Whether you are starting a business for the first time or have run your business for years, every business owner knows that the demand on their time is one of the hardest things to manage.
With time being so precious, you need to make every minute matter. So how can you be at your most efficient each day? What efficient or inefficient routines have you grown accustomed to in your everyday life?
Improving personal efficiency is not about forcing yourself into a daily regiment of torture, it is about creating awareness of what you want and discovering a few natural steps that lean more in the direction of where you want to go.
As a Business and Life Coach, I am often asked how one can improve efficiency and reduce stress and the answer to this is simply that there is no hard and fast rule, no one-size-fits-all solution.
What works for you will be based on how you think, how you make sense of the world around you, your life experiences, your habits and so on; essentially it all starts with our thoughts, whether we acknowledge this by deliberately creating or whether we proceed out of habits.
With this in mind, here are 7 tips based on the results of coaching small business owners and whilst these may or may not work for you, you may find inspiration to discover your own ways going forward.
1. Raise your awareness… Think, think, think
What routine or task do you think you could be more efficient at? What are the steps that make up this routine or task? It might help to jot down the steps and circle the step that is most likely to be causing the issue.
When you look at the circled step ask yourself these questions:
- What is it about this that is inefficient?
- What are my options here?
- What can I change here?
- If I change this step, will it still be in line with the bigger picture?
- What is holding me back from changing this?
2. Set the parameters before engaging in a new task
When considering a new project, a task, or a change that will require a regular routine think about the following before fully committing. It is usually easier to negotiate terms at the beginning of a project rather than half way through.
- How long should this take me?
- Are there hidden tasks here that I have not considered?
- What is my goal for this?
- How does this align with the goal of my stakeholders?
- Where can this project or task potentially go? A new contract, promotion, sales, etc.
- If I requested a change in timeframes or resources, what would the potential responses be to my request?
- How does this project or task align with my larger goals in this job?
For example, I need to write up the monthly performance summary. This should only take 1 hour. I aim to highlight our achievements, losses, issues and improvements. This summary is potentially heading towards getting more resources. This may be rejected by ‘Finance’ in which case I will respond by suggesting a meeting to discuss alternative approaches. The bigger picture is to improve performance.
3. Diary and timeframes
How do you keep a track of your schedule? Is this process in of itself efficient? Look at some of the tasks or errands in your diary or calendar – think about the timeframes you have assigned each item. Ask yourself if you can honestly achieve your objectives for that item in the time frame;
- Do you need to allocate more time or do you need to reduce the time for this?
- Have you assigned time for travel, delays, etc.?
- Would it be useful to share parts of your diary or calendar with others?
4. Managing expectations
If you feel that you are being pushed into doing something, or encouraged to do it in a shorter frame of time, consider managing expectations and pushing back. Often, those delegating tasks are unaware of the intricacies involved in completing it.
Think about why you don’t want to commit to the task, why the timeframe is too short, and how it has the potential to be largely inefficient to continue. Then think about the options, the alternatives, the extra resources that you will need before stating your case to your stakeholder.
5. Notice when you are efficient
Think about times when you are efficient. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What was different then?
- What motivated you?
- What was it about the way you felt that encouraged a higher level of efficiency?
Now think about what you can bring from that experience to the foreground of an inefficient task or routine.
6. Time for you
It can be especially difficult for small business owners to forget about work and relax, but try to get into the habit of switching off at the end of the working day.
Something as simple as listening to music, going to the gym, meeting friends, playing a game or reading a book straight after work provides a good distraction. You could also mentally repeat the mantra, ‘Work is finished for now’ as you leave your workplace with the intention of picking things up again when you return the next day.
7. If you don’t take care of yourself, you have little to offer others
What do you do for yourself on a daily or weekly basis? How much time do you spend doing things you actually love? Remember, life is for living and although life can be busy, years can go past in ‘work’ mode, leading to burnout and people often wondering where the years went.
To re-focus on a more wholesome life in your mind’s eye fast forward 10 years and look back at the you in the here and now – what advice would the older you give to the current you now? What would the future you suggest to the current you?
This article was kindly written for Bytestart by Malminder Gill.
Last updated - 16th April, 2014