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time management

6 Common Time-Management Issues and How to Solve Them

by: 

Ed Levy

Ed Levy is an industry veteran and director of software technologies at Hirsch Solutions.

Do you feel like there’s never enough time in the day to run your decorating business the way you’d like to? Time management might be the root cause of your inability to get in strategic planning time or even to complete your to-do lists.

Here’s how to solve six common time crunch issues, almost immediately.

1. "I never finish my to-do list, ever."

If you really can’t get your task list covered during the day, you’re probably not budgeting your time correctly, and that’s on you. But luckily, there’s a quick fix.

What to do: Commit to tracking your time for a day or two, or more. Whether you use an app, a notepad, or a spreadsheet, track how you’re spending your work hours. Most productivity experts agree that monitoring and budgeting your time is the way to take control of your calendar. When you objectively review how long you’re spending on different tasks and meetings, you can decide where to cut back and where to delegate. You can also ask your employees (salespeople, machine operators, and digitizers) to track their time so you can identify areas where people lack in productivity.

2. "I spend too much time on non-revenue-generating work."

As the CEO of your decorating business, you probably shouldn’t be looking for customer order forms or fixing a digitizing error. But all too often, it’s easy to get sucked into your staffers' work.

What to do: Delegate or outsource time-consuming tasks. While you’re tracking your time for a day or so, also keep a running list of tasks that you could delegate or outsource to a virtual worker or a service provider. Then, assign or outsource those tasks. When you’re a newer business, it can be tempting to hop on social media yourself or enter customer data into your CRM system. However, doing this is unnecessary, inefficient, and keeps you from growing your business through higher-level goals. You can hire a virtual assistant for $10–20 an hour to do a lot of admin, data entry, and email inbox tasks.

3. "I have 100 priorities."

Are you one of those people who has 50 internet tabs open by the end of the day or a list of tasks that you started but didn’t finish? Daily and weekly scheduling must be your new best friend. It’s the equivalent of listing out everything you need to tackle and then decluttering your schedule so you can get them done.

What to do: Learn to prioritize your tasks like a boss. At the start of the week or day, list out everything you think you’ll need to tackle. Then, take a second look at each time and decide whether it’s essential or needs attention today. Based on that list, you can determine what you need to do today and then during the rest of the week. Other productivity experts recommend choosing five tasks per day to take on and complete. Plus, when you’re the company leader, you can model this laser-focused behavior to your team.

3. “I feel like I spend my whole day in meetings.”

Yes, we know: Meetings can drain the life (and soul and productivity) out of your day before it even begins.

What to do: To immediately add hours to your entire team’s workweeks, limit meetings to 30 minutes or less, although 15–20 minutes is ideal. Some companies even designate one day or afternoon per week as meeting free. Another way to keep your team focused is to hold five-minute check-in meetings every day, or a weekly 15-minute brainstorm to review what’s coming up and how to stay motivated.

4. “I multitask with the best of them, but I’m not tearing through my to-do list.”

Ever pat yourself on the back for being a jack-hammering multitasker? A Stanford University study found that persistent multitasking tires out your brain and makes you worse at monotasking when you decide to focus on one thing at a time. Every time a text or email pings in and you distract yourself from what you’re working on to answer it, for example, you impact your quality of work. Even a minor distraction can derail you so much that it can take up to 25 minutes to get back into your creative or productive zone.

What to do: Try batching your tasks. First, decide only to check and respond to your texts and emails at the same times during the day. For example, 6 a.m., 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., and stick to it. You can also declutter your smartphone and laptop notifications, so you’re not interrupted when you’re working on your company’s strategic plan. Second, try to batch your work tasks into 30- and 60-minute time blocks. Much like your production strategy of putting like jobs together, try to group like tasks together on your calendar. This grouping helps keep your mind in that mode. Focus on each task during the allotted time as fully as possible. Add in white space where you can, to allow for emergencies or just much-needed downtime or thinking time.

5. “My sales team always seems to be running in circles.”

If your business is operating on disconnected spreadsheets or a paper filing system, this is probably why your salespeople and customer service team members feel so disorganized.

What to do: Automate your sales and marketing tasks through a customer relationship management (CRM) system. You can take advantage of lots of features like automated workflows, follow-up reminders, and email sequences. The system can help you track leads, statuses, and communications, along with order history. When you integrate a CRM tool into your invoicing software, you connect all your data. This integration makes it faster and easier for your staffers to find the info they need to do their jobs more efficiently. Select a few vendors to work with and ask them to demo their systems so you can find the one that most closely aligns with your needs.

6. “Everyone on my team is always doing a different, urgent thing.”

This chaos often happens in smaller businesses where everything feels urgent and priority, and employees are often wearing multiple hats.

What to do: Try using a Kanban-type board. Whether you use a whiteboard or low-cost online project management tool, create an urgent or priority-based task list. Keep your shop’s overarching goals in mind, as well as what needs to be done for your shop to run smoothly every day. That way, your employees will know where to allocate their time to stay on track.

Here's one last, supremely vital, tip to wrap all of these together is to wake up earlier. Use 30 minutes each morning to think and visualize where you want your business to go and what top things you can do today and during the week to get your shop there.