Using systems and procedures to manage your time

If you are like the typical small business owner, you never seem to have enough time. Between giving meeting with customers, doing the books, building widgets, going to the bank, and a myriad other tasks, the day seems to be over long before the tasks are.

There can be a lot of reasons for this, but I think one of the primary causes is simply trying to do too much. There are many tasks that can be outsourced, delegated, or simply dispensed with. As a simple example, I used to pick up supplies for my crews. Invariably, I would arrive at the job only to be told that they also needed something else. I wasted an incredible amount of time making multiple trips to the store. Since delegating this responsibility to the crew supervisor, I rarely pick up supplies.

Just as you wouldn’t assign a new apprentice to perform the more complex tasks within your business, you shouldn’t assign yourself to tasks that are better suited for others. Concentrate your efforts on those tasks that truly require your attention and you might be surprised to discover that you have more time on your hands.

Of course, simply delegating responsibilities isn’t enough. If the task isn’t performed properly the result can be even more time consuming to correct. But the solution is not the avoidance of delegating; the solution is to have systems and procedures to guide the employee.

Developing step-by-step instructions for a task provides the employee with clear guidelines. If the instructions are followed, the result is predictable. The employee can do his job without being micromanaged, and you can spend your time on the things that you love doing.

If I had a hammer

If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the evening. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer all over this land. I don’t know about you, but thinking about doing all of that hammering makes me a little tired. If I had that much hammering to do, it might make sense to invest in a nail gun.

Don’t get me wrong, I like hammers. In fact I have 6 different hammers, ranging from a 12 ounce claw to a 20 pound sledge. Hammers are great tools. They allow us to drive nails and break things. But sometimes there is a tool that works better than a hammer. Sometimes there is a tool that will get the job done faster and more efficiently.

Unfortunately, many small business owners hammer away all day long and never spend a few moments looking for a better tool. They think that old ball peen they inherited from their father is the only tool that will work.

While that hammer may do the job, it has its limitations. You could use it to break up a concrete slab, but it would be a slow, laborious task. But in a figurative sense, this is precisely what many small business owners do.

Rather than using the available tools to build a better business, they plod along doing things the same way as their predecessors. Rather than take advantage of the technology available today, they use an abacus to do a computer’s job.

The ironic thing is, they are basically using their forehead as a hammer. They are beating their head against the wall and then wonder why they have a head ache. If they’d only pause and reflect on their situation, they might realize that their head can be used as more than a hammer.

Getting stuff done

If you have trouble getting stuff done, the problem might be the type of stuff you are trying to do. Or when you try to do that stuff.

While this video is intended to be humorous, it demonstrates how easily we can get sidetracked from getting our stuff done. One thing can lead to another, and pretty soon we haven’t gotten our stuff done.

This is where prioritizing and planning can help. Much of the stuff we do isn’t urgent, or is simply spur of the moment and therefore inefficient. By prioritizing we can identify what really requires out attention. By planning we can group together tasks to improve efficiency.

A simple example of planning is to run multiple errands in one trip. Another example of planning is to schedule some “down” time– play a game, read something humorous, or tackle some task that doesn’t require a lot of attention.

We all have stuff that we need to get done. How we plan, prioritize, and schedule our time will have a lot to do with how much of that stuff we actually get done.

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