If you felt the need to read through this guide, then there’s a good chance that you’re guilty of one or more of these common time management mistakes:
- You accept too many tasks to handle personally and fail to delegate work to your staff
- You focus on results (what) while ignoring processes (how)
- You don’t give yourself enough time to clear your mind between tasks
If any of the above apply to you, or if you fall short in other ways related to balancing your working hours, then it’s time to worry; as you’ve probably guessed, good time management is critical to your business. You need to be as productive as possible, make the smartest decisions, and raise the most capable employees over time.
We’ve written this guide to provide you with a handful of useful tips on how to improve your time management. Reading through it, you’ll find a number of suggestions packaged with the appropriate why’s (i.e. why the suggestions matter), how’s (i.e. how to implement them), and when’s (i.e. situations when each tip would be particularly useful).
The 4 tips for better time management
- Map out your priorities
- Rebuild your schedule from scratch
- Train your employees to be independent
- Build a business that learns
Tip #1: map out your priorities
The most frequent cause of wasted time is a failure to address tasks in the proper order. Whether they’re unnecessary steps worked into your daily schedule, or difficult tasks that are barely worth the effort, people have a natural tendency to prioritise things that could and should be saved for later on.
As such, the best way to start any time management overhaul is to make sure your priorities are crystal clear. Do this by ranking your priorities in order of urgency (i.e. how quickly they need to be done) and risk (i.e. how bad things will get if they’re left unfinished).
With those rankings, you should have a much more sensible idea of where your focus should go, based on fact rather than gut instinct.
The net effect? More time spent on tasks that matter, and less time spent on tasks that don’t.
This tip comes in handy when you’re evaluating your time management and making plans to improve it. Clarifying your most pressing goals won’t only help you put your workload into perspective, but it’ll also guide you as you compare possible solutions to your efficiency woes.
Tip #2: rebuild your schedule from scratch
If you feel the need to take initiative and improve your time management habits, then there’s a good chance your daily schedule isn’t doing you any favours. It’s possible (and common) for a schedule to derail you more often than it keeps you on track.
Taking a good, hard look at your daily and weekly routines will do you good. Even when you find that your current schedule is working fine, the practice remains to be an exercise in critical thought (which we’ve noted as a vital time management skill).You lose nothing by exercising diligence, and you’re bound to spot some areas for improvement along the way.
A proper schedule is one that leaves you tackling the most urgent tasks (see our previous point) and delegating the right jobs to your employees. If you’ve already identified your most urgent deliverables, spot tasks that could be handled just as well by someone on your payroll –while taking care to make sure you don’t leave anyone overworked, of course.
Be critical when assessing your slate of tasks. For example, you might be convinced that you’re the best person to handle nightly inventory because you have the biggest stake in making sure all your tools are accounted for. In reality, it might be a simple matter of drilling an employee to be just as diligent and rigorous as you are. Aim for the most rational distribution of labour, and you’ll be fine.
Tip #3: train your employees to be independent
Off-duty phone calls are the worst. When you’re off the clock and tending to non-work related priorities like yourself and your family, the last thing you need is to receive a call about an emergency at the shop.
In many cases, tradie business owners are interrupted for situations which employees could have handled on their own. If this sounds familiar, then the problem most likely lies in the way your employees were brought up after joining your staff: they’re lacking either in skill, or in confidence.
We highly recommend training your employees to have the ability and initiative to take care of unforeseen problems without having to drag you into the mess, and that you follow two easy steps to go about this.
First, train your managers (or whoever you keep as your second-in-command) to contact you only when the stakes are high, or the problem is one that only you can solve. You can afford to raise your expectations when you’re placing someone in charge of your business while you’re away –don’t fall into the trap of nurturing dependency.
Second, train your staff (all of them) to put their heads together and solve problems as a team. You don’t need to host a corny team-building exercise or sit them through a cartoon special on the value of unity. This can be as simple as encouraging them to discuss solutions to problems together, and helping them develop the habit of open coordination.
The bottom line is that your staff is only as useful as you expect them to be. Don’t settle for anything short of the kind of professionalism that makes for a successful business.
Tip #4: build a business that learns
This tip addresses an urgent time management concern, but also sets you up for the long game. By setting up policies that prepare your team to anticipate or resolve recurring problems, you minimize the time it would take to address them every time they come up.
In the short term, this means more free time on your hands; in the long term, this means you’re building a business that gets better at running itself. If your end goal is to retire knowing you’ve put together a reliable source of passive income in the form of a tradie business, then this is the only way to go.
To build a business that learns, you’ll have to exercise a good amount of leadership. Ultimately, your managers and staff should be the people who are best equipped to come up with lasting policies and solutions that do more than plug holes.
It’s important to build a strong sense of shared responsibility among your employees, and have them working with the (correct) impression that when the business succeeds, so do they. Likewise, be very receptive to new ideas and don’t be afraid to put your employees’ suggestions to the test –nothing kills initiative faster than a “decorative” suggestion box.
These tips are great starting points for tradie business owners looking to take concrete steps towards better time management. Put them into practice, and see how a better handle on your time management can leave you feeling happier, healthier, and more productive.
Naturally, the road to an efficient business doesn’t end here. There are plenty of other resources and techniques worth your attention; if you’re set on building your business up to succeed, keep reading, and remember the golden rule of enterprise: never stop learning.