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How to Get More Time in 2012

By Mark Wardell @MarkWardell |

The number one complaint I heard from business owners in 2011 went something like this: "I never have enough time".

No surprise here. It's a taxing job running a company and, at the end of the day, many of us entrepreneurs are left feeling we just didn't have a chance to do everything we needed to, for optimal business growth.

We've all heard the comparison of the business owner to a hamster on a treadmill. It's a strong picture because many of us have indeed put in those 50 or 60 hour work weeks yet somehow end up feeling we haven't been able to "really do anything."

The question really is: who does have enough time? The answer, I believe, is those of us who learn the secret to managing not only our time but also our resources, people, schedules and demands. To get more time, we need a paradigm shift on how we view and value time.

What follows is a step-by-step guide to help you shift the way you see time, and thereby get more of it for yourself and your business in 2012.

  1. Track your time. For two weeks, take notes on every hour you spend from the moment you wake up to the time you go to bed. Keep a journal and record everything you do.

    At the end of the two weeks, sit down and identify the categories of work you engaged in - client time, employee time, administrative time, planning time, and even personal time if you'd like to better manage that as well (why not?)

    This is a great exercise because you'll end up with real data you can analyze vs. relying on your self perceptions, which- lets face it- tend be less accurate. Many of us tend to think we are more efficient than we actually are.
  2. Analyze your time. As you look at where you're spending your time, identify your "high-value" work vs. "low value work." The high value work is the work you should you be doing more of. It's the work that you do to invest in the growth of your business and is therefore, the highest value to yourself and the company.

    Conversely, lower-value work is all of the work that you could technically be outsourcing or delegating to other team members or an outside agency.
  3. Learn to outsource & delegate. If you're one of those people who think that nobody else can do what you do, well, you're most likely wrong. In many cases, if you take some time to carefully document the procedure, you can train someone else to take it over. Sometimes it helps to break it down to understand the full value -to you- of doing this.  Consider that saving ten min per day adds up to a full working week per year.
  4. Train your employees to think for themselves. As you analyze your time, you'll likely notice that there is a big percentage of your time spent that could be delegated. One of the most effective ways to free yourself from unnecessary time restraints is to train your employees to think for themselves. Don't answer every question that comes across your desk but rather, put it back to your employees to figure out the answer for themselves. Ask them, "What would you do if I wasn't here?" You might be surprised at how well they rise to the challenge.
  5. Make the structural or procedural changes needed to support your people. If your employees have a difficult time finding the answers without you, this is a strong indication that perhaps a procedural manual is needed or that you need to make some information easier to locate on shared files. Whatever the case, the quicker you can get your business running well without it hinging on you for input at every turn, the more valuable it will be.
  6. Adopt a new paradigm on scheduling. Ok, so you've tracked your time and you see where the big changes need to be made. Now it's time to mover forward. You need a new paradigm on scheduling your time.

    The trick is not to be reactive with your time, but rather, to proactively schedule the important, "high value" business time each week.

    For example, if you don't schedule your strategic planning time it's likely you'll never get around to it. Other seemingly more urgent tasks will always take precedence.

    I'd also recommend that instead of an open door policy, you take non-emergency meeting requests from staff. This will help you avoid answering quick questions that could be solved without you (and interrupt your own productivity).  Scheduled 1-1 meetings also ensure your people get your full attention when they need it.
  7. Schedule weekly staff meetings. This is a great way to not only decrease the need for spontaneous meetings that interrupt you, but also to more thoroughly and productively motivate your team leaders and gauge their progress.
  8. Find an amazing gatekeeper. A competent yet slightly ruthless (think friendly pit-bull) assistant is the secret to many a business owner's success. Finding the right person isn't easy though, so once you do, make sure you do everything you can to keep them!

Achieving a paradigm shift around the way you value your time is, in my experience, life changing AND business changing. Invest in the required structural and procedural changes now and you'll set your business up for optimal long-term growth.  Soon, you'll find yourself achieving more in a 40 hour work week than you once did in a 60 hour week. You may even find the word "vacation" entering into your vocabulary. 

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