Are You Busy? Are You Productive?

How often have you heard yourself despondently murmur these phrases: ‘There are just not enough hours in my day’ ; ‘I have spent the entire day racing around without accomplishing anything’ ; ‘My to-do list never gets any shorter’. And have you noticed the subtle similarity between these phrases? The one common denominator? Time.

As a business owner, time is a paramount cog that needs continual supervision. We cannot write a mathematical equation that will generate more hours or stop the clock just long enough for us to actually complete a task. So how can we effectively manage our hours in order to be more productive and less frantic?

Imagine yourself as a spreadsheet – after all, any business is only successful if all the expenses are significantly lower than the net profit margin. Similarly, your business can only flourish if you have all your ‘columns’ balanced. Being a business owner means that every facet of your company requires your supervision – hopefully mostly only on a macro level – but it means that there are always a multitude of areas that require your attention.

Segment your day into columns and be strict on these time constituents. Do not schedule meetings for the first hour of each day, rather utilise this hour to check emails and map out your to-do list. Place the tasks directly into your allocated time columns, in order of priority. This brings about a quiet sense of order for the day.

Be mindful of convincing yourself that you can compile an Executive Summary in five minutes, while driving to the scheduled meeting. It sounds ludicrous on paper right? And yet, we somehow manage to rationalise this time constraint in our minds as our only goal is miraculously squashing everything into our over-saturated day.

Checking items off our to-do list generates a sense of accomplishment. There is something empowering about being able to visibly see that a task has been completed. Even the most eidetic brain needs ordering and segmenting. Don’t assume you will remember all your tasks. There are too many unknown variables throughout the day that can detract your focus. And while we’re on the topic of focus, it is very important to cultivate a work culture of completing your current task before moving onto the next one. It is so easy to get lured away by the beep of a new incoming email that contains a bulleted list of new tasks for your urgent attention. Remaining focused on one task at a time assists you in being more productive rather than scattered and confused.

The last 30 minutes of every day needs to be a time for reflection: What worked? What didn’t? What can I do better tomorrow? Switch off your myriad of technological devices and simply reflect on your day.

And remember, you are still only one person. You hope that your employees perceive you as super-human, but this does not mean that you are capable of doing everything. Distinguish between the top-tier priorities and decisions, and the ones that you can safely delegate to management level. After all, that’s why you employed them. Delegating assists you in freeing up some essential hours so that you can give executive-level work your undivided attention and focus. Have regular feedback sessions or ask managers to submit weekly progress reports so that you stay up-to-date with all operations within your company.

Be aware of the duality of technology. On one hand, it is a fantastic tool for conducting meetings via Webinars to reduce hours spent travelling. On the other hand, however, it can seduce you into insomnia, as you eagerly reply to emails. Believe it or not, mobile phones are equipped with a feature commonly known as ‘Silent’. Nobody is ever expected to work a 24-hour shift. So maximise the potential of your technological devices by making use of their application-based functionalities, but also know when to turn them off. If you go to gym at 7am and help the kids with homework at 5pm, set those boundaries and stick to them. Nobody else will respect your time boundaries if you don’t.

Just as your company cannot yield the best returns if all divisions are not functioning at optimal levels, so too can you not give your company your best advice and attention if you are not balanced. Applying simple formulae to your daily spreadsheet will ensure that your working hours are more productive therefore freeing up other hours to actually relax and enjoy life.

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