Each person only has 24 hours in a day. No matter how organized you are, you can’t create more than 24 hours. You can, however, make the most out of those hours.
Unless you wish to get burned out and begin to hate your work, it is important to create a balance between work and personal life. The key to this is to manage your time without losing momentum in your business or your other endeavors.
Metrics – Measure Only What’s Really Important
It’s helpful to have a finger on the pulse of your business. Taking metrics and figuring out what is working and isn’t working can help you improve productivity and your bottom line. However, it is a waste of time to track every little thing. Instead, measure only what is really important.
- Know how much money is coming in and how much money is going out. How’s your cash flow?
- What are my expenses? Study them to see if there are areas where you can save money.
- Get rid of things that aren’t effective (advertising that doesn’t give results).
- How can you increase your top and bottom line? More customers? Another location? Adding services? Charging a bit more?
- How much inventory are you holding?
- Are your financials tracking to budget?
- What is your order on-time-delivery?
- Who is your target demographic?
- What needs do they have that you can meet?
- What is your retention rate? Are you keeping the customers you have?
- How many new customers are you gaining each year? How any have you lost?
- What are customers saying out your level of customer service?
Internal Business Processes
- What’s your level of overtime?
- How many employees do you have? Is it just enough or too many? How many open requisitions do you have?
- How’s employee morale?
- If you’re in a manufacturing environment, what’s your rework or scrap rate?
- Are your internal business processes effective or do you spend a lot of time spinning your wheels? Do you focus on the task at hand or get distracted with other things?
- What new skills are you learning from year to year (both business and personal)?
- Are there any processes that can run more smoothly?
- Can you develop a new system that will make better use of your time?
- How can you better train your employees?
Use a balanced scorecard system. A balanced scorecard is a way to plan and manage your business affairs. You’ll find an example in my new book Pushing the Envelope: How to Think Like a Fighter Pilot in Life and Business. In a nutshell, you take the elements of strategy and turn them into a game plan to help your business succeed.
Work on the Important Things
It is easy to get sidetracked and work on a lot of little things, but not accomplish anything in a given day. Don’t confuse activity for productivity. Busy work is a waste of your time. Figure out what tasks you can delegate to others, which ones are important for you to personally complete, and which ones can wait.
Some people use an ABC to-do system. Basically, you assign each task you must complete with an importance level of A for the most important and C for not very important. “A” tasks should be completed first. I use this prioritization method every day in my planner.
Plan your day, or it will plan you. You must take control of your schedule. If you work from home, set aside time to work and time to do other things. It is very easy to get distracted in a home office. A home project calls your name, a neighbor stops by, the dog wants to play or a friend calls and you wind up wasting an hour or more of your work time.
Setting a schedule and sticking to it can mean the difference between success and failure. Even at a place of business, it is easy to get distracted with office politics and other activities. Throughout the day, ask yourself, “What is the best use of my time right now?” You need discipline to stay on track.
Make a Schedule
Be honest. Does your business have a REAL production schedule? Just having a loose idea of what you need to get done is not the same thing as a schedule that plans out your day. A schedule should break down the tasks you need to complete, how long it will take to complete, and even factor in breaks for lunch or meetings.
You might wonder what you will do if something urgent crops up and you’re thrown off your schedule. First, you can plan in some emergency projects time, emergency control time, and even miscellaneous time. This will likely cover those instances when something unexpected comes up that has to be dealt with right now. When an emergency does not arise, then you’ll have extra time to complete those lesser C tasks on your list.
Schedule Customer Service, Too!
You should similarly track your delivery performance of customer orders. If you want to keep your customers happy, you better give them their products on time.
Start by asking what your REAL customer on-time delivery is? Are you meeting these demands? Would your customers say you are meeting these goals or running beyond them? What would be even better is if you could exceed goals and deliver early.
You’ll also want to look at other factors, such as:
- Was the item in stock when it was ordered?
- Did the entire order ship on time or only part of it?
- Was it delivered on time or late?
- Was it delivered in the condition promised?
- How long did it take to get the product out to the customer?
Answer these questions yes, no, or with a number. It’s a black and white concept to provide timely customer service. There is no in between in this area.
Once you have an idea of what your productivity is, it becomes easier to fix it.
Becoming More Productive with Lists
Use a daily planner to run your day so your day doesn’t run you. As mentioned above, an ABC list is one method you can utilize to get the most important tasks done first.
There are some apps and tools you can utilize that will allow you and your employees to access the to-do list from anywhere. These include:
- Toodledo – This app can be accessed from a desktop computer or your smart phone. You add tasks and when they need to be completed by and can check them off online. It is a straightforward system and very easy to use.
- Basecamp – Many business use basecamp to organize projects and move them from category to category as they are completed.
- Slack – Slack is a basic communication tool that will allow you to talk back and forth with employees in private and group chats. You can also assign tasks and employees check them off as they are completed. This is a particularly helpful tool for those who need to delegate.
- Trello – Trello allows you to set up cards that have tasks. As each part of the team completes a card, they move it to another section of the board. This platform works well for publishing type projects. For example, if you have to write a whitepaper, someone would complete the research and move it to the writing phase. The writer would write a draft and move it to the editing phase. And, so on until the project was completed.
You can also just use good old paper and pencil to create a to-do list. That’s what I use. I don’t need to pull up a computer screen or look at my iPhone. It is open right there on my desk. I can just glance over at it when needed and check things off as completed. Checking things off makes you feel as though you’ve accomplished something.
Streamlining Tasks to Save Time
To make the most of your time, you have to be aware of what tasks can be streamlined or delegated. You’ll have to study your own business and life, but here are a few ideas:
- Social media posts can be scheduled ahead on HootSuite. You can also install plugins that automatically post to social media when a new article is published.
- Bills can be set up for auto pay, saving you time and effort writing checks.
- IFTTT allows you to automate a lot of processes with a blog and website so that you only do one thing, such as creating a new post, and IFTTT uses a recipe to do things such as backing up the file, emailing your list to let them know the post is up, or notifying social media.
- When running errands, plan your route in a circular manner, so that you aren’t backtracking to buy items. For example, if you need printer paper and also need to stop by the printer and a supplier, figure out how to go to each one so you go in a circle before returning to the office.
There are many tools available to help you save time and better schedule your day. However, the real key is figuring out what works best for you. If you don’t like the way Basecamp is set up and fail to use it, then it isn’t going to help you.
Making the most of every minute of your day requires dedication and consistency to the process. Keep lists, plan out your schedule, and don’t forget to include a balance so you have a bit of personal time with your family.