“Bugger, I just wasted my time.”
Has this realisation ever crossed your mind while on the job?
You may even be wishing that there was more time on the clock so you could make up for the time you have already lost doing something unproductive.
It is said in the running of a small business that the three pillars of Finance, Human Resources and Materials are key considerations for the on-going success of the business.
And certainly they are. You cannot run a business without cashflow. Business cannot be conducted in isolation – it requires interaction with customers (both internal and external). Nor can fair trade be conducted without the essential material components that make up quality products and services.
Yet, it is my contention that two of the most valuable resources that every small business owner has at their disposal are often the most neglected and underutilised. More so, if these two readily available resources were better managed, we would not have the quantifiable number of business failures that exist today, particularly in the early years of a business’ life cycle.
These two readily available and ever replenishable commodities are TIME and THINKING.
Making sense of the time you have
From an overall perspective, time can be quantified into three definable categories, namely:
The question for every person running a small business then becomes: Are you ‘serving time’ or is time serving you?
Wasting time is what we do when energy is spent on an activity that is not taking us towards the fulfilment of our business goals. It’s similar to wasting money by buying things that will never be used. Wasting time actually takes us away from our Goals and not towards them.
Example: Watching television (unless your work in television, advertising or really need to watch that important industry specific documentary, etc).
At a macro level, time wastage relates predominantly to deficiencies in the three critical areas. They are:
- Identification of Key Result Areas and then giving the business some direction for successful achievement in those areas (Goal Setting);
- Identification of the most important and urgent tasks (Prioritising); and
- Creating a list of activities and tasks that will lead to ultimate achievement (Planning).
Spending time is what happens when we engage in activities that satisfy short-term demands but do nothing to create a return in the long run.
Example: Reading a book (unless you’re reading a book for the purpose of self-improvement, in which case you might be ‘using’ time).
When using time we are doing something we are passionate about and it is in complete synergy with your goals and objectives. They key considerations for effective use of time are explained through the following concepts:
- ‘Great golfers don’t mow the fairways’ – they practice and play at their craft until they become the best they can be. They don’t spend time on tasks that other people can do (at a much cheaper rate).
- ‘A Dog’s Dilemma’ – To reach challenging business objectives, it is not possible to do ‘everything’. You may have to drop some stuff, to achieve your objectives.
- ‘Deal with the rocks, not the sand’ – Deal with the ‘big stuff’ (that takes you towards your objectives). Let the little stuff go or delegate it to someone who can do it for you. Outsource your bookwork as an example.
Thinking creatively … to the next level
The other most neglected resource is thinking – for it is a certainty as a small business operator that “nothing changes unless we change the way we think,” and certainly the great bane of most small business people is that there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done.
Yet, ‘not enough time’ is a dysfunctional belief that creates stress and frustration. You cannot create more time, but you can cut down on activity. The actions that got you to where you are today will not get you to the next level.
Some characteristics of creative thinkers are identified as follows:
- they want to learn and explore;
- they ask constructive (not destructive) questions and listen to answers that may be different to their own;
- they do not defend their point of view, rather seek only to find out what is best;
- they ‘stop doing and start thinking’ – they quarantine time to think; and
- they create an environment that stimulates original thought and they mix with people that encourage the same.
Creative thinking can be stimulated in a number of conducive environments, yet it is a certainty that the passion and purpose that got you into your own business in the first instance is the key driver of your future and on-going success… you may just have to use the principle resources of time and thinking more effectively to achieve what you want.