With multiple tasks competing for your attention, sometimes it can be tricky as a business owner to find the time to undertake those productive things on your ‘To Do’ List that will propel your business forward in the long run.
But make no mistake, the big picture tasks are essential for business success, and while they may not feel as urgent as other items on your list, they are the foundations that help build your business.
That’s why good time management is key to effective business leadership.
So how do you find the time for tasks that matter, such as business planning and goal setting, while still managing the day-to-day of general business.
Let’s look at some great time management strategies to help you design your ideal day where everything on your list is accomplished with ease.
Urgent versus important
Often in business (and in life for that matter) we can get caught up in the things that are urgent rather than those that are important.
If this concept sounds familiar, it’s due to a well-known principle first designed by former US President Dwight Eisenhower and then made popular by The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Stephen Covey.
Known as the urgent versus important matrix or Eisenhower Matrix, it recognises there are both important and unimportant tasks which compete for your attention daily, some of which are urgent and some of which are not.
The matrix helps define these so you can set about attending to, scheduling, delegating, and letting go of specific tasks in your day.
The relevance of the matrix
The Eisenhower decision making matrix is all about determining the priorities of any given day, and generally there will be two types competing for your attention – those which are important and those which are urgent.
But realistically, in business there will occasionally be both.
So let’s break it down.
Important and urgent – Priority 1 – Do it now
Let’s face it, in business things happen and occasionally they will be both important and urgent. This might be a crisis occurring, an important business deadline pending or something else which demands and warrants your immediate attention.
These tasks need to be completed now.
However, the ultimate goal is to minimise the urgent and important tasks so that you can be more proactive and less reactive.
The aim of the game is to eliminate emergencies where possible, so your focus is directed on the long- term sustainability of your business.
Important but less urgent – Priority 2 – Schedule it
If we’re honest, there are things we know we need to be doing in business in the interests of long-term success that get put on the backburner.
These include things like planning, goal setting, reviewing your business numbers and more.
They matter… a lot…but can get pushed aside when something more urgent arises.
These tasks need to be scheduled, with specific time set aside to ensure they do not fall by the wayside.
Urgent but not important – Priority 3 – Delegate it
Often in business, tasks arise that definitely need to be tended to, but perhaps don’t require the business owner’s skillset.
This might include accounts that need to be reconciled, quotes that need to be provided, invoices that need to be issued, or social media content that needs to be scheduled.
Each matters to the performance of a business, but can readily be delegated to someone on your team.
If it’s urgent but not so important that it demands your attention, delegate that task to someone else.
Not urgent and not important – Priority 4 – Let it go
Then there are the tasks that we all get caught up in which are neither urgent nor important but are habits we might have fallen into.
This category includes mindless social media scrolling, a quick check of the headlines, or other things we do that waste time.
These need to be identified and eliminated. They’re time wasting habits which steal our attention and serve little purpose in a business.
And the reality is, we all have one or two traps we fall into each day.
An ideal day
Armed with a better matrix of your priorities, you have the opportunity to design an ideal day, which quickly translates to an ideal week, month, year and ultimately business success.
The process starts by time tracking what you do now, then designating each activity into the Eisenhower Matrix.
And the mission is to eliminate emergencies, make time for what’s important but not urgent, delegate unimportant but not urgent tasks and let go of the rest.
So what might an ideal day look like?
What tasks when?
An ideal day will see you tend to the important and urgent tasks first and then make time to handle the important but less urgent.
It might see you set aside time to check emails, make calls, and touch base with customers, then turn your attention to long-term goals.
And time blocking is a highly effective strategy.
It involves recognising the basics of the work day, allocating time to achieve those tasks and then also scheduling time to work on the future of your business.
Each time-blocked period allows you to work uninterrupted, but also ensures you are not just caught up in the here and now, but are proactively considering ‘where to next?’.
The benefits of planning, time locking and considering your ideal day
When you proactively work out where you currently spend most of your time each day and how that can be improved by time blocking, you set the foundations for accumulative success.
Each day allows you to build on the momentum occurring in your business so you can plan, consider your aims, set goals and devise then implement and take actions to achieve them.
Over time, this adds up, with tomorrow compounding the achievements of today, and next week allowing you to get even closer to your ultimate goals.
Ultimately, it means your business will be in a far better position next month, in six months time and also next year.
Talk Strategy with Clive
With more than 30 years’ experience in mentoring small to medium-sized businesses around Australia. Clive works with company owners and their teams to grow their business and achieve goals through strategic coaching.