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Time Management Tips for Small Business Owners

Do you remember the time management Quadrants given to us by Dwight Eisenhower and Dr. Stephen Covey?  Sometimes known as the Eisenhower Matrix or Urgent-Important Matrix.

Cogent Analytics Blog: Time Management Steve Kovich

So which Quadrant are you living in? In other words, where do you spend the majority of your time?  Not sure?  Then look at your planning calendar for next week.  Take the total number of hours scheduled for next week divided by the total number of hours you expect to work for the week.  What % are you looking at?  Be honest.  If you are not scheduling your known activities, you are not proactively scheduling your time and your life.

I estimate the most effective Business leaders I have worked with a schedule at least 90% of their time: rule of thumb, the more effective, the higher the percentage.

Unfortunately, most business owners are living in Quadrant I which is characterized by fire fighting and crisis management.  Business issues control the owners and their time.  While some business owners might feel like they saved the day, a client or a job, this becomes draining and frustrating over time, which is why time management is essential for the longevity of a business.

So, what do the most Effective Business Leaders do?  They learn to spend more time in Quadrant II – Important but Not Urgent.  What kind of activities fall into Quadrant II?  Things like relationship building, process improvement, recruiting, getting customer feedback, mentoring, business development and recreation.  These are things people know are important they just never seem to have the time to get to them.

What is the first step to living more in Quadrant II?  Scheduling time for Quadrant II work.  Pick your calendar system and start using it.  People quickly realize time spent in Quadrant II reduces the number of issues and fires that surface in Quadrant I.  Try it.  You will be surprised.  End products include not only improved performance but reduced levels of stress and a better sense of control over your time.

Quadrant III – Urgent and Not Important?  The most effective leaders learn how to delegate to others.

Quadrant IV – Not Urgent and Not Important? These are time wasters.  Just do not do them.  Includes surfing the internet and Facebook without purpose.

If you feel as though you are constantly bombarded with issues and are not certain where to start applying the ’80/20 Rule’ to your issues.  Cluster your issues into common themes or buckets.  Put some poster board on your office wall if you need to and label the four quadrants.  Every time the phone rings, emails come in, or there is a knock on the door post the issue against the quadrant.  Then run tally counts by quadrant. Typically, 80% of your problems are generated by a common denominator of 20% of casual factors from customers, suppliers, employees or infrastructure.  Look into your most significant challenges, do some root cause analysis and then define optimal solutions to implement.  This is what the best leaders do when it comes to time management.

While not optimal, if you do choose to live in Quadrant I remember the origin of the word crisis is krinein which is Greek.  Krinein means “decide.”  Krisis means “decision.”  Today the word crisis means to make a decision.  Improving your decision-making skills will ease some of the pain of living in Quadrant I.  Also remember, last-minute decisions typically involve making choices between a number of less than desirable alternatives.

Learning from the best or experienced practitioners will always serve you well no matter what skill you are trying to improve upon.  When it comes to time management, I highlight the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Wooden won 10 NCAA National Basketball Championships and is considered the father of today’s NCAA March Madness.  Restrictions on practice times meant Wooden had just 240 hours of practice time each season to create a championship team.  Wooden meticulously planned and accounted for every minute of practice time.  He kept historical records season by season. This served him and his players quite well. Similar to you, time was only resource Wooden could not create more of.

At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information:

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