Every business on the planet would like to improve its use of time. As the saying goes, time is money. Better time management means more profits. It is therefore understandable that businesses — which constantly strive to be ever more profitable — are obsessed with time. Saving time. Managing time. Not wasting time. It especially makes sense given that time is the one truly finite resource. A company can hire more staff. It can buy more equipment. It can till or mine more raw materials or recycle old materials. However, no company can make a day longer… or recycle a minute…. or find a new source of time. Once a moment is gone, that moment can never be regained. Scarcity is what makes time so precious.
Managers from Boston to Beijing and from San Francisco to Singapore want employees to better manage their time. CFOs and efficiency engineers crunch every number related to and study every aspect of time management. Called ergonomics, they study their staff’s use of time, calculating how long each task should take and analyzing how each task can be done faster. Employing logistics, execs estimate the time it takes to move a certain volume of products from point A to point B and focus on how to reduce that time as much as possible. Businesses relentlessly measure, count and calculate and apply time to every workplace activity and process. Likewise professionals strive to manage their own time. Just how well business owners, managers, execs and professionals manage time can have a big impact on their success.
Top Six Time Management Tips
Here are some well-established strategies to help make the most of that ever so precious resource…. time.
Managers and execs should delegate tasks which consume time without bringing any added value to the bottom line or insight to the job. For example, a Department Manager should allow an assistant to research and book travel, handle expense reports, research and synthesize information, and return calls or emails that don’t require personal input or professional insights. Each routine task should be evaluated to see if it can be delegated. Only those tasks that cannot be passed on to someone else should then be “added to the plate.”
Spend time learning about the latest apps, tools and devices that help streamline common office and business functions. Use automation to make routine tasks that cannot be delegated easier. For example, if travel expense reports cannot be delegated to an assistant to do, a manager can use an app to scan and store receipts during a trip. Physical receipts can be placed in a trip folder or envelope during the trip. Later when it is time to prepare the expense report, all documents can be easily emailed with the click of a button.
Innovation changes or creates more effective processes, products and ideas that save time (and money) and increase the likelihood of a business succeeding. Businesses that innovate create more efficient work processes and have better productivity and performance. For businesses, this could mean implementing new ideas, creating dynamic products or improving existing services. Being innovative does not mean inventing; innovation can mean changing an existing work model or finding more efficient ways of performing tasks. Often, the best ideas for innovation come from interacting with others in online forums and at business functions on innovative strategies that save time.
Efficiency and effectiveness are not synonymous. Busy is not the same as productive. A person can work hard, be well-organized and get a lot done, and yet spend too much time on unimportant tasks. That person might be efficient and active, but not productive or effective. A key element in using time well is to be effective and productive. To be effective, it is important to decide which tasks are urgent and which are important… and then focus only on the important ones.
It also helps to list the tasks and sort them in order of priority, and then devote the most time to the most important tasks. This avoids the natural tendency to concentrate on the simple, easy tasks and to allow too many interruptions. Also, to be productive, differentiate between urgent and important tasks. An urgent task may not necessarily be important! Careful prioritization of tasks that are important rather than urgent ensures that time is spent on those things that matter most.
Avoid people who waste time. While that may sound ruthless, it is absolutely necessary. Although it is important to develop and maintain a good rapport with coworkers, too much mindless small talk and pointless chatter kills time like there is no tomorrow. Avoid the chatty Cathys and Carls of the world. Limit socializing to an elevator ride or the time it takes to pour a cup of coffee.
The point of managing time is to ensure that the most precious of resources is not wasted, but used wisely. To that end, remember also the 80:20 Rule. 80 % of results are driven by 20% of a person’s actions. Therefore, time management is really about identifying and targeting the specific actions that produce the greatest results and cutting away the rest of the activities that are a waste of time. That should then leave a lot of precious time to do more of those things that matter and make sense.
In the end, time management shouldn’t just be about being more successful and being more profitable; it should also be about having more time for the things that matter most.
Quote of the Week
“You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.” Tony Morgan
© 2014, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.