful and time-consuming. Either way, it’s a good idea to take stock of all of the tasks and activities that you do to see which ones are actually the most valuable to you in terms of monetary value. Which ones contribute to helping you achieve your business goals?
Step 1 - Track
Use a daily activity tracker to log everything that you do, no matter how small or inconsequential it may seem; from sending an email, to checking on your social media, to calling a customer or supplier.
It’s important to get a good understanding of how you spend your time, so maintaining this tracker for 2-4 weeks is really important. It may seem onerous, but once you do it for a day or two it becomes the norm.
Step 2 - Analyse
Once you’ve kept your tracker for 2-4 weeks, analyse your activities. Be mindful of wasting time or procrastinating - your activity log should show you where and when you do this. Look at the following:
do you find yourself spending a lot of small amounts of time on social media?
do you spend a lot of time chasing clients or suppliers?
do you spend more time on admin than is worth your while?
do you spend a lot of at events when you’re not seeing any return on it?
do you attend networking events that you don’t think are of any benefit to you or your business?
Now look at what is profitable to you and how much time you’re spending on those activities:
are events really good for your business and would it be worth your while to do more?
is networking your main source of engaging and taking on clients or customers and would you like to do more?
Step 3 - Prioritise
There are several techniques you can use to prioritise your tasks. Try each to see which one suits you and assign each task a monetary value, or star 1-5 based on how profitable they are to your business. Try to think of them each on terms of how they help you to reach your business goals, sometimes this can influence how important a task really is.
Eisenhower Matrix - assign each task as: Urgent; Not Urgent; Important; Not Important
MoSCoW - assign each task as one of the following: Must have/do; Should have/do; Could have/do; Would have/do
Urgent/Important - an extreme version of the Eisenhower matrix, where every action is either urgent or important, and what’s not is discarded.
Action Log - list all tasks in a log, and evaluate them using deadlines, monetary value, urgency, and then number them accordingly.
Review, Revise, Reschedule - once you’ve prioritised your tasks on a scale of 1-5, look over them again, and revise them as appropriate.
Step 4 - Review
Once you know what you’re spending your time on that isn’t making you any money, and have worked out what you’d like to spend more time on that is profitable to your business, you can make some changes.
Delegate - do you have to do everything yourself? Even if you can, it doesn’t mean you have to.
Outsource - if you outsourced some tasks, whether to a VA or did a skills swap with someone would this be a better use of your time in the long run?
Say no - do you have to do everything? Sometimes it is ok to say no, hard though it may be!
Step 5 - Change
Once you’ve tracked and analysed your time, prioritised your tasks, and reviewed where you can make changes, it’s time to implement those changes. Changes that you could make are to:
Declutter your inbox and keep it to a minimum
Outsource of delegate work that you don’t have to do yourself
Attend networking meetings that are beneficial to you
Schedule meetings on a certain day/time, or find alternative means of having those meetings
Use a CRM to keep track of all of your contacts
Schedule in admin time every day/week rather than doing it ad hoc
Schedule in time for competitor/customer research regularly rather than ad hoc
Set up templates so you can use them to quickly fire off an email to a customer, client, or supplier.
As a small business owner, we all have a finite amount of time. Use the time you have wisely, and in the most profitable way for your business. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless when it comes to analysing your time - both you and it are precious.