Mastering time management for business

Mastering time management for business

In business, as in life, time is a precious resource. For SME owners, who often juggle several jobs’ worth of work, it can feel like one is always playing catch-up. While you might be responsible for everything, trying to do everything tends to worsen the problem. Counterintuitively, sometimes doing less, but focusing on those things most important and urgent, can be a more efficient use of time.

So why is time management so important?

  • The cost of poor time management
    Without sufficient planning, workflows become disorganised – frequently hopping between tasks means less concerted focus and a lot of wasted time. This in turn impacts quality – if you must rush through important processes, you could make mistakes that prove very costly. Together, these issues can damage your company and reputation: if you cannot meet deadlines consistently, and produce substandard work to boot, your clients may well decide to take their business elsewhere.

  • The benefits of good time management
    Conversely, being on top of your work means less stress, and in turn greater productivity. It also allows you to meet deadlines consistently – the more often you do this, the easier goals will be to attain. Crucially, new opportunities won’t fall into your lap – you have to go out and find them. If your house is in order, not only do you have the time to seek out opportunities, but also the ability to tackle them with confidence.

Tips for optimising time management

With the importance of time management established, it’s time to tackle the nitty gritty: how do SME owners, with so much on their plates, take steps towards improving their use of time?

Step 1: Setting goals

More specifically, a method called SMARTgoals. This means that goals should be:

  • Specific: clearly defined; unambiguous.
  • Measurable: able to be quantified, so you can determine when it is complete.
  • Attainable: realistically within reach given your time, resources, and so on.
  • Relevant: aligns with your business needs and strategy.
  • Time-bound: have a clear timeline attached to its completion.

This structure clarifies what exactly is required to achieve each goal. You can then plot a timeline, with smaller goals needed to achieve larger ones, where relevant. While “acquire more clients” is clearly relevant, it doesn’t lend itself to quantification. Instead, your larger goal could be “acquire five new clients in the next six months” with smaller goals such as “attend three networking events per month”.

Step 2: Plan through prioritisation

To efficiently achieve each goal, and each process in day-to-day business, it’s important to plan. This can be done effectively through prioritising: deciding which tasks to tackle first. There are several methods of doing this:

  • ABC method
    This method is quick to adopt if you are currently struggling with organisation. Simply rank tasks into importance, with A being the most important and C the least; then further into numbers (A1, A2, etc). Then proceed through A, from lowest to highest number, then through B, and so on.

  • Eisenhower method
    This involves ranking each task on importance and urgency. Tasks that are both important and urgent should be done immediately; tasks that are neither should be left until last. Tasks that are important but not urgent should be given a clear timeline for completion; tasks that are urgent but not important should be delegated.

  • Pareto analysis
    The Pareto principle (or the “80/20 rule”) states that 20% of efforts will produce 80% of the results. Examine each of your goals, analyse which efforts play the most role in achieving them, and prioritise your own input for the best returns.

Step 3: Delegate

As is evident above, prioritisation means that your efforts will be focused on certain tasks and processes. This means that tasks lower down the pecking order must be delegated. the Eisenhower method gives a good example of how this can be counterintuitive: urgent tasks should not always be your focus, only when they are also important. Further, delegation doesn’t need to be black and white: some processes may require your involvement, but only in certain stages. Given time constraints, your input should be limited to where it is most productive.

Step 4: Time limits

Once you have your own time input prioritised and have delegated tasks and processes (or parts thereof) to employees, set clear time limits for completion. These limits should ensure that all important work is completed to the highest standard, and urgent work is completed timeously. A great way to ensure these deadlines are achieved is to offer incentives for meeting (and especially exceeding) expectations.

Save time with efficient financing

Keeping on top of time management can be hugely challenging when it comes to finances. Substantial amounts of time are often spent chasing accounts – its importance often trumps productivity. On top of this, cashflow problems make devising and sticking to set deadlines difficult – one can’t execute a strategy if there isn’t capital to pay for it.

Merchant Factors offers a solution to both problems. It purchases your accounts receivable, giving you cash up-front, so you always have the working capital to execute plans in an optimal fashion. Furthermore, extensive credit control and debtor administration services are included – leaving you to invest your time where it yields optimal returns.

For fast, flexible business finance – contact Merchant Factors today.

Finance beyond the Numbers.