Do, Delegate, Delay or Dump: Learning How to Spend Your Time Efficiently
It’s been said in this column before that “time is the new world currency.” Time is the only truly finite, or limited, resource to a human being. You can never create it, like you can wealth. Time only ticks away; it never increases.
In the next few years, the focus is increasingly on efficiency, which by definition is to accomplish something with the least waste of time. Running a business is fraught with time wasters.
Employees may come to you with problems they can readily solve on their own, customers may want to speak “just to you” about getting their oil changed, and vendors always want face time to sell you the latest gadgets. Let’s talk about spending your time like the precious commodity it is.
Do items for small business owners are the critical tasks of keeping the business alive. Think of Do items as the oxygen for the business. These are important, urgent, and must be priorities each and every day. What is a Do item? Do items are things that only the owner can accomplish whether they be decisions about cash flow, making payroll clear on time, or monitoring the systems that make the company hum – or in crisis, crash. Do items are also the things that owners have a passion for. Getting your motor running is vital to the long-term success of the business.
Owners should prioritize these tasks over everything else in their day and 80% of an owner’s time each day should be spent on Do items. When possible, begin these items first or as early in the day as possible so that decisions can be made in other areas of the company.
Delegation is the art of assigning work to others in the company that will benefit the company (someone doing work for you) and the person doing the work (it expands their skill set, grows their influence, challenges them, and increases their worth to the company).
Delegated work is often work small business owners keep to themselves because they have a belief that “only I can do this right/fast/on time.” That is often true. The only reason it’s true is because the owner hasn’t allowed someone else to learn the task.
Delegated work is important. But it’s not mission critical, and that is what separates a Do item the owner is passionate about and a Delegate item. It’s something the owner can do, but should allow others within the company to grow into. If it gets messed up, the owner can correct, or spend the time teaching how to correct it.
Delegation’s first step, handing over the power and authority to someone else to do the work as they see fit, is often the hardest step. “Will they do it as well as I do it?” “Will they do each step the same was as I do?” are often the questions holding us back from delegating.
The questions we should be asking ourselves are “Is the end result going to be the same?” “Are the same methods generally going to be used?” and, just as importantly, “Will this free-up crucial time for me to be doing other important work?”
These are items that are not critical to the businesses success, yet have potential to improve it. They simply aren’t important enough today to be chewing into your time (which should be spent on a Do or teaching Delegated items.
Delay items often hang around our minds, maybe sometimes causing some anxiety because we can’t seem to get around to making a decision. Sometimes we need more information, sometimes we don’t have all the resources. Sometimes, we just don’t have the impetus to make the call. Either way, the best way to handle delay items to make a call on when you will make a call. Get it off your plate, and onto your calendar.
The decision should be how long can I put this off until it rises to the level of necessity? It might even simply rise to Delegate. Either way, stop letting a hundred minor decisions consume your day, and just push them out on the calendar so you can focus on the things that matter: the people and the assets of the organization.
How many things do you do every single day that if you stopped doing, nothing would happen? That report that you make or read every day and email out? Does anyone read it anymore? Are you doing something today that you are simply do because you have always done it?
This category is important because often our day is consumed by many little things that don’t add up to accomplishing any real results that affect the business. Often, they seem important but it’s usually just a legacy item.
When was the last time you looked at what you do every day and took something off the list? Too often, we simply continuously add things to our daily routine, and we end up sloppily trying to accomplish too many things, when in fact, if we focused on what truly mattered and handled the urgent and important things with quality, that would add more to our bottom line. ?
Dennis McCarron is executive director of Dealer Strategic Planning Inc., a company that manages multiple tire dealer 20 Groups in the U.S. (www.dsp-20group.com). To contact McCarron, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.