Get an accurate assessment of time. Many small business owners know what tasks they have to do, but have no idea how long they will take. As a result, they create weekly goals that rarely are met. Team leaders should use time-tracking software such as T Sheets to get a realistic picture of the steps involved. “I think they’ll be amazed at how much time they spend on some things and not on others,” Fisher says. Once you know it will take you three days to finish a report rather than three hours, you can schedule your time accordingly.
Set up meetings for one. Many of us put meetings with others on our calendars, but literally penciling in a time for a meeting with yourself to complete important tasks can keep you from being distracted by other activities. Close your door, ignore your email, and don’t answer the phone during this time. The key is making sure you honor the appointment with yourself just as you would respect time spent with another colleague.
Add in soft deadlines. Instead of setting one deadline for a project’s conclusion, create milestones that will mark your progress along the way. Keep team members on track by scheduling goal-setting meetings and short check-in times for progress updates on weekly accomplishments. That way, you can identify problems early and make adjustments to your processes to fix them.
Combine teamwork with technology. Distracting e-mail and social media messages can hamper strategies to organize time. Accordingly, Fisher recommends apps such as Self Control and tools like Rescue Time whose features include blocking websites to aid in organizing your team and fortifying productivity. “One of the keys is using these tools to break the habit of checking on those sites or procrastinating on sites that have nothing to do with what you’re working on at the time,” says Fisher. Productivity will increase as the benefits of these technology tools become engrained in office culture.
Share productivity strategies. As you discover techniques to better organize your time, model them as principles of your business’s culture. “I think a lot of the efficiency and effectiveness, as well as communication issues, go away once everybody’s on the same page as to what the culture’s expectations are,” says Fisher. When productivity issues arise, ask for employees’ input into workable solutions.
Factor in downtime. Build healthy breaks into your organizing strategy. Fisher recommends that small business teams relinquish work to the workplace, often. “Just because we can be connected at all times doesn’t mean we should,” he says. By giving team members the time and space to disconnect and recharge, they work much more efficiently.
A small business owner’s work is never done, and most entrepreneurs wouldn’t have it any other way. By creating systems and meeting time management dilemmas as they rise, you’ll achieve your most productive year yet.
Kimberly J. Hamilton-Wright, MPA, writes business solutions content, researches military veterans and women’s issues, and is earning a Ph.D. in conflict studies.
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By Kimberly J. Hamilton-Wright