Time management and organisation tips

Our SageCover members get a long list of benefits from technical support to business advice. They also get Solutions Magazine (log in to see your copy if you’re a member); packed with business tips and expert advice. The SageCover team have kindly let me reproduce one of their articles for our blog so we can all enjoy it!

From emailing more effectively to understanding your business priorities, Laura Dixon looks at how you can find time you never knew you had…

Time for a new start

Poor time management means that the average company of any size, in any sector, loses 20 days of work per person, per year. Getting in control of time saves money, increases productivity and directly contributes to a better bottom line. With that in mind, we asked an expert panel: What can you do to make more time in the day?

1) Find your focus

Clare Evans: You should spend at least 10 minutes at the start of each day planning what you will do – not checking emails and getting sucked into answering them. Planning is crucial if you want to have an effective day’s work. Always keep your business plan and main objectives at the forefront of your mind. Look at your short and long-term goals, and ask yourself: what do I need to do today to achieve them?

The thing I’ve found with small business owners is that they are trying to do everything, and the volume of tasks often overshadows their true work objectives. I tell them to start by thinking about what’s important and focus on what makes the biggest difference.

Leo Babauta: Most small business owners are incredibly busy, but they don’t fill their days with the most important work possible. Of course, that work will be different for every person, but the most important thing you can do is figure out the top three most important tasks to get done each day, and focus on those.

2) Avoid distractions

Dr Monica Seeley: Switch off email alerts. Wean yourself off constantly checking them, so you can focus on the tasks in hand.

Leo Babauta: Disconnect from the internet and your phone for a period of time each day. Even if it’s for just an hour, that time is still vitally important, because otherwise you’re constantly being interrupted, distracted and sucked in.

3) Know how much your time is worth

Clare Evans: Every hour you lose has a value. Work out how much your time is worth financially, and use that to frame what you do during the day. For instance, if you don’t like doing accounts and spend a lot of time putting it off, hire a bookkeeper to do it. You can then spend that time doing the tasks that only you can do.

4) Fine-tune your emails

Dr Monica Seeley: Make sure you make the most of your email features. Use rules and filters to set priorities, so what you see first in your inbox is the most important. This way, you won’t miss key mail from your important clients. Use expiry dates on ephemeral emails, so you don’t unnecessarily clutter up other people’s inboxes too.

Also, if you get your own emails right first time, you can avoid a lot of email pingpong. Start with a clear concise subject line that sums up the email. Use a professional greeting and make your request clear and concise. Include a time frame and the exact action required. Sign off with your phone number and put ‘Thanks in advance’, so no follow up emails will be needed.

And think about attachments. Ask yourself whether you really need to send the same attachment to six people – would it be easier to put it on a shared space instead? You can cut how long it takes to complete tasks by eliminating time spent on downloading information and deleting it afterwards because it overwhelms email storage space.

5) Don’t be afraid to draw the line

Leo Babauta: Reduce commitments to create space to get important work done – start saying ‘no’ so you can say ‘yes’ to this work. Set lower limits on how long you work each day, and you’ll force yourself to do the higher impact tasks during that time instead of filling your days with unimportant jobs. Clare Evan S: Don’t work until the task is finished, otherwise you will be working long hours. Have a cut-off point. Set expectations with other people too – make sure they know how busy you are and what is reasonable to expect from you.

Clare Evans: Don’t work until the task is finished, otherwise you will be working long hours. Have a cut-off point. Set expectations with other people too – make sure they know how busy you are and what is reasonable to expect from you.

Laura Dixon writes for a range of titles including The Independent, The Guardian and Business Life.