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Better time management for your business

Productivity and time management

Good time management is a foundation of productivity. Judging how much time should be allocated to different tasks, and how to prioritise those tasks, can make a massive difference to your overall productivity. It’s a skill worth developing at both staff and management level to boost the efficiency of your business.

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What is good time management?

Good time management is ensuring that the amount of time spent on any task is in direct proportion to its importance to the business. This means that staff and management spend the majority of their time carrying out the most beneficial tasks, and spend the least amount of time on trivial tasks.

Of course, this is easier said than done. In order to achieve this, you first need to work out:

  • Which tasks are most important?
  • Which tasks are less important?
  • Which tasks can be delayed / delegated / omitted?
  • Which important tasks depend on other (perhaps ‘less important’) tasks taking place first?

Only then can you work out the most efficient priority and order for addressing tasks.

Effective time management for staff

You can help your staff manage their time effectively by prioritising their duties in this way. Staff productivity may plunge if people are overwhelmed by lots of minor duties that occupy too much of their time. The key to solving this is to plan their time around their main goals.

Every member of your staff should have a clear idea of:

  • Their main goals (and tasks needed to achieve them)
  • The auxiliary (i.e. supporting) tasks required to achieve their main goals
  • How their goals and tasks relate to those of their colleagues
  • The blockers that could delay or prevent them achieving their main tasks
  • How much of each day should be spent on their main and auxiliary tasks

Based on this information, help each member of staff to create a time-management plan that sets out recommendations for how much time each kind of task should take. If it still turns out that too much time is being spent on auxiliary tasks, you may need to take further action – such as dividing those tasks among more members of staff, or seeing which tasks can be streamlined or omitted altogether.

Other tips for good time management include:

  • Creating daily to-do lists based on the time-management plan
  • Learning to say ‘No!’ to extra work where it clashes with existing priorities
  • Reducing distractions such as email, phones and social media, such as by having set times of day when these can be checked and used (blanket bans tend to be counterproductive)
  • Reduce the number of meetings, and make sure the ones that do take place are structured to take the minimum amount of time

Sometimes inefficiencies can arise over time as organisations fail to keep up with technological change, or when employee turnover means certain sub-optimal ways of doing tasks get passed on to new staff. It’s good to conduct ‘efficiency audits’ of your processes regularly (e.g. once a year) to make sure that everything continues to be running as smoothly as possible.

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Time management for business owners

As the business owner and director, your approach to time management needs to be somewhat different. You need to have a broad view of what is going on across your whole organisation, while at the same time there may be important tasks that only you can perform. You therefore need to take special care to work out what is the best use of your time (as opposed to someone else’s time).

Here are some tips:

  • Delegate
    As a rule of thumb, only perform a task if no-one else in the organisation can do it. Limit your work as much as possible to ‘boss work’. An accountant can really help here.
  • Schedule
    Rigorously timetable your day and don’t allow meetings to overrun. Also set aside large chunks of time to get things done – it’s hard to focus if you only have half-hour gaps.
  • Rationalise
    Make sure everything you do is directly linked to one or more of your business goals. If you can’t immediately see a link, question whether you need to do this task at all
  • ‘Eat a frog’
    There’s a saying that if you eat a frog for breakfast, everything else that day will seem easy. It means, start the day with your hardest task and get that done while you’re fresh. The rest of the day will be much more productive.

Using time management to increase productivity

Effective time management can hugely increase productivity, by reducing the amount of time wasted per day. Other key benefits include:

  • Teams can coordinate with each other more effectively, reducing ‘blockers’ and slack time
  • Important tasks get the time they need and aren’t rushed.
  • You hit deadlines without a mad rush at the end
  • You reduce the need for overworking and staying late, leading to happier staff
  • You can deal with minor ad-hoc jobs and disruptions by identifying who may have time to spare
  • You can identify and address workload issues, e.g. by seeing quickly if a job is overrunning

At best, practising good time management can make it feel as if you have extra members of staff –without any of the extra cost.

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About the author
Nick Green is a financial journalist writing for Unbiased.co.uk, the site that has helped over 10 million people find financial, business and legal advice. Nick has been writing professionally on money and business topics for over 15 years, and has previously written for leading accountancy firms PKF and BDO.