According to The Alternative Board’s recent business pulse survey on time management, 85% of business owners are working 40+ hours per week, but only 70% want to be. In fact, the average business owner is working 7.7 hours a week more than they’d like.
Even though entrepreneurs are already squeezing blood from a stone, they still want more. By freeing up their schedules they could devote more time to marketing, strategic planning, and creating new opportunities for their business – the #1 way most entrepreneurs wish they could be spending time at work.
So how can busy business owners reallocate their time for improved productivity and work-life balance? TAB’s survey results offer 3 time management tips you can put to use immediately:
While 76% of business owners rank their time management skills above average, an equal amount would like to explicitly reduce tasks that they don’t feel they need to be personally doing. It’s understandable why most entrepreneurs don’t delegate enough -- after all, most business owners like being in control. In many cases, it’s why they got started with entrepreneurship in the first place. While taking ownership is a very profitable trait, it can also be a huge pitfall.
“The number one mistake startup owners make is refusing to let go of control,” says TAB UK Operations Director Jo Clarkson.
“A great way to overcome this setback is by reflecting on your end game and what you want the journey to be like. For example, if you're really clear that the business needs to provide enough wealth for your family to achieve financial security in 5 years, and you want the journey to give you the freedom to take a 3 week vacation each summer – you’d better get over that hurdle of letting go, and delegate!”
Plan and Prioritize
40% of business owners surveyed admitted to having an ineffective annual operating plan or none at all -- something that directly leads to lost productivity. When you don’t know what is really urgent and what isn’t, you end up treating everything as an emergency.
A good way to avoid “tyranny of the urgent” is to prioritize your day. When TAB Member Jesse Viola, President of APM Shipping Services LLC, realized he was spending too much time putting out fires over the phone every morning, he turned to his TAB Board for advice. His fellow business owners suggested he turn off his business line until 11am each day. “Organizing my day this way helps me accomplish the bigger picture items I want to get done first.” says Viola. “From there, I can work on the fires with more motivation and better attention to the cash flow priority.”
Another way to plan is to use some sort of agenda or scheduler. Test out different styles and find out which one works for you. Hubspot has even created a variety of agendas for different types of situations. Start there and adapt the agenda as needed; just don't stray to far off the path and fall back into chaos.
Rethink Your Email Strategy
The number one item business owners are losing time on is email. According to the survey results, business owners are spending 30.9% of their time on email – more than calls (14.2%), direct interaction with employees (24.6%), direct interaction with customers (21%), and direct interaction with vendors (9.4%). As TAB’s April 2015 socially-driven business survey demonstrated the importance of community engagement, business owners are smart to cut down their time on email and increase their direct interaction with their community (i.e. employees, customers, and vendors).
Cheri Giglia, Managing Director, Supporting Strategies North Shore Lo, recommends setting up a to-be-processed folder in your inbox. “When reviewing your inbox, move messages that require further action to that folder. That way, you don’t waste time reading emails multiple times. You can access them later without having to clutter or search inbox.”
Follow the advice of the HP founders who were masters of time management. One of their tips was to touch each piece of paper a single time. The same can be applied to email. When you allocate time to reading email, make a commitment to responding to the email at that time.”
If business owners had more time, they would spend it on marketing (32%), strategic planning (24%), product/service development (15%), and strategic partnerships (11%) – all profitable activities that can push their business forward. Better time management not only translates to better long term strategy, but more time for family, friends, and personal pursuits.
Whether your personal vision of success is increased profits, expanding your reach, or simply more free time, prioritizing your hours is the first step in reaching your goals. Working with a board of fellow business owners can help you identify areas where you are losing time and how to refocus your energy for increased productivity.