Small businesses have a lot on their plate and trying to accomplish a lot with limited resources and personnel remains one of their biggest challenges. Optimizing how you and your staff manage your most precious resource of all – time – can make a massive difference. By working smarter instead of harder, you can make sure you’re devoting time to the tasks that will most benefit your business, while still getting those non-core admin functions out of the way. Here we take a look at some simple, actionable tips to get you started!
Help your Staff prioritize their Tasks
Many employees get flustered if they’ve got a lot to do but aren’t sure which of their tasks is most urgent. This often results in them trying to do several things at once, which is counterproductive – as it results in lower quality work, and actually ends up taking longer. When you assign a task, make sure you clarify if it takes precedence over what they were already busy with. You can even experiment with assigning an urgency value to tasks, or try out some free team management software.
Natural entrepreneurs often have a lot of new ideas, and it’s tempting to divert staff from one activity to another on the spur of the moment. If this sounds like you, be more aware of it, and try to let your employees finish what they were working on first before you assign something new. This also gives you a chance to decide whether something really is urgent or simply exciting!
Automate or Outsource
Identify your core and non-core business functions, and make sure you’re not spending precious time on activities that could be performed better, faster and more cost-effectively by someone else. This could be taking advantage of automated invoicing and accounting software, hiring a part time freelancer to handle your marketing and social media, or making use of an IT vendor management service – anything which is taking too much time away from your primary business functions. For your business to perform at its best, you need to be spending the majority of your time and your employee’s talents on the things you do better than anyone else – not admin.
Limit Distractions and keep meetings Firmly on Topics
Human beings are social creatures, and while there’s nothing wrong with having a pleasant working environment that allows colleagues to get to know each other, it can also be highly distracting. Be mindful that while some workers might enjoy having the radio or TV on, for example, others might find it very difficult to concentrate on what they’re doing under these conditions. If possible, have a designated “chill-out zone” where people can chat during their breaks, but keep the working areas quiet and focused.
Meetings are another notorious time-waster and trying to keep them on track and on-topic can feel like trying to herd cats! It’s a useful skill to master however, as it’s in everyone’s best interests to get back to work as soon as possible. Always have an agenda for every meeting and keep an eye on the clock so you don’t run over time. Allowing some staff members to work from home can also be beneficial, especially if their tasks require intense focus or precision.
Examine your Workflows and set Standard Procedures in Place
Making the workplace more efficient is all about finding and eliminating bottlenecks that are holding everything else back. Spending a small amount of time investigating holdups and uncovering any bigger underlying problems can save a lot of time down the line. Sometimes it’s as simple as shifting a few responsibilities, having a different employee deal with paperwork while their colleague gets back to the client, for example. You may even find that the office layout is causing the problem if someone has to keep walking back and forth between departments. It might be that someone hasn’t received adequate training and is therefore taking longer to perform their tasks than they could be, or that you’re duplicating work where you don’t need to be – you won’t know until you take a closer look.
Incentivize your Employees to get more Done
There’s nothing wrong with dangling the odd carrot to get projects completed on time! If a worker doesn’t need to be at the office all day, you could even go as far as letting them clock off once they’ve performed their responsibilities for the day so they can beat the rush hour traffic. You’ll need to monitor for quality, of course, but you may be amazed at the results!