Article #80, April, 2009
Time Management or Just Too Much to Do?
Time Management is a huge business problem for many small business owners. Often, time management is not even the issue - the issue is task management!
Most of the time, entrepreneurs have too many great ideas - product ideas, marketing ideas, other ideas. They constantly feel overwhelmed, but don't know exactly why. Sound familiar?
You can certainly do everything you want, but not all this month. You need a plan. The big question usually is: How do I do that?
First, you need to answer this super important question:
How badly do I need cash flow right now?
Either you are doing well, doing ok, or not doing so great. If you're doing well, you can incorporate pursuing some of your brilliant ideas into your plan right now. If you're just doing ok, be particular with how you decide to spend your marketing resources of time and money. If you are not doing so great, put all the ideas on the back burner until you can predict a decent revenue stream.
Planting seeds for the future is very important, but if your time is used up planting seeds for the future while your mortgage goes unpaid, you need to re-prioritize.
Speaking of prioritizing, that is the next step. Make a list of all your current business activities and those you want to pursue. It is unlikely you can successfully execute all of those to-dos this year. Put them in priority order. Start with the answer to the cash flow question and consider your budget.
If you are not desperate for cash, you should balance your priority list between short-term and long-term task results. You need to continue doing the tasks that bring you revenues, increasing the activities that are the best. Constant return on investment (ROI) analyses are important to eliminate those marketing activities that are not worth the investment of time and money.
A good example of a marketing activity that is affordable and can get you great returns, but should be carefully watched, is networking. Networking can be incredibly great, but so many things can go wrong. You could be networking at the wrong places for your personality or industry. You could be saying and doing the wrong things. You could be networking at too many places and not following up with anyone. You could be inconsistent, preventing you from creating any solid relationships.
However, in the right place, right time, right way, networking can return great results with a minimal investment. Be strategic in your approach - compare the results between the different groups/meetings. Decide in advance what you plan to accomplish with each group and at each meeting. Then, after giving it enough time, analyze the results so you can maximize your efficiency by stopping going to meetings that have a low ROI.
Another common problem is doing charity work. No, there is no intrinsic problem with charity work, only when it is done at the expense of your business's viability. If you are in the first 5 years of starting a business, you should be focusing your energy on becoming profitable - only.
Charity can be a convenient excuse for not increasing revenues, and it can be a time leech. Imagine how much time and mo'ney you will be able to dedicate and donate to your favorite cause when you are earning six figures - every year!
Add detailed tasks, with deadlines, to the task list for this year. When you take a step back and look at all the activities you are currently doing plus all those you want to do, are you still feeling overwhelmed? Is it impossible for any one human being to complete all of those tasks in 1 year??
Cut some of them out, moving them into next year. Look at the list again and again until you feel really good about it - excited even! Now organize the list into a usable plan. Schedule a strategic planning meeting at the beginning of each month to examine last month's activities and the coming month's activities, and plan your month.
Some of this advice sounds harsh, and it is. If you are serious about having a profitable business - long-term - you need to be a little tough by cutting out activities that are not maximizing your income potential. Once you can accurately predict your income and sales increases, you can add more in.
Organize your tasks this way and soon your time management will fall into place! And, you will have a lot more fun and make a lot more money.