<strong>Beat the time stealers!</strong> At time when competition is fierce and small businesses are finding it ever harder to differentiate themselves, effective time management is a vital component in any successful business strategy. There are constant demands on us and we need to be able to use our valuable time wisely and to maximum effect. Here’s a few simple tips to help you as you go about your everyday business - and some ideas on how to avoid those ‘time stealers’! <strong>Prioritise</strong> Ever asked yourself ‘How important is this to the business?’. Prioritising is hugely important so that not only can we do the thing <em>right</em>, but we do the <em>right</em> thing. Small-scale tasks with low impact on the business can often simply be done in what I call ‘dead time’, and of course small-scale tasks with a high impact on the business should be done as soon as possible. Large-scale tasks with a significant impact on the business require careful planning, and large-scale tasks with a low impact? It's worth asking if they actually need to be done at all! <strong>Tidy your space</strong> How frustrating is it when you can’t find something? It can eat up precious minutes in your day, and those minutes add up. Wherever you keep your business items, documents and tools make sure you have a clearly defined system that works for you. This means good housekeeping in your work space, both online and offline. <strong>To-do lists</strong> Simply put, lists work. Maybe it’s on a piece of paper, maybe it’s using your calendar or email application of choice. This allows you to see clearly what you need to focus on in one defined place. <strong>Set the agenda</strong> Meetings that overrun or have no set objective can be a big time stealer, so it’s important to have a clear agenda before you start. A meeting should always begin with a setting of the scene. Explain the goal of the meeting and what will happen. When concluding a meeting it’s crucial you explain what should happen next so that individuals understand what’s expected of them once they leave the meeting. And, of course, be punctual - not only is it courteous but do the maths, if you have six people in a meeting and this overruns by 10 minutes that adds up to an hour of time potentially lost! <strong>Email etiquette</strong> Many businesses now use email as the hub of all their communications, both internally and externally. Poor use of email can be a problem. Be concise, keep it relevant and avoid copying everybody in unless you really have to. Email applications like Outlook allow you to filter emails by subject, sender, cc, date and so on - this can be a really useful tool to ensure you don’t spend valuable time reading and answering emails that aren’t particularly important. <strong>Procrastination? I'll put it off thanks</strong> <em> “It is the job that is never started that takes longest to finish</em><em>” </em>- JRR Tolkien. Enough said. <strong>Do what works best for you</strong> Above all you need to find a system that works best for you, and sometimes this is simply a matter of trial and error. Hopefully this will give you a few ideas on how you can begin to manage your time rather than letting your time manage you.
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