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How can I make the most of my time?

Juggling all the requirements of your business – such as visiting new customers, keeping up with answering emails and phone calls, keeping records etc. as well as conducting your business – can feel overwhelming, so making the most of your time is important. Using your time productively is an important and necessary skill to learn, particularly when you are first starting out in business. Read the following tips to help you become more aware of how you can make the most of your time.

How can I find out about I how I use my time?

When you start up in business you may find that you seem to be working very long hours a day, maybe seven days a week. It may feel that you are accomplishing very little.

One of the first steps you need to take is to find out exactly how you spend your time each day. Once you have this information only then can you start to make improvements and become more productive.

To find out where your time goes each day keep a time diary over the next week. A easy way to gather this information is to use a Word document or Excel spreadsheet. Create a simple six column template or table showing columns for day, time, productive, unproductive, planned and unplanned. As an example take a look at the table below:

DayTimeProductiveUnproductivePlannedUnplanned
      

Make a note of the following:

  • The amount and the proportion of time you spend on productive as opposed to non-productive activities
  • The amount and the proportion of time you spend on planned as opposed to unplanned activities, for example how may interruptions did you have?

You will then start to see any trends and patterns – for example which are the most productive or unproductive times of your working day.

Are you a lark or an owl?

Finding out when you are at your most productive is important to help you plan and make the most from your day.

For example you may find that you are a lark – you are most productive in the early mornings. This might be because you work from home and it’s a relatively quiet time in the house.

Alternatively you might find that you are more productive during the late evening. Bear in mind that your customers won’t necessarily accommodate this and will expect contact from you during normal working hours.

What’s the best way of prioritising my time?

Make a to-do list. It probably sounds very simple but making a daily or weekly to-do list and planning your week with a diary, notebook or electronic task list will help to make sure you don’t miss anything important.

Once you’ve made your to-do list the next step is to highlight the priorities on your list; this helps to avoid wasting precious time and also ensure you build in time for relaxation.

Look at the following four areas and then your to-do list, highlight what is:

  • Urgent and important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Important but not urgent
  • Not urgent and not important.

 

 UrgentNot Urgent
Important

1. Necessity – Reduce

Taks that need your immediate attention. Reactive ‘fire fighting’.

2. Quality – Increase

Habitual, proactive actions that reduced quadrant 1.

Not important

3. Deception – Manage

Things that appear to be worth doing.

4. Waste – Avoid

Time-wasting activities.

 

  1. The Urgent and Important tasks need to be tackled most quickly, but make sure you don’t spend all your time on these types of activities. 
  2. Activities which are Important but Not Urgent need planning into your to-do list otherwise you could find that they suddenly become Urgent. 
  3. The Urgent but Not Important tasks are often distractions and interruptions, your time diary will help you to understand what these are so that you can reduce them. 
  4. The Not Urgent and Not Important are usually time wasters such as looking at your social media pages or scrolling through the internet. They might be relaxing but be wary of spending too much on these types of activities!

The more you understand your priorities the less time you will be spending on ‘fire fighting’ and more time on proactively managing your time and business.

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