I’ve studied time management and productivity in quite a bit of depth. The common thread is planning and focus. You can’t possibly focus on your ‘important tasks’ if you have not thought about what they are and planned to work them into your day.
Sure, you can be ‘busy’. Anyone can do that. We have all done it, jumping from one task to another, distractions that we run with. It’s so easy to be busy. But is it effective? Not really. What are the things that make us busy? Requests for our time, otherwise known as distractions. You can plan all you want but if you don’t minimise distractions you will not be able to focus on your plan.
So where do distractions come from? They always relate to people, seeking or giving information. Think about it – it could be someone in person, a phone call, email or social network request. It all stems from people, it’s just the delivery method that is different.
Modern technology has made us more accessible than ever before which can deliver some fantastic efficiencies, but at what point do those efficiencies become time suckers? Isn’t it time you felt more in control, so that you can plan for your business and focus on the important priorities each and every day? If we set boundaries for ourselves and respect our own time we can be one step closer to being more effective.
So how can you reduce distractions?
Do your staff, suppliers or customers require your time on a regular basis? Would you like to reduce this time? All it requires is some training.
- Distractions from Staff:
- Are they adequately trained? Make sure you provide training so that all of their tasks can be completed autonomously
- Are you a control freak that won’t let your staff take ownership of their tasks? Create the systems and processes to ensure all tasks are completed exactly as you want them to be.
- Have they forgotten to think for themselves because you are always there? You employed them for a reason, so let them do their jobs. If you struggle to let go because of control issues, get effective systems in place so that you know your staff are doing the task exactly how you want. This will make it more likely that you will ‘let go’. you want them to and you are more likely to “let go”.
- Have you trained your staff to always ask questions of you if they’re unsure of something? How about turning it around and asking them what they would do without asking you? You may find that they would in fact come up with the same answer as you, and could thus have solved the problem without interrupting you at all. If after a period of time their answers are not matching yours, perhaps the person is not right for the job.
- Distractions from Suppliers
- Are you the main point of contact? If so, is it really necessary? Can your suppliers deal with other staff members instead?
- Have you given your supplier times when you are available to talk? This will limit distractions to your working day. If it’s easier for you to communicate by email, ask your suppliers to email you. Just ask.
- Customers/clients are the bread and butter of your business so they are not distracting you, just contacting you at an inconvenient time. Mutual respect of each other’s time can strengthen a business relationship. I always liked the saying “if you don’t respect your time, how do you expect anyone else to?” Unless you respect your time, everyone else will assume it theirs to have. Don’t blame others for taking up your time, it all starts with you.
- So how do you respect your own time? Start creating boundaries. Don’t answer your phone after a certain time of day. Let it keep business hours. Email does not have to be answered straight away just because you think it’s expected. Simply turn off your email notifications and close down your email entirely if you’re focusing on an important task. Choose a certain time of day to check and respond to emails and stick to it. No one will die. Your business will not come to an end. You will in fact get a lot of superbly focused work done.
- If you have trained your customers/clients into thinking they have access to you all the time, they will contact you whenever they wish. So how do you change this? Remove yourself from the equation. That may mean removing yourself physically (i.e. on a shop floor), which will educate your customers/clients and your staff at the same time.
You do not have to answer your phone every time it rings. If you are in a meeting or focusing on an important project, all phone calls can wait, unless it’s a life or death situation! These kinds of situations usually arise from family members, so you could choose to answer your phone if you see that a family member is calling. If the situation is not life or death, politely tell them you’ll call back later.
So how does this all relate to your business numbers? Well, once you have a plan, you will be able to focus on your plan with minimum distractions, which means you will be able to improve your business numbers!