Time to think about time

Every start-up, and early stage company, has a strong appreciation of finance for their business, not just in terms of getting revenue into the bank account but in areas such as the importance of good cash flow. Equally, ventures starting out soon realise the value of their assets such staff, the type of equipment they need to invest in and even their brand.

However, one significant asset is often overlooked and that is time.

An entrepreneur starting out on their own rarely has what many might regard as a typical working day. They often work every hour they can and even during the night they will be up, making scribbled notes, doing research or sending emails.

Soon, however, time management becomes a necessity because, unlike cash, there is only so much of it.  And as soon as we begin to have fewer minutes or hours to accomplish tasks, we either have to change the way we work or rely on others to apply and manage their time effectively.

Most growing and mature companies have policies in place for the development of staff, health and safety, and now of course the use of social media, but how many have ‘time management’ written into their organisational DNA?

How, then, can time management be improved?

No individual is 100% time perfect, nor should they expect to be, but it is possible to improve their time management by learning and applying techniques and good habits.  Fundamental to this, though, is a personal appreciation of time.

Unlike other resources, such as cash or assets that may be increased, time is an ever-decreasing abstract entity. By developing a personal sense of time and its value – both inside and outside of work - it can help us to make inroads into better time management.

There are some simple steps that can be taken to improve personal and collective time management.

Planning

As with most things, time spent planning usually means improved outcomes. A plan will often have built-in timescales for certain tasks and will also consider other resources available to help.  Having a long action list and flitting from one task to the next is often a recipe for disaster. The good thing about plans is that they can also be shared.  This can help others to understand how much a person has on their plate or how tasks might be better shared among colleagues.  

Regular planning – little and often – can become more of a habit and makes us consciously competent managers of our own time and that of others. At Clear Books we have stand up meetings in the morning where individuals and teams are invited to share what they did the previous day and what they have on next.  This is a really simple and fast way of communicating plans!

Avoid putting things off

Procrastinate – we’ve all done it and some of us are worse than others. We do it because we either don’t like a task or there is some other reason to avoid it.  If it needs to be done and you are responsible for it, the simple solution is just to do it!   And if it’s something that would be undertaken faster and more enjoyably with a colleague, explain your situation and ask for help.  Be prepared to return the favour, of course. 

Tune into your personal best!

You know yourself if you are a morning, afternoon or evening person and you know your most energetic and alert times better than anyone else.  By tuning into and being aware of your body and mind clock, you can use this to good advantage to manage your time.  If there are periods during the day when you feel most industrious, why not undertake the jobs that normally you’d procrastinate with!  Flexible working practices and the use of mobile and remote technologies means that many more employers are happy for their staff to work how it best suits an individual or the collective objectives of a team.

Manage interruptions

Often your personal time management can be affected by other people (unknowingly to them).  Meetings that drag on too long, constant interruptions, micro management, office gossiping – these are some of many problems associated with personal time management.  Try to recognize which of these might be most affecting your time and be prepared to resolve them.

Take a break

Sometimes a break can work wonders and actually speed up an activity that appears to be taking too long.  A break from a computer screen, perhaps a short walk away from the work environment or time out on the office pool table (we have one at Clear Books) can work wonders at getting the mind back on track.

Collective time management

Some businesses are more aware of the need for company-wide time management, and their approaches may include things like using technologies and services (like Clear Books) through to methods such as stand up company meetings.  If a company understands the positive impact that effective collective time management can make, it can become part of the fabric in the same way that other resources are managed.  

This can include a company directive, company-wide staff training, and having time management designated as a recognisable skill that is part of an employee’s personal development plan.

Words by Lizzie Fouracre

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