As a business manager, there is always more to be done than you possibly have time for. If you want to work reasonable hours and have a life outside the business, you will have to prioritize what you do. This article describes several techniques that can help you reduce the often seemingly overwhelming number of things you have to do to a more manageable approach. If you don't learn to manage the workload, you will find yourself flitting from one task to another and not getting much of importance done. This article is a Yellow Belt tool to help you manage all the "stuff" to do.
Management of the limited time we all have when running a business is one of the most important skills both managers and staff can learn.
Without a good grasp of how to get the important things done, your business will drag and, quite likely, you will be very stressed which is not good for your health and social and family life.
It will turn what might have been one of the most exciting times of your life - launching your business dream - into a bit of a nightmare.
You are not alone with this problem and Profit Savvy has articles on several aids to reducing the stress.
You can read more about reducing stress in general in our several DeStress articles.
Here we summarize a number of time saving techniques that are written up in their own articles. Although there is no special order that you must read them, we have arranged them in what we think is a logical sequence. if you find them effective, you could selectively introduce your staff to them so that they become more productive also.
It is easily proven that doing several tasks at once is much less productive than doing one and then the next and so on.
You waste time flitting from one to the other and, quite probably even more time winding down from one and winding up the next.
Read more about the perils of multitasking in our Multitasking article.
Focus on the Important Things always
That is probably a fairly self-evident statement but what are the important things?
The first clue is things that will cause logjams preventing other things getting done and other people getting their work done.
All things being equal, it makes sense to focus on these first.
We write quite a lot about this under the heading of "The Theory of Constraints". Start learning about finding and relaxing your constraints with this TOC article.
There is normally only one (or very few) constraints so how do we manage the rest of the demands on our time?
There is a rule known as the 80/20 Rule or Pareto's Principle.
Essentially it says that only 20% of the tasks ahead of you are truly important.
Typically these 20% contribute 80% of the improvement in your business.
Most people spend their time addressing the 80% of relatively unimportant things that only contribute 20% of the improvement in the business.
By focusing on the 20% of important things, you will be a whopping 16 times more productive than wasting your time on less important things.
Read more on this and how to manage according to the 80/20 Rule in this article on The Amazing 80/20 Rule
Once you agree that not everything is of equal importance and that trying to multitask to get things done is wasteful and inefficient, you can read about how General, and later President, Eisenhower managed his time. I think we can agree that the leader of the D Day Landings in Europe in WW II probably had a few things to do in his day but he managed by using this tool.
Read up on the Eisenhower Matrix in this article.
So, by now we have turned the mass of things to do from a mish-mash of issues into a straight line, or queue, of issues ordered by importance. We know the most important and they go to the head of our queue. All the others are ranked after them in declining order of importance.
What we want now is a technique for popping the next task out of the queue and executing it.
Ideally, we want the whole business to be working off the same queue of tasks so the business is operating in unison; and on the most important things to be done.
Several tools have grown up to do this for you and there are even apps for mobiles and other computers so you can always be close to the agreed list of priorities. Many of these tools are free.
Generically, this process is referred to by the Japanese word "Kanban". Specific adaptions of the Kanban technique include "Agile" and "Scrum".
Because tasks in a Kanban are easily shared around the team, everyone can see what is important to the group and how each individual is progressing.
Read more about Kanban and its offspring in our Kanban / Agile / Scrum article.
This material may take you some time to work through and therefore you might find yourself saying "I will come back to it later".
But that just means you are perpetuating the problem of too much to do and too little time to do it.
Mastering work priorities now will have a lifelong benefit and the return on investing some time reading and internalizing this material now is incalculable.