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Managing your time for productivity success

22 Mar 2012
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Time management is crucial for start-up businesses that often have limited resources, funds and time. In today’s busy world it is easy to become overwhelmed and lose sight of priorities, especially with information constantly flying at us.

There are however some nifty tips to help keep you on track and focussed:

1. Manage your email 

Email can take up a huge portion of the day and it’s easy to find yourself slave to the "you’ve got mail” chime.  Rather than keeping your email open all day, schedule times to check it and answer it. Hint: you do not have to do both at the same time. 

A common method is to check first thing in the morning and deal with urgent emails only, leaving the less urger until lunch time, and finally the least urgent at the end of the day when you empty your email. 

Many people have even found that not answering emails immediately can be a good way of ‘retraining’ other to not simply rely on your always being available. Of course you may have to be prepared for an increase in phone calls during the ‘retraining’.

2. Prioritise and focus.

At the beginning of the week, just as at the beginning of a project, make a list of tasks you need to complete. Then prioritise them. Whichever is the most important should be the one you put the most energy into. This might sound obvious, but many of us spend a lot of time doing the less important tasks in order to get them out of the way. Instead of freeing up time, this often wastes it. 

If you can’t delegate these lesser priorities, leave them until you have done all you can with the most important. Do not confuse urgent and important. Also be sure to check that the urgency is genuine and not simply someone trying to control your time . 

3. Know your limits. 

We all have a maximum productivity level over which we stop working effectively. Know yours and that of your team. If you consistently try to work beyond that limit you will cause more harm than good and waste valuable time and resources.  

4. Everybody needs a break. 

No matter how dedicated, to or passionate about, your business you may be, if you don’t take a break you will be of no use to anyone.  Schedule regular breaks away from your computer, away from your office and away from your business entirely. Taking time to recharge and refocus will pay off with clearer vision and better decision making.

5. Pick and choose your meetings. 

Meetings may be a good way of building networks and growing business but they can also be a great way to waste time. Be selective when accepting meetings. Is it necessary you attend? Could you send someone else from your team to represent you? Could whatever needs to be discussed be handled over the phone or via email? Try to not let meetings run on too long. 

Most importantly avoid any meeting that has no clear purpose or direction – meetings just for the sake of meetings are of little, if any, value.

6. Learn to say ‘no’. 

When you’re a start-up, and especially if you are building your brand, it can be tempting to say yes to everything. If you get in the habit of accepting every project, meeting, or task that comes you’re way, you will soon find your productivity suffers. 

Saying no, even if you qualify it or if you suggest you’ll consider something at a later date, sends a message that you value your time and are not prepared to compromise quality for quantity. In the long run, this will enhance your brand far more than being known as the person who does everything. 

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