There is one single resource that everyone has available to them. No one person has any more or any less of this resource than the next person.
That resource is time. Everyone has 24 hours a day. That’s it. No more, no less. In coaching hundreds of business owners, I see that one of the biggest problems among small business owners is their lack of ability to discipline their time.
Most business owners are tossed to and fro by the circumstances of the day. They go through the day just putting out fires. It is reactive instead of proactive.
No one ever plans to fail. They simply fail to plan. The key to overcoming this problem is to have a strong organizational system. Here are a few tips to get you on your way…
1. Plan your day ahead of time. Don’t just schedule your jobs, but run all of your business activity according to your appointment book. This provides accountability. Are you constantly turning down opportunities to meet with people because you don’t operate by a schedule? If you commit to your schedule, work it, and use it, you will get better use of your time. Proactive not reactive. Plan your work. Work your plan.
2. Always have your schedule with you. Save time by being able to say yes or no to a scheduling opportunity RIGHT NOW. If you run your life by a schedule book, then run it!
3. Use a time log. For a 2 week period, track your time from 6:00am to 6:00pm. Believe it or not, this simple procedure will reveal dramatic information. It is one thing to assume and imagine (as we forget), but another to see it on paper in black and white. This is why written goals work so well. Anything on paper becomes real. It becomes authentic. We forget the 10 minutes here, and 10 minutes there.
4. Prioritize your activities. One of the concepts that Steven Covey made famous in his book 7 Habits of Highly Successful People was the quadrangle of time. The square feature four sections entitled: Important/Urgent, Non-Important/Urgent, Important-Non-Urgent, Non-Important, Non-Urgent. Every activity can be put in one of these sections. For example, working on my taxes is important, but not urgent until a certain date. So often people spend time on Urgent, but Non-Important activities such as personal “crisis” (dysfunction), and things of that nature, rather than focusing on what would really make their business and life better.
Because of the “urgency” factor and the lack of planning, many business owners spend too much time at their local distributor picking up a gallon of product, or something of that nature. Protect your operations time (the time when most people do cleaning, by blocking that on your schedule. Then, maximize your “administration” time (such as doing the books, filing, ordering products, etc.) by doing those things in off hours such as early in the morning or in the evening. Find ways to outsource activity, use the internet. When you realize the real value of time, and what not using it cost you, you can then find many ways to maximize it.
If you are struggling with sales, then spend 80% of your time marketing and selling. If you have more business than you know what to do with, spend 80% of your time building systems and making the most of the income.
There is a wonderful demonstration that I have seen in seminars and performed myself. The seminar facilitator fills a jar with large rocks and asks “Is this jar full?” “yes” say the seminar attendees. The facilitator then pours in small pebbles that fill in the cracks and crevices. He then asks “Is this jar full?” “Yes” they say. He then begins to pour sand in the jar. “Is this jar full?” By this time the attendees are not sure what he may pull out so they don’t answer. He pulls out a pitcher of water.
The water penetrates every possible place that it can soak into. The jar is now definitely full! He asks “What is the message in this illustration?” A reply comes back “That you can always fit in more than you can possibly imagine!” Even though that is true, the real message is that if the big rocks had not been but in first, they would have never fit in at all! So, put your biggest return-on-investment items first. Then deal with the pebbles, sand, and water.
If you haven’t come to that place where you have really disciplined your time, it only means that the pain is not yet great enough, and the desire is not high enough. When you come to the place where you realize how much the devaluing of time is costing you, you will begin to look for solutions.