A Realistic Approach toward Effective Time Management

Effective time management is a key skill for entrepreneurs who want their business to succeed. It is critical though, to be aware of the traps we fall into through poor habits. We may be extremely busy but fail to focus on those aspects that make our business profitable.

Common problems

In a recent coaching session a strategist at an advertising agency vented her intense frustrations. They recently took on a new client. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) was agreed with the client stipulating the services that would be delivered as well as the corresponding fees. The team who delivers the work was not consulted on the deadlines.

On top of this the client emails requests daily for the agency to “just quickly” do a job. Initially the strategist obliged as it is a new client. But soon she spent three times the amount of time to what was agreed in the SLA. She is now in the difficult position of having to push back.

The strategist feels the client fails to understand that each piece of work must be scoped with time lines and costings before the work can commence.  As a result effective time management is seriously compromised.

There are a few key lessons to be learnt here:

  • The Managing Director (MD) needs to consult with the team doing the actual work before committing to deadlines.
  • New clients need to know and understand the new business in-take processes and procedures.
  • When employees are pressurised by clients it may require a senior person to step in and revisit negotiated terms.
  • The agency is spending too much time on activities with little financial return.

This is a typical example of what happens in the real world to accommodate a new client. However, as a result quality is seriously compromised with both the new client as well as existing clients. A senior person needs to step in and review how the SLA and relationship is managed with this client.

How to take a more realistic approach

Consult with your team before committing to deadlines. It is always safer to under-promise and over-deliver.

Give your team adequate time to plan. Remember that setting unrealistic expectations sets your team up for poor delivery. This point is always emphasised in time management training. And yet many business owners say they do not have the time to plan. But there is always time to do rework! The more you plan the greater the positive impact on effective time management.

Schedule the most important activities. Once the planning is done, ensure that your team schedules the priority goals into their monthly and weekly plans. “Spare” time can be used for smaller tasks. Scheduling is crucial to effective time management.

Review the work on a regular basis. You are in the business of making money. So regularly take stock as to whether you spend time on activities that bring you the greatest financial returns. We all know that when you work for yourself there is more work than hours in a day. The question is whether you are focussing on the priorities.

Some clients are time and management intensive. If a client takes up a large amount of your team’s time ask yourself if it is worth having this client? These clients impact negatively on effective time management. Do you need to manage the relationship more firmly? Could  you pass this client on to someone else?

Manage the relationship. Just because someone is a new client does not mean you need to be over-accommodating. When we start out in business we often take any type of client. But with experience we soon learn who our ideal client is and who takes up too much of our resources.

Over stretched employees may handle increased pressure for short periods of time. However if it becomes the norm for them to work a 12 hour day, something is wrong. Review how you can streamline your internal processes.

Effective time management is a skill that is used and tested every day. Do you use the time you have to the best advantage of your business? If you feel your time management has a negative impact on your bottom-line, coaching would be of great benefit.

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Posted in Business Owner, Management.