It will come as no surprise to any business owner (or employee, for that matter) that time management is one of the biggest topics for business.
Every business requires a wide range of activities to be performed, and there’s only ever so much time to do them all. So it stands to reason that being able to organise and manage the time you spend on them all is critical to a business’ success….
“Successful” time management means you avoid missing important deadlines, are able to juggle multiple different tasks effectively, can prioritise different clients’ demands, keep on top of your admin, focus on “the right things”… and all that, within the hours you’ve allocated yourself for getting the job done. Essentially, it’s figuring out how to nail your productivity.
But it’s a challenge, we all know that. Largely because there just never seems to be enough time to do everything.
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There are – helpfully – huge numbers of resources on the topic. Countless articles, blogs and books with useful tips and hacks to help you manage your time better, be more productive, overcome the overwhelm, etc. And nowadays, there are more and more apps and software programmes with ready-to-use tools to help you actually do it, too.
However, for those tools to be of any help, they require – and assume – one critical thing: that you already know WHAT you need to be prioritising; that you already have the knowledge that comes before the tool….
Think of it like this. Is having Photoshop enough to make you a pro photo editor? Does owning chef-quality kitchenware make you a chef-quality cook? No … they’re good starts, they’re helpful … but they’re not enough.
You need the skills, the knowledge and the understanding behind it all. You need to know what to do with those tools before you can use them.
The same applies with these time management tools. If you don’t know WHAT to prioritise, what’s most important, what the “right thing” is to focus on, then apps pertaining to help you schedule and keep on top on your time aren’t going to help.
You still need to go one step back … you need the knowledge – the clarity – on WHAT before you can try to work out WHEN.
Because whilst time management for business is, to some extent, about organising your time efficiently … it’s actually far more about using your time wisely.
And those are two very different things.
How to work out your priorities, to better manage your time
People talk about being “focused” as key to having better time management.
But focus is secondary to clarity….
Clarity is knowing WHAT to do.
Focus is DOING it.
And if you don’t have clarity on what to do … you can’t very easily be focused on doing it.
So, how do you get your clarity? You take it back, as is so often the case, to looking at the bigger picture. And importantly, to blocking out the noise of all the little things that are keeping you so busy.
Start by thinking about your goals, targets and objectives.
What do you want your business to BE in your life?
Once you’ve reminded yourself of your core goals, THEN you look at all those different “things” you need to do for your business to actually operate.…
All those things on your to-do-list, all the ideas you’ve had in mind for a while, all the activities that are currently filling up your days – from your client work to your marketing to your admin. Consider how each one, down to the finest detail (the specific client, the “type” of project, the logistics of the work you’re doing), fits into the grander scheme of your goals, targets and objectives.
And to do this, I always recommend utilising the great Eisenhower “Urgent-Important” Matrix.
The Eisenhower Matrix
Ask yourself, for each of those things you are doing – or looking to do – the following questions:
“Is it important?” Yes, or No.
“Is it urgent?” Yes, or No.
And then put each activity in its relevant “box”:
Quarter 1 = Urgent AND important.
Quarter 2 = Important, but not urgent.
Quarter 3 = Urgent, but not important.
Quarter 4 = Neither urgent, nor important.
And from there you should start to find a bit of clarity….
Be productive in business by recognising what is actually important, to help effectively manage your time
Once you have all the activities and tasks on your to-do-list neatly organised according to urgency and importance – based on how they lead you to your end goal– you’re much closer to gaining the clarity you need to be able to focus.
Those Q1s are clearly the “right things” to focus on. They are the tasks that DO need your full attention. They are the tasks that are leading you directly towards your goals.
The Q2s are also important – they are also leading you to your end goals. So actually, they’re very important. The nice thing is that they don’t have the pressure of a fixed deadline. The bad thing about that is that they’re easier to put off….
Those time management for business apps may come in handy now … you know WHAT you need to be scheduling your time for … and you’ve identified that they’re important enough that they DO need to be prioritised. So the lack of an “official” deadline perhaps just means that you need to be attaching a deadline of your own…?
Q3s. These are the tricky ones that have no doubt been keeping you BUSY. They’re “urgent” … they have a deadline, which means they normally get bumped to the top of our priority list. They obviously need to be done, or they wouldn’t have that urgency, but you’ve identified that they’re NOT important in terms of you reaching your overall goals, your overall strategy.
Which means they are LESS important than the Q2s – the things that are probably being put off in their favour … purely because these Q3s came with a pre-existing deadline.
So you’re putting off reaching your goals, in order to be busy with something that’s not helping you reach your goals at all…. That needs to change.
The solution? There are two main ones:
The first: outsourcing. Passing on those tasks that need to be done but are distracting you from your Q1s and Q2s is the most efficient thing you can do. And the cost of doing so will almost always be compensated by the fact you’re now ABLE to focus on your Q1s and Q2s … as those are the activities leading you directly to your goals, targets and objectives.
And if you can’t bring yourself to outsource, look at them again and ask yourself:
“Are they really urgent?” … “Do they really need to be done at all?” … because if not, you have your second solution: Move them to Q4.
Q4 – the “not important OR urgent” category is a very satisfying one. It’s the list of tasks that you can cross straight off your list.
Not because they’re done. Because they don’t NEED to be done.
We’ve all got them. We all pick up tasks along the way that we just “get used to doing”, and we forget to think about how useful they actually are.
As our businesses grow and progress, the activities we need to be doing change too….
Stepping back and playing with the “Urgent–Important” matrix once in a while is a great opportunity to kick those unnecessary tasks to the curb.
Time management is being EFFECTIVE, not just efficient
Productivity is often simply called efficiency.
And efficiency – “doing things right” – is indeed important for time management for your business.
But being EFFECTIVE: doing ”the right things” is even more so….
Think about it – being efficient at the things you don’t need to be doing is neither efficient nor effective. It’s simply distracting you from doing the things you DO need to be doing.
It’s making you BUSY … but not necessarily SUCCESSFUL.
And whilst being busy can make us FEEL like we’re doing things right, that we’re “being successful” … it usually isn’t. In fact, it’s usually the opposite.
It’s what I call the Busyness Delusion – thinking that BUSY = SUCCESSFUL, whereas no one actually wants to be busy: we just want to be successful … and if you’re really honest – being successful without needing to be busy is the real dream, right?
I’ve written a book about this very topic, called that very name: The Busyness Delusion. I’d recommend it if any of the above resonates, as it covers all of this in direct and relatable examples.
…. That SUCCESS isn’t about being busy. And that time management isn’t actually about managing your time … so much as managing your PRIORITIES.
It’s about recognising how IMPORTANT all of the things you are doing are, within the context of leading you towards your end goal: that of achieving financial security, freedom, and ultimately – fulfilment. What I call The 3Fs.
Or recognising that actually, they are just making you busy….
Getting your priorities straight and knowing WHAT to focus on is the fastest way to reach your ultimate goals in business.
It gives you the CLARITY you need so as to know WHERE to focus your time and energy.
And it makes time management easy, because you have that underlying knowledge of WHAT you need to achieve, and WHEN.
Maybe you’ll then need some software tools to help you, maybe you don’t. Either way, you’ll be on track for reaching your goals.
If YOU need some help figuring your “what’s” and priorities out, let me know. It’s the thing I love to help people do most.