Recently I spoke with 3 people (a client, business partner and a friend) who have the same problems:
- Managing their time
- Meeting goals
- Achieving outcomes
I've been in business for over 25 years and experienced the same issues such as:
- Working late. My staff and I would work really long hours trying to catch up but would never seem to be able to solve the never-ending plethora of problems that kept arriving.
- Too many tasks. Our tasks would never get completed. So, as the business owner and most experienced, I would take responsibility for them and create more jobs for myself.
- Stress and Profitability. Not only would everyone get stressed but profitability would be down because we weren't doing the contracts in the quoted time-frames.
I had to solve the above problems quickly so I got professional advice, read lots of books and did time/staff management courses. Within 3 months my company was 4 times more profitable and we were never working late. Below is the process that I created from my experience.
Use a calendar like Google or Outlook to remind you to do things. For example, my calendar automatically reminds me to:
- Pay wages and contractors on Mondays
- Send staff tasks out for the week and followup with their previous tasks
- Do follow-ups with prospective clients on Monday morning
- Write an E-Newsletter every month
- Create staff and client video tutorials and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
- And a bunch more. I have notifications that won't show for up to 3 years which is really cool, because now that I'm old, there's no way I would ever remember to do those tasks.
It's easy to open your emails and answer phone calls and then they take over the rest of your day. From a time management perspective, every interruption equates to 15 minutes downtime so it's important that you get as much completed as you can before you start getting interrupted. The schedule below works best for me, but will be different for you. Create your own schedule where you sort out all your quick tasks in the morning and plan to do your longer term tasks for the afternoon:
8am - 9am: Respond to emails before clients start calling
9am -9.30am: Staff production meeting also known as a "toolbox meeting"
9.30am -12pm: Sort out smaller jobs that are easy to solve like doing support, fixing stuff that will save me time later, doing shopping, meetings, banking, wages, helping staff, etc.
12.30pm - 2.30pm: Do longer term tasks such as working on one of my other companies, doing training to improve my skills and processes, creating video tutorials for staff and clients to create more time for myself, creating automated processes on my servers to reduce my workload, etc.
2.30pm - 4PM: I may check my emails and respond if it's urgent but a lot of the time, if it's not, I'll send an email saying something like "I'm booked this afternoon but will contact you tomorrow morning." What I've found is customers are fine if you give them a specific time that you'll contact them; in fact, I've been told that it's one of the reasons they love dealing with me because I'm so organised - the credit has to go to Google Calendar that reminds me. After that I'll continue with my longer term tasks.
To solve problems quickly you'll do it yourself but what happens is you create more work for yourself. It's not your staff's fault. It's because you haven't:
- Shown them how to do it
- Clearly identified what your expectations are, or
- Created an easy process they can follow to ensure it gets done the same way every time
It's not your fault either. These are normal issues faced by managers because they haven't been trained on how to manage a business or team effectively. Here's what woirks for me, see if it works for you:
- Have a 15 - 30 minute staff meeting or group teleconference every morning where everyone says what they're doing that day. The benefits of this include:
- Everyone understands what everyone else is doing
- You can allocate additional jobs and ask others to help to complete those jobs
- Staff can request assistance - I found that many of my staff felt awkward asking for help but when we started doing Production meetings we became a team that helped each other
- After lunch or at the end of the day, do a follow-up 5 minute meeting/teleconference to make sure that everyone is meeting their goals. If they're not; you can allocate other people or resources to help. This is a really good way to make sure everyone's tasks are transparent - including yours.
- Every time someone solves a problem; ask them to summarise the "Process" to avoid the problem happening again. Add a note to your calendar to write a Standard Operating Procedure for the fix so it becomes the default way to achieve the task. Eventually you'll create an archive of processes of how to best run things efficiently like this.
- Repeat and succeed. Hopefully, if you follow the above processes you shouldn't have to repeat work but instead will have processes in place to make future jobs easy.
I know that the above makes me seem like a robot but if you follow the same processes then everything becomes a lot easier because it is clear, measurable and repeatable..