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Time Management

The Elusive Time Management Conundrum

business productivity

Fundamental Tools to Help Manage Time
More Effectively and Efficiently

I received a question from Shanara Nettlefold from Indulge Beauty Co. on the Morning Peninsula in Victoria, and as it’s about something many struggles with, I thought I would answer it in a blog.

Here’s Shanara’s question:

I’d like to know how to structure my time more effectively and efficiently, as a manager and boss, off the tools. How do I strategically and critically look at projects and decide what is a priority and what needs to be done first? What is the best way to structure my days? How much time per week (or what % of the week) should be focused on short term projects and what should I allocate to longer-term/planning projects? How did you spend your days working ON the business? I get all these ideas and then get overwhelmed implementing them and then I have all these half-finished projects and ideas which creates more overwhelm as I don’t know what to focus on and they all feel super important.

 

My Response

I think Time Management is one of the most common universal problems. Hundreds of books have been written about it and probably equally as many courses have been created about it. Truth is, it’s going to be different for everyone and even then, it will depend on different situations.

The time management of a salon owner working ON the tools doing treatments as well as running her business will be different to the time management of a salon owner who solely works on her business. Add the day-to-day responsibilities of life like family, children, cooking, exercise, friends, groceries, school picks up… THAT list is endless.

All of us have the same 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. How we fill those hours and days will depend on our personal responsibilities, the tasks you have allocated for yourself as opposed to those you have delegated. The point I’m making is that the minutiae of time management HAVE to be different for everyone because of so many variables.

So instead of unsuccessfully telling you how to manage your time, I’m going to give you fundamental tools to help YOU manage the time that YOU have as effectively as possible.

I’ve got 4 words for you.

  • Tasks
  • Projects
  • Priority
  • Urgency

 

Urgency

Let’s work backwards starting with the biggest offender - urgency. Does it feel like your life is all about dealing with ‘urgent’ situations such as “The books are quiet, let’s throw out a promotion”, or “I haven’t got time to train her, so I’ll do it myself!”.

For most of us, it feels like we’re on that gerbil wheel, continually dealing with putting out fires, finding quick answers to immediate problems. You start the day with a big to-do list and by the end of the day, almost nothing has been checked off.

The best advice I can give you here is to distinguish the difference between urgent and important. If you persistently focus and deal only with the urgent things in your business and not the IMPORTANT ones, in time, what’s important will inevitably become urgent which is why that gerbil wheel never stops.

Let me give you an example:
You handle every refund yourself because if you didn’t, the team would just refund without digging further into the problem the client might be having. Instead of handling this E-V-E-R-Y time, write a protocol detailing every step you want them to take from what questions to ask, to what form to fill in, how to fill it in and if there’s a statute of limitations, what’s the cut-off? It’s way more important and way more efficient to take the time and put together this protocol ONCE and train your team about it than handling it yourself.

Too often business owners say they don’t have time to do the important things without weighing up the time it takes to do it once and then makes it a repeatable task that anyone can do. If you don’t let go and delegate the things you DON’T HAVE TO DO; things that someone else could easily do and take off your plate, then lack of time will always be your problem.

Another tip. When you have way too many "urgent" things to do and it feels like you’ll never get to the "important" things, it’s often better to prioritise your sanity, and LONG-TERM revenue by saying something like “I’m prepared to lose a little money now so that I can make more money later.”  

This brings me to the next important word, ‘priority’.

 

Priority

You even need to prioritise your priorities!

Let me tell you how priority works. You must prioritise those tasks that actually generate money. You never want to put off something that delays or hinders the revenue-generating process. You have wages to pay, bills to pay, profit to make. Making money in the business should always be a priority. If you postpone a task that is revenue-generating, that’s one hour or 1 day of revenue you’ve lost, that you can never get back.

But… it’s not as simple as it sounds.

For example, if your team is struggling to meet targets due to a lack of retailing skills, training them on the specific challenge is a priority and should be addressed immediately. Why? Because the longer it takes to train them, the more opportunities will be missed and the more money you’ll be losing. Time is an important factor here. Address revenue-generating tasks first, as a priority.

But! What if you have a particular way of retailing that you want your team to follow. For example, you have no problem retailing successfully because:

  • You sell the ingredient, not the product, i.e. you sell what Vitamin C does to the skin as opposed to selling the Skintastic Pigmentation serum. Sell Vitamin C and not the serum.
  • Every new client should have a full consultation first and how you do your consultations are very specific.
  • What to sell first on the product on the prescription, depends on various factors such as; (a) what does the client already have that’s ok for her to finish first? E.g., if she already has a cleanser and moisturiser that isn’t harmful, prioritise the serum but if she doesn’t have the basics, prioritise products that will get the skin balanced and clean first, etc.

So, if you have a specific way you want your team to retail products (and you should), then you need to document every step in a formal protocol that can be referred to over and over.

What if you don't have a protocol for each treatment? Well, training them without a protocol is not going to be effective so you must prioritise creating the protocols FIRST.

Makes sense? Training your team without having a protocol that you can use as a reference in training them and as a reference for holding your team accountable, is pretty much a waste of time.

Look at every situation and prioritise the revenue-generating tasks first and don't fall into the trap of thinking only about the short-term results if it's going to cost you in the long run.

So you see? Depends.

 

Tasks vs. Projects

Now, let’s talk about "tasks vs. projects". Taking out the bin on a Tuesday night is a task. Writing a blog is a project. One project is made up of many tasks. And clearly, a project takes more time, more thought and a clearer brain to accomplish than a single task.

When you start writing your to-do list, be clear on whether it’s a task or a project. If it’s a project, then it doesn’t belong on your to-do list. Only the tasks within the project do. So let’s break down the project "Writing a blog".

Tasks involved in writing a blog

  1. Research (if necessary)
  2. Write the blog
  3. Have someone proofread
  4. Create a thumbnail image for the blog
  5. Upload the blog and thumbnail
  6. Promote and share to your email list
  7. Share on social media
  8. Brief the team and provide them with the link to the blog to include in client follow-ups and conversations where relevant

Yours might look different but you get the idea.

If you have a project, then you have to be more thoughtful about allocating the right time for it to be completed. If you simply add it to your to-do list as ‘Write Blog’, when you get to it, it will probably seem all too much, you’ll get overwhelmed with what’s required and you’ll set it aside. Set it aside for long enough, guess what happens? It becomes urgent! And nobody does a good job of writing a blog when the pressure is on. Output is compromised.

 

Additional Tips

Take an audit of all of the things you do in a day/week/month. All of the things that YOU are responsible for right now. Draw up a table with 4 columns.

  1. Task
  2. How Often
  3. How long
  4. When

The first 3 columns should be easy enough to fill in so go ahead and fill in straight away. Once done, go back and start allocating when to do these tasks. If you’re doing this on paper, use a pencil in case you want to change things around. You’ll be amazed how freeing this will be in helping you allocate the right time to do the right thing every week. Who knows, you might even learn that there are some things on your plate of things to do that you can delegate to someone else. One thing’s for sure. You’ll find out EXACTLY what you need to achieve in a month and how long it will take you.

Once done, make appointments with yourself. I have more appointments with myself in my calendar than with anyone else! 

 Task How Often How Long When
Blog Weekly Me - 2 hours
Simone - 1 hour
Friday afternoons

 

There you go. Time Management 101. When it all depends!

 

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