David Guest

Too many business owners run out of time and struggle to keep up with the workload. The irony is that managing time is a myth. We all get 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trying to squeeze more time out of your day is physically impossible. Realise this, you cannot manage time, you can only manage the things you do, or don’t do. 

The key to increasing your efficiency and effectiveness is first to really understand what they are, and then how to apply them. Efficiency is about doing more in a set amount of time, effectiveness is about doing the right things…

So let’s start with how to become more effective and then we can move on to efficiency…

The Secret to Effectiveness

In Steven Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he talks about the importance of beginning with an end in mind. In business this would mean, what am I trying to build, or “How will my business look when it’s finished?”

For most business owners, this is a very puzzling question. “Finished! I have just started…”

If you were going to build a house, the builder wouldn’t break ground until the plans were completed and approved. In fact, it would be illegal… So why is it that you can start to build a business without any idea of what you are building? 

Effectiveness is about making sure you keep the main thing, the main thing, and you do that by knowing what you are trying to build and constantly reminding yourself so you don’t get off track.

So take the time to ponder the question, “How will my business look when it’s finished?” It could be that you sell the business, run it under management, or just work until you retire. It’s totally up to you, but don’t skip this step!

Next, break it down into milestones. Having 5 year, 3 year, and 1 year goals is a great way to make sure you’re on track, and also strategize your business.

Then use those goals to create an action plan that you can follow on a weekly, if not daily basis. 

Imagine how often a builder refers to the house plan while building… that’s how often you should be referring to your business plan while building. This is a sure fire way to keep you focussed on the big picture while the whirlwind of the day to day tries to distract you… Remember to work On your business, not just IN your business.

Next we can look at efficiency, or the pace of your production (productivity).

Tips To Increase Efficiency In Your Business

There are several great tips to keeping your efficiency up… Here are my favourite…

  1. Use a default diary to make sure you have time for the important things. This is done by creating a calendar for the “perfect week”, and using this as a benchmark to make sure you are working on the right activities.
  2. Write a to-achieve list of the top 6 things you need to do tomorrow before you leave work for the day. This takes advantage of your subconscious working on the problems while you sleep, and can often half the time required to complete a task.
  3. Cluster similar jobs together. Make all you phone calls as a batch, check emails only 3 times a day. Do all your quotes, or call backs together. You will build momentum and get the benefit of repetition.
  4. Minimise interruptions by putting a do not disturb sign on your desk.
  5. Train your clients or team to only call you at specific times.
  6. Have regular meetings with your direct reports and train them to bring questions to the meeting rather than interrupting you during the day.
  7. Use your calendar to make appointments with yourself to take care of important not urgent activities.

The Golden Rule of Business Efficiency And Effectiveness

In the end, your time management (priority management) is your responsibility. Out of all the books I’ve read about time management, the most effective priority management strategy is the 80:20 rule to decide what you need to focus on. 20% of your activities are producing 80% of your results… on the other side… 80% of your week is only producing 20% of your results…

The key is to work out what’s in the top 20% (the best use of your time) and how to do more of that. You can do that by finding out what’s in the bottom 20% (the worst use of your time) and doing less of that…

Sounds simple right?  I have created a productivity matrix to help you do this and crystallize your thoughts and actions. But don’t stop there… The 80:20 rule is fractal, meaning that you can keep doing it on your activities forever, and watch your productivity go through the roof.

If there was one best kept secret to success, this would be it. 

I have read hundreds of time management books and finally realised that it’s actually pretty simple. Download the productivity matrix and start working out the best use of your time today.