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The one tool that you need in your business to be productive

I work a lot with business owners to help them become more productive in their business, and a question I’m often asked is, ‘What techniques can you recommend to help me manage my time better?’

People are often surprised at my answer. It’s not Pomodoro or GTD or any of the latest apps and trends.

In fact, I’ve seen lots of people using so-called ‘time management techniques’ as a form of procrastination, and spending more time ‘managing’ their time, than actually getting anything done!

My favourite way of managing time more effectively is actually right under your nose, and something you probably already use.

It’s YOUR diary

Whether you prefer an online diary or a paper based one, it doesn’t really matter, as long as it works for you. Your diary is quite simply the best time management tool you have when used correctly.

Most people however use their diary in a very reactive way, to book in appointments and meetings with OTHER people.

And then they’re left wondering why they never have any time left in the week to work ON their business, progress that new project, do some planning, analyse their numbers and so on. It simply comes down to taking back control of your diary and using it in a more proactive way.

Three simple ways to start gaining control and managing your diary better, is the 3B approach:

Boundaries

As in, set some!

Do you have clearly defined start and finish times for working, or do you tend to use more of a ‘let’s see how much I can squeeze in’ approach?

It’s very easy (particularly when you’re starting out) to just keep going, and work into the evenings and weekends, then wonder why you’re feeling exhausted and have no time for a life outside of your business.

Decide what you want your working hours to be, and stick to them!

Having clients contact you all hours of the day?

Decide how you want to communicate with your clients and then let them know. Set the expectation clearly so that they know the best way to contact you, and when to expect you to reply to them.

Batching

You may well have come across batching before – it’s simply about putting the same or similar types of tasks together in your diary.

For example, if you have lots of face to face meetings, it’s more efficient use of your time to book them all in together, rather than being out for a meeting, then popping back for an hour, before rushing off to your next meeting.

Or maybe you have some admin that you need to do on a regular basis. See how you can batch it together so that you get it all done in one go. It means you’re in the flow of what you’re doing, rather than stopping and starting, and doing a bit here and a bit there.

It can also help free up a chunk of your diary to batch together the tasks you need to do, to work ON your business.

Buffers

If you’re always running over and not getting everything finished each day, you’re more than likely simply trying to cram too much in.

It’s much better to build in some buffer time each week, to allow for the times when something takes longer than expected, or those unforeseen client emergencies, or poorly children etc.

Each week make sure you schedule in some allocated buffer time, and if you don’t end up needing it, I’m sure there are always useful ways to fill it! It’s standard in project management to build in buffer time to allow for the risk of something running over.

Start using this in your weekly diary and see how it takes the pressure off, and, by using this with boundaries and batching, you may even start to reclaim your evenings and weekends, and start to feel like you have all the time you need.

So there you have it, the 3B approach to managing your diary, and your time, more effectively.

Which of these are you going to start applying in your business? Leave a comment and let me know!

Photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

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About Alison Bradford

Alison Bradford is a business coach, working with ambitious and driven small business owners, to help them grow their business and make more money, without putting in more and more time. After many years experience in senior roles in blue chip companies in the UK such as Vodafone and Swinton Insurance, she now runs her business coaching company from Staffordshire, working with clients all over the UK via phone and Skype. You can download her free checklist, 6 Quick & Easy Ways To Boost Your Profit (Without Having To Find More Customers) here

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