By Jim Giammarinaro
President & CEO of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce
FRAMINGHAM – Why is it that there never seems to be enough time? We run out of time during the day to get everything we want to get done. Before you know it, the week is over and think about the things that we did not get to do that we wanted to do. Small businesses frequently run out of time.
If they had enough time maybe there wouldn’t be a 90% failure rate associated with startups. Seventy percent fail in years two-five. They simply ran out of time to put enough positive things in place to keep their business operating. This means they did not generate enough cash to provide the owners with a sufficient return for the time they were putting in.
Another way of looking at this is that when you start a business you are in a race against time to generate enough revenue to pay all your business costs plus provide you with the return (salary) you desire for your efforts. The bottom line as a business owner is to use your time wisely and primarily on only those activities which will make you successful. If you have too many days where you look back and say “that was a waste of my time” you may run out of time to keep your business afloat and ultimately get to where you want to be.
There is an old saying in business that “there is selling, making and keeping score”. This is a simple
premise but one that needs to be examined. Without selling effectively (we will include customer
retention in the selling category) there is no making and there is no keeping score.
As a small business owner, you need to be good at selling which means spending time on those activities which have the greatest chance of leading to a sale. It also means making sure your existing customers (otherwise known as the sales you have already made) will purchase again and again from you.
When it comes to the “making” portion of your business the idea is to reduce the time it takes to
make your product while maximizing the quality of your product. Some businesses make a great
product, but it may take too much time to do so. They may not be able to make enough products within
in a period to generate enough sales to sustain their business. As a business owner you must know how
many products you can make within a given period and compare that to the sales generated within that
same time and know that this ratio results in a formula which leads to success in your business. If it does
not there is no way that your business can be successful. If you are not where you need to be in this area
you must work to improve your efficiency or increase your price (which is not always an option if the
price does not attract customers).
Keeping score is important but cannot take up a lot of time in your business. You must have financial
systems in place to be able to analyze results and make decisions. You can’t spend significant time in
gathering this information as it will take away from your efforts in selling and making. Having a good
understanding of the important numbers in your business is critical as it will guide you in decision
making. Taking a lot of time to generate those numbers will not be fruitful as it can take you away from
other value-added activities needed to maintain a successful business.
An owner can understand all the important factors in running their business and still not be
successful without good time management skills. The following is a list of suggested good time
1) Understand time vs. priorities
Understanding your top priorities and allocating necessary time for important tasks make for solid
time management skills. It also helps you organize your daily calendar so you can stay on track
throughout the day.
Take a look at your current task list and organize by priority by considering two factors—the task’s
value and the risk of not completing it. Then tackle your to-do list.
2) Give your undivided attention and avoid multitasking
Time management is being present with your task at hand while knowing what comes next. Try giving
your full attention to your present task until it’s time to jump to the next one. Limit your distractions and
be intentional when you need to take a break.
Avoid multitasking because your brain is not programmed to handle numerous tasks at once. Juggling
multiple projects and switching between tasks require your brain to stop and refocus.
It can take up to 15 minutes for your brain to finally get back to a productive state. Multitasking also
puts you at risk for making up to 50% more errors.
3) Empower yourself to say “no”
Saying “no” is not always easy, but it is a way of establishing boundaries with yourself and those
around you. When a new task comes your way that can wait until later or that you cannot take on, be
comfortable saying “no.” You can then explain your current priorities and, if necessary, offer a realistic
expectation of when you could address their request.
4) Consider tomorrow
Time management helps you understand what needs to be prioritized today and what can wait until
tomorrow. However, don’t overlook tomorrow’s time and priorities. Likely, you’re going to be just as
busy and dedicated to tomorrow’s tasks.
When you push tasks to another day, be sure to not procrastinate. If you find yourself continuously
procrastinating a task or project, take a moment to reflect on your motivations to understand why you
are struggling to start.
5) Don’t underestimate the power of a few minutes
Short breaks here and there add up to be a big chunk of your day. Taking breaks helps you rest and
reset. By managing your time wisely, you can take full advantage of your rest time to either check a task
or two off your to-do list or give your brain a break.
6) Make time for your distractions
It’s incredibly easy to get sidetracked when focusing on a task. Even getting up to stretch or taking a
bathroom break can open the door to mind-numbing distractions.
You can manage your time better if you schedule in moments to take breaks during your day.
Schedule a 15-minute break every 75 to 90 minutes. Taking frequent breaks allows your brain to retain
information better than if you were to skip it.
But remember, be intentional during your focused time and channel your motivation to get back to
the grind when time’s up.
7) Stick to it, but refine as needed
Having strong time management skills takes dedication, but it can be done. Eventually, the planning,
organizing, and dedication will become second nature.
If you are still struggling to manage your time, investigate alternative approaches like blocking out
time on your calendar for designated tasks, using a simple to-do list, or explore why you are not able to
complete a certain task or project.
Editor’s Note: SOURCE and the MetroWest Chamber have formed a partnership. The Chamber’s column will run on Tuesdays on the digital news media outlet.