I’ve recently started using a short assessment quiz that helps business owners to identify the key area they should be focusing on in their business. Would you be surprised if I were to tell you that results so far show that 50% of business owners find time to be their biggest challenge, ahead of team and money?
Probably not. Very few business owners I meet complain about having too much time on their hands.
So, if time is such an issue, how can we develop a productivity mindset to make sure every minute counts?
Well, a productivity mindset can be broken down into three key areas we need to master: self-mastery, planning mastery and delegation mastery.
If you master these three areas, you are guaranteed to make your week far more productive. It will enable you to find more time to work on the things that will make you money or stop you from losing money (which no business owner likes to do). In the same amount of time you currently have. In fact, probably even less.
By the way, if you’re keen to find out if there is anything else you should be focusing on, why not take 3 minutes and complete the quiz for yourself – Focus Assessment Quiz
Become a Master of Time
Self-mastery is very focused on YOU. It’s all about mastering our own sense of discipline and building an objective understanding of what we do with our time. How many times have you sat back at the end of the day and asked yourself, what did I actually do today?
When we don’t track our activities and give preference to those that are the most critical to our goals for the day, time quite literally flies by unnoticed and unproductively.
A great way to start mastering yourself, and your awareness of how you spend your time, is to create a time log. A simple daily plan almost where, for each day that you work, you break it down into 15-minute slots, right from when you start work through to the end of your day. Then use this log to map out how much time you spend doing tasks and record what those tasks are. Over a period of days or weeks, you’re going to start to see a bit of a pattern of what may be draining your productivity. You’ll be able to analyse the tasks that are taking up a lot of your time, and assess whether they are worth the investment or whether they are merely distractions.
Equally as valuable, you will be able to identify the critical tasks you need to do, the ones where you should be focusing your energy.
Another handy visual tool is to plot the activities from your time log onto a Skill / Fun Matrix. Low skill and low-interest activities should be dumped, while high skill, high interest should be done by you, the business owner. Other activities should be deferred or delegated, EVEN if you enjoy doing them as they are not the best use of your time. Ideally, you want to be spending most of your time on activities that fall in the top right green block.
Once you have narrowed down the tasks on your list to only those you really should be concentrating on, the next step is to prioritise. It’s useful here to apply the Rock, Pebbles and Sand analogy. Rocks are the things that are going to propel your business forward. Pebbles are things that will probably propel your business forward, and sand is all those little tasks that definitely are not going to propel your business forward.
In other words, rocks are anything that will make you money or stop you from losing money. Pebbles may help with that too, but sand is just a distraction.
There are so many things that can distract us, or that we can distract ourselves with. Social media, telephone calls, chats around the water cooler, news updates, non-urgent emails. And sometimes, that’s fine. We’re not machines, we all need a bit of downtime during the day.
But if you diligently include these on your time log and tally the time they consume during a day, I bet you will be quite astounded by how much time it all adds up to. This is the time that isn’t making your business money.
For improved productivity, that sand must be carefully managed either by reducing the amount of sand you leave on your To-Do list or reducing the amount of time you spend on that sand. Usually, it’s a combination of the two.
A valuable habit for time productivity is to plan the day ahead the night before. The reason for doing your planning the night before is it allows your subconscious to think about the day ahead, to process overnight everything you have to do. And it will answer a lot of the how’s by the time you begin your day, which means you become a lot more efficient, a lot more effective and you’ll get things done quicker
Now, we’ve already talked about rocks, pebbles and sand, and the fact that rocks are your things are going to make you money or stop you losing money. So, when it comes to planning, what are the things you plan first?
You guessed it, the rocks.
Put the rocks in and allocate a time segment for completing them. Then include your pebbles (the things that could possibly make you money or possibly stop you from losing money), and if there is still any space left, drop the sand in.
If you adopt this approach each day, you will find your productivity, and your business, moving forward at an accelerated rate. Why? Because rather than focusing on just any old activity, you’re focusing your time on the right activities for progression.
One bite at a time
The book, Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy (If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend you do) talks about the frogs in our lives, the challenging tasks that we are most likely to procrastinate over but also the ones most likely to have a positive impact on our lives.
Unless they are dealt with, frogs will hang around. They will keep popping in and out of our consciousness, and the longer we put off dealing with them, the more stressful the idea of tackling them becomes.
Slippery as they are, our frogs will only go away when you’re prepared to deal with them!
Acknowledge your frog when you are busy with your diary planning the night before and proactively scheduled it into your day, preferably in a time slot when you’re at your peak performance. It takes energy and focus to eat frogs, bite by bite. If you try to conquer your frog when you are not energised, chances are it will take twice as long to do and feel less of an accomplishment when completed.
Getting the frog out of the way early in the day will free you up to look clearly at what else is on the agenda for the day, and you’ll start to work your way through it all a lot quicker – with a lighter frame of mind too.
Delegation mastery is a skill that empowers you to manage all that sand. All that stuff that you shouldn’t be doing (even if you might enjoy doing it) needs to be delegated. And the first step of doing that is accepting you can’t hold on to everything. You can’t be that control person because all you’ll end up doing is stifling your business from growing. The only way to allow yourself and your business to grow is to let some things go that are not as important as the things you still hold on to.
To minimise the distraction of too much sand, when working on your daily plan make sure to allocate time to delegate sand (and even a few pebbles) to the appropriate team member, bearing in mind some of the core tenets to delegation mastery:
- Determine who is the right person to delegate the task to
- Satisfy yourself they have the right skills to complete the task
- Be very clear about what task you are delegating
- Explain why the task is significant to the business
- Agree on how the progress of the task will be reviewed
- Document what the expected outcomes are when the task is finished
(If you would like to read more about effective delegation, have a look at my previous article, Abdication versus Delegation.)
We all dream of having more hours in the day. We also all know that is impossible. What is possible is to make the most of the time you do have by directing your energy to the right things.
You’re in control of this. You make the decisions about how you spend your time, nobody else. The business is not making decisions for you. Master these three areas and you will soon be able to measure how much extra you’ve accomplished each week, adding real value to your business and stimulating growth.
Now, at the end of the day, you can sit back and relish your sense of achievement.
I am a Business Coach and Growth Specialist at ActionCOACH Bury St Edmunds, committed to working with business owners to create sustainable, viable, profitable entities within the local community.
We find that most business owners are experts in their industry but not in business. Our ActionCOACH business re-education coaching programmes help business owners to understand all aspects of business so they can build a profitable, sustainable business that works without them.