As a small business owner, possibly your most valuable resource, and the one that is the hardest to hold onto, is your time. Between all the hats you are asked to wear while running your company, answering questions from every direction about every small detail, and time spent in meetings, you are likely to end up completely running out of time to accomplish what you need to.
So, how do you protect your time while still accomplishing everything you need to keep your small business running how it should? Here are some ways to protect your time and keep things running how you want them to.
Delegate and Delineate
One of the easiest traps for any entrepreneur to fall into is to believe that they must do everything. From start to finish, regardless of the project, department, or level of importance, it can be incredibly difficult to let go of details within your company. After all, the entire thing is based on your vision, so you want to make sure that vision can be seen at every step along the way.
For some things, this is a great way to look at things in order to assure that things are being done correctly and within the scope and vision of your company. However, there are limits to this, and learning what those are is one of the best favors you can do for yourself in the long run.
You need to learn not only to delegate tasks that either do not require your full attention or are better suited to others in your company, but also clearly delineate who those issues are brought to within your company.
It is completely natural for people to still bring those things to you after this transition occurs, especially if they are used to bringing certain questions or concerns to you specifically. However, if you really want to protect your time, establish a new method of handling these issues, and solidify the authority of the person you have delegated this task to, then it is vital you make this new way of doing things clear to your employees.
Separate Personal Time From Business
Between smart phones, email, social media, and instant messaging services such as Slack, it has never been easier to remain in constant touch when it comes to your business. When emergency situations arise that need your immediate attention, these are all invaluable tools to resolve the issue before it becomes worse. However, the majority of business communication that happens outside of business hours simply isn’t going to be an actual emergency.
Far more frequently, it could absolutely wait until the next business day, but still ends up taking way your time, energy, and focus that should be devoted to living your life.
This is why it is incredibly important to establish boundaries that separate your time between personal and business. A great way to start is by setting rules against work emails outside of business hours. By doing this, you both set an important precedent for your employees and make it more possible for yourself to follow through with this in your own life.
If you’re someone, like myself, who struggles to truly disconnect when you leave the office, then it might be worth taking an extra step toward forcing this separation in your own life.
How many possible communication channels do you have open at any one time between your personal and business life?
Between email, social media, Slack, and your phone itself, you might be receiving messages from so many sources that they feel almost impossible to completely ignore. Even if you wait until work time to respond, they are still likely to take up your focus and attention in times that should be reserved for your personal life.
Delete work-related communication channels from your personal devices if necessary. Ask yourself if you really need to have Slack messages or work email sent directly to your phone outside of work. If not, then delete them from your phone. For those of you who have a hard time truly disconnecting, then this can be a freeing experience that will help you finally enjoy your personal time again.
Control Time Spent in Meetings
One of the common ways to absolutely eat up all your time when it comes to business is hours and hours spent in meetings that don’t really accomplish all that much. What should only take up a small amount of your day ends up taking a huge portion of your time and energy, and before you know it, it’s the end of the day and you’ve barely accomplished anything you wanted to for the day.
A great way to combat this problem is by implementing criteria about what is brought up in meetings. This way, there is a structure set in place that allows meetings to stay on topic without veering off on tangents or unrelated issues. One way to accomplish this that we really like and have covered before comes from Leon Shimkin in the Dale Carnegie book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. In this method, Shimkin required all meeting attendees to answer four questions in writing and submit them to other attendees before bringing an issue to the meeting.
These four questions are:
- What is the problem?
- What is the cause of the problem?
- What are all the possible solutions to the problem?
- What solution do you suggest?
By requiring answers to these four questions before meetings, you will greatly reduce the time spent on tangents and off-topic discussions. This will not only make your meetings more productive, but also vastly increase how protected your time is. Instead of losing large portions of your day to meetings, you will be able to use that time in more productive and valuable ways.