Time can be a small business owner’s best friend, or worst enemy. It all depends on how you use it. There just never seem to be enough hours in the day to get things done. As a business operator, time is extremely valuable to business owners-especially if you bill for time. Wasting time can be extremely harmful to your bottom line.
To operate efficiently, your business may need systems for managing time and keeping track of who’s working on what and for how long. Most successful small business owners are also successful time managers. And they tend to share certain strategies.
One of the most basic time management devices ever invented is the simple “To-Do” list. Each day, jot down all of the things that need to get done, all on one sheet of paper.
You can also number or check the ones that are highest priority “must-do” items. As tasks are completed, cross them off. This can help you focus on getting them done one at a time, and also gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Delegating more work can also help ease your time crunch. Many business owners accustomed to “doing it all” find this exceedingly difficult. But even if you are a sole operator, you can pass off tasks to others, via outsourcing, for example, to free up time for yourself.
Periodically analyze how time is spent at your business-and not just your time, but everyone’s. Divide the day into small time blocks and record what you, or others, were doing in each block. Now compare this real use of time to your goals, expectations and mission priorities. If they do not align, you’ll need to take action. One step might be to set clearer time-management goals for yourself and your employees.
Banish procrastination from your place of business. Growing, successful businesses don’t put things off. Even a simple “no” response to something on your to-do list can extinguish that item and let you move on.
A variety of technology solutions are also helping small businesses track and manage time. For example, Workarea.com is an Internet-based time tracking system that can provide billing information to the second. The system includes a time clock, time sheet, expense tracking, address book and the ability to access it all via cell phone or PDA. If you use Microsoft Outlook for email, you can also tap its time management capabilities.
The TimeClock Plus Small Business Edition, lets you turn any PC into a time clock. Employees can sign in or out with the keyboard or mouse, and easily allocate hours and costs to specific jobs. And TimeTiger.com is a computer-based to-do list that shows all the items you could be working on.
To learn more about time management issues facing your small business, contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE Chicago is a nonprofit organization of more than 100 volunteer business counselors who provide free, confidential business counseling and training workshops to entrepreneurs and small business owners. You can set up an appointment at one of our 15 locations by clicking this link. Check our website www.scorechicago.org for details on our workshops or resources on topics of interest. Call 312-353-7724 for further information. Not from Chicago? Visit SCORE.org.