One of a small business owner's most valuable assets is also one of the most elusive: time.
The notion of time, and how we spend it, has been widely popularized, from books ("The 4-Hour Work Week") to music (The Beatles' "Eight Days a Week").
Perhaps time is such a popular subject because of the daily challenge we face in "managing" it. The concept of time management is also one that has been widely covered over the years.
There are lots of differing opinions, theories and techniques about time management, but most experts agree on one thing: we can't really "manage" time. "Time is relentless..." as pop musician Billy Joel says in one of his songs; "Time marches on," goes the popular saying.
So if we can't manage time, what can we do?
On this subject, most experts agree: we can manage what we do with the time we have. Looking at it another way, think about this question: "What's one thing you have in common with Bill Gates?" The answer: you both have 24 hours in a day -- no more, no less.
In order to grasp the challenge further, and look at a solution, let's take a look at some numbers: Three are 168 hours in a week. According to a recent poll by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employed workers (with children) aged 25-54 sleep an average of 7.6 hours per night. That works out to roughly 53 hours per week, leaving about 115 waking hours in the week (a little more than 16 waking hours per day).
According to a recent eVoice survey of small business owners, how to spend these waking is clearly a challenge: approximately 90% of small business owners fill more than three roles within their company -- a perfect recipe for a management-by-crisis style.
Wearing multiple hats is something small business owners are very familiar with. However, it can also be a deadly trap, particularly when it comes to strategic decision making. The ability to jump from crisis management mode to strategic thinking mode is possibly the biggest challenge small business owners face.
Author and noted time management guru Steven Covey ("The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People") poses an interesting solution for effectively managing the 16 waking hours a day that we have (see above). The quadrants in the matrix are measured in a range affected by two variables: urgency and importance.
The goal? Spend as much time as you can in Quadrant II, which focuses on those things which are Important, but Not Urgent. Examples include planning, strategy, long term vision -- all those things small business owners want, and plan, to get to, but never seem to find the time. Why? because wearing multiple hats, with only 16 available hours in a day, is a recipe for short term thinking and management by crisis.
The challenge small business owners -- those wearing 4 to 5 hats -- face is to spend less time: 1. in crisis management (quadrant I); 2. allowing other people to dictate how we use our time (quadrant III); 3. spending time on non-core tasks (quadrant IV).
In future posts, we'll look at some techniques you can utilize to better manage what you do with the time you have. Keep in mind that technology can help you be a better manager of time.
For example, a virtual phone number can help you stay in touch with your business in the midst of juggling multiple roles. And, with an online fax service, you can send and receive faxes directly from a mobile phone or iPad, and even sign documents using a digitized signature. Both services enable you to remain on the go and still get your work done in an efficient manner.