As the sayings go, "time is fleeting" and "time is money." No one knows these concepts better than you, the small business owner. Here are a few suggestions to help you manage your most limited resource: time.
1. Focus on your target consumer. Avoid trying to be all things to all people. Decide on your most profitable target opportunities with growth potential--narrow your focus and broaden your appeal to that audience. Identify what their needs are and how you can best serve them. If you have gaps in meeting your top customer needs, focus on expanding your capabilities to meet those needs.
2. Differentiate your business. Create differentiation between you and your competitors by providing a service or product that few businesses offer. By differentiating you can focus on your key differences. This helps you save time by providing a focal point for your promotional efforts.
3. Build a team. Decide on the type of person you want on your team. Search for those personality traits and work styles, as well as needed skills, when adding to your staff. Many people can fill a position, but few will complete your team. The right choice in team members can then grow and take projects off of your list.
4. Use your best assets: a smile and a thank you. Tell your customers and employees how much you appreciate them. Write them a note. A smile and a thank you are great competitive tools and will be contagious with your employees. This approach will help you retain customers and you won't need to spend time finding replacements. (Don't forget word of mouth is still one of the best way to gain new customers.)
5. Solve the right problems. Focus your time on the problems that you can manage and impact. Don't worry about or spend time on issues that are outside of what you can control.
6. Short lists vs. long lists. Long lists are appealing but at the end of the day, 3 to 5 items may be all you normally get accomplished, so why have a long list? It can be discouraging to look at the same list of 15 items if none of them get crossed off. Consider putting the 3 to 5 top priority items on your "immediate" list. Then, make a "mid-priority" list of items you need to accomplish within the week and a "long-term" list of items you would like to do within 1 to 6 months. This will help you manage what can be done in the time allotted and feel better about your accomplishments.
7. Reduce paperwork and your email inbox. Follow the "one-touch" rule for incoming paperwork and emails. Keep file folders for both types of communications. Create a "to do" folder, topic folders, and a "to read" folder. Keep the trash basket handy. Try to touch each item of paperwork and email in your inbox once; otherwise, your time will be spent sorting through items rather than moving through tasks.
Try to incorporate these strategies and tactics into your business and your effectiveness should grow over time. Please share your tips in the comments section.
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