1. Make Clear Goals
Setting goals is an important skill to have in all parts of life. And there’s an art to it. You have to prioritize, making sure all urgent tasks are completed without overwhelming yourself or your staff.
Taking the time to sit down, spend some time thinking, and writing down a list of goals is a great first step. Don’t frantically write every single thing that is on your mind. You won’t be able to get everything done in one day. So find ways to make attainable goals that will motivate you to come back to the list the following day.
Be as specific as possible with exactly what your goals are. For instance, if you have a large product inventory, don’t say that you’ll count the entire thing. Rather, choose a specific part of your inventory that you’ll focus on. Being specific keeps you focused and makes goals easier to accomplish.
2. Use Simple Lists and To-Dos
For more menial daily tasks, make lists and to-dos that serve as reminders and help build healthy time management habits. This is a great task to tackle at the same time every day.
Most people are most productive in the morning, so take advantage of that fresh motivation and energy that each day brings.
Figure out a system for this that works for both you and your staff. You could have printed reminders at opportune areas around your retail space, or you could share them using an app such as Google Keep.
3. Stay Focused and On Task
It’s 2018 and distractions abound as it is. On top of that, you’re trying to run a small business. Staying focused might be the very hardest part of your entire job.
Calls, texts, emails, customer supports issues, inventory, ordering, accounting, scheduling. Ok, I could go on but you get the point. Again, there is just too much to do. Embracing distractions will only prevent you from getting something done well. Instead, keep referencing your daily lists and larger goals. And try to stay off your phone a little bit more. It’s filled with an endless amount of extra information and the most common route to extended distractions.
4. Automate What You Can
Speaking of our phones! Automating certain aspects of your business is a great idea. And though our phones do serve as major distractions, they are undoubtedly quite helpful. More and more tasks can be done easily with simple apps on your phone or other virtual assistants.
Your retail POS can also automate many time-consuming tasks. With the right point of sale, checkout times will speed up, scheduling and payroll can be a breeze, inventory is updated in real time and can be edited remotely, and advanced analytics can all help save you time while also improving the day-to-day operations of your business.
Also look for third-party applications or services that can save you time. Social media management can be cheap and save you hours every week, for example. There are also loyalty programs or customer resource management apps that can assist with keeping your best clients happy and taken care of.
5. Train and Trust Your Team
First of all, trust yourself. You hired your team, after all! Once you’ve solidified your great staff, implement a great training system. This might be a large time investment up front, but it will pay dividends down the road. Organize a system that requires the least amount of time and obligation from you. You can also lean on your existing team to help out with new employee training.
It’s almost important to remember that you can’t do everything. Delegate tasks thoughtfully. This not only involves trusting your staff, but also requires a knowledge of each person’s interests and strengths. It’s not beneficial to blindly assign tasks, or dump off just things that you don’t enjoy doing. Instead, give defined roles and responsibilities to each member. This shows your staff respect, will ensure tasks are done well and promptly, and will save you time having to do it yourself!
Communicate openly with everyone and remember, that your way isn’t always going to be the best solution. You’ve surrounded yourself with people who have great ideas and also care about your business. Take advantage of this rather than ignore it.
6. Implement a Time Management System
There are many different types and styles of detailed time management solutions. First, identify what type of time management personality you have. There are variations on how this is broken down, but for brevity’s sake, let’s briefly look at 5:
- Time Martyrs: There’s never enough time in the day for this type of time management personality because they constantly overbook and commit. You feel validated by saying yes. It’s great, but also a battle to find free time for yourself and your business.
- Crazy Procrastinators: Most of us have let this happen at one point or another, but some people only operate well under imminent deadlines and plenty of pressure. Unfortunately, for most people, the knowledge of whatever it is you’re putting off leaves you with nagging stress and neverending distraction.
- Underestimators: This group stays far too focused on one or two small tasks, wasting time without even realizing it. They often have great ideas and complete tasks thoroughly, but this comes at the expense of other important matters.
- Do-It-Alls: These time managers can complete an incredible amount in a day. But often it results in quantity or quality. And the crazed desire to accomplish it all leaves feelings of unfulfillment and premature grey hairs.
- Commitment-Phobes: In case there was any confusion, this type simply hates making commitments. They don’t want to be locked into a schedule or have too much lined up for a week. They’d rather complete a task when in the right mood, rather than force themselves through it. In most cases, this just means that nothing productive will really happen.
Most of us are probably combinations of the good and bad things about each of these. It’s rarely cut and dry, but is nonetheless a good thing to think about in order to improve bad habits and unproductive time-wasting. So what are a few techniques that can help you gain better time management?
- The Pomodoro Technique: Break down each work period in small intervals (“pomodoros”) with short breaks in between each. This could be anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour. After a set number of intervals, schedule yourself a more extended break. We aren’t all meant to stay optimally focused for hours on end. Let your mind relax so you can spend your work time most efficiently and productively. The video below is one of many helpful resources for practicing this technique and others.
- 18 Minutes: Peter Bregman has broken downtime management into spending 18 minutes throughout each day to keep your mind on track. Start with 5 minutes each morning thinking about what you need to do to make this one day successful. Choose a few things on your to-do list and add them to your calendar. Spend one minute per hour to refocus on what you’re working on. Use alarms as reminders and don’t let the hours of the day manage you. Finally, take another 5 minutes in the evening to review the day and ask yourself constructive questions about how it went.
- COPE: An acronym for Clear-Organized-Productive-Efficient, COPE helps you completely revamp how you work. Like a diet overhaul, start by logging exactly what you did over the course of a week. Identify the time-wasters and eliminate them. Systemize your repetitive tasks and let the majority of your time be spent on the main tasks.
- ABC Analysis: We’ve talked about this as applied to your inventory, but you can also use this technique for time management. Categorize each of your tasks by urgency and only complete the most urgent on your list. Move on to lesser tasks once all others have been checked off.
There are myriad other techniques on how to improve your time management and efficiency, but these are a few of the most popular and easiest to implement.