3 Time Management Techniques to Improve Your Efficiency
Time. It’s precious because it’s limited. We all have the same 24 hours a day—but only 24 hours a day—to do everything we want to do. Due to time’s finite nature, its management is crucial.
Over the many years of my career, I discovered three techniques that have helped me manage my business tasks more efficiently and combat any feelings of overwhelm I might experience in trying to get everything done. Check them out and see how you might be able to apply them to your own business.
Technique #1: Prioritize
When you have a to-do list as long as the length of your arm, you have to decide which tasks come first. You must prioritize.
Early in my career, I learned a prioritizing technique that I still use today. It’s quick and insanely easy, and over the years, it has served me well. Here’s how it works:
First, create a general to-do list, where you list everything you can think of that needs to get done.
Then, you review the tasks, and for each one, ask yourself, “How important and urgent is this task?”
Of course, “important” and “urgent” are really two different things. But for this technique, you should consider both components when deciding on a task’s priority level, because if something is both urgent and important, that’s without a doubt a higher priority than a task that’s only one or the other.
Then assign a letter grade to each task:
A = extremely important and needs to be done very soon (maybe even immediately)
B = important, but not quite as important and not so urgent
C = it would be nice to get it done, but it’s not anywhere as near as important or urgent as the B tasks
Over time, the B-level tasks will probably turn into A-level tasks, and some of the level C tasks might become move up to the B level. However, you might also be surprised by how many C tasks eventually fall off the to-do list completely. On the other hand, A tasks virtually never fall off the list.
Once you have designated your A tasks, you can prioritize them further by choosing the three top tasks you plan to complete for that day. Having those three distinct goals can really keep you on track and successfully at getting them done!
Another lesson I learned about prioritizing tasks: Don’t freak out if the day goes by and you still have items to complete on your A list. Trying to do it all will drive you insane, and attempting to do so is the opposite of good time management. Remember that, God-willing, there’s always tomorrow. Just pick three tasks to complete the next day, and carry on.
Technique #2: Delegate
Delegation is enormously freeing. If you need to “make time,” delegation does that instantly. The time spent by someone else to do your delegated task is immediately freed up for your own use on something else.
The trick with delegation, especially for smaller businesses, is often financial affordability, and as such, it’s important to know two things: 1) when you are being thrifty with your business and 2) when you are being greedy. There’s a thin line between the two concepts, but knowing and, more importantly, recognizing the difference will help you better discern when you should delegate a task and when you should not.
For myself, I’ve found great freedom and downright relief from delegation. When you’ve delegated a task—in particular to a skilled, independent worker—it’s a stress-buster to be sure. But I’ve also learned that not everything can be delegated, or else, a business owner might run the risk of not having a large enough profit margin. That said, being too greedy and not delegating tasks to others can stunt the growth of a business and its potential, in the end, to make even more money.
So how do you decide when to delegate? Ask yourself, “What do I have more of right now? Do I have more time? Or do I have more money?” I’ve found that it’s like two arms of a balance scale: When I have more time, I’m making less money. And vice versa: When more money is coming in, the less time I have.
When the latter happens, don’t get tight-fisted and stingy — instead, spread “the love” (AKA the profits) by delegating responsibilities to others.
Technique #3: Procrastinate
This technique might come as a big surprise. Who procrastinates as a way to manage time well? Isn’t procrastination something we should be avoiding? Isn’t that…bad?
I always thought so. But a few years ago, during my many travels on YouTube, I stumbled upon a TEDx talk by Rory Vader on time management that had me looking at procrastination in a very different way. I’ll sum it up quickly here, but I invite you also to listen to his full talk by clicking HERE. (You will not regret it!) He also has written a book on the subject, titled Procrastinate on Purpose.
In his talk, Vader explains that mindful, deliberate procrastination can actually help you focus your efforts on the things that really matter. If getting the really important things done means putting off other things, so be it. It’s OK to put some things, even important things, on the back burner, for the sake of making real, meaningful process overall.
What are you going to do with all your “new” time?
Many entrepreneurs complain that they don’t have enough work/life balance. In acknowledging that, it’s also important to not rest on laurels for too long when business is good: Business owners must hustle and continue to develop new business, always. So yet again, we have a situation of business “push and pull”—in this case, deciding what to do with our newly found time.
Personally, I tend to assess my overall life situation to decide how I’m going to spend any newly developed free time. I’ll ask myself these questions: Am I spending enough time caring for myself? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I exercising enough? If any answer is no to any of these questions, I turn my attention, at least for a while, on some much needed self-care. The truth is, if I get sick, my business will get sick with me. Self-care is important to both my own health and the well-being of my business, and as such, time needs to be devoted to it.
I also ask myself: Have I been ignoring my family? If you’ve been telling Bobby that you can’t attend his soccer games or Ashley that you can’t go to her piano recital, maybe now is the opportunity to devote more time to your spouse or children and attend some special events and joyous moments. That’s time you can never recover.
If, however, you find that you’ve been doing a good job giving yourself and your family the time everyone deserves, you can then turn your vision back to your business and use the extra time to market for new clients and new opportunities that will mean continued success.
You could also divide the newly gained time into percentages—much in the same way that you budget your company’s income into take-home pay and reserves for expenses. If you gain an extra 10 hours in a week by delegating a task, perhaps 60% (or six hours) can be devoted back into the business, while the remaining 40% (in this case, four hours) become much-deserved personal time.
Either way, be sure to thoughtfully consider your situation and choose your time allocation as wisely as possible.
Time: A resource you can’t afford to ignore
When you think about it, time truly is money. It’s a resource, just as money is, and it’s often an important tool. If you ignore it and its management for too long, the consequences will catch up to you and your business. It’s time to take the time to manage your time—before it mismanages your business.