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Wrestling with time management: get more out of your business and your life by being conscious of how you use your time.

IT'S ALREADY 3 P.M., and you still haven't gotten back to one of your customers about that framing order she requested. Your to-do list is a mile long, and your inbox is spilling over. You'd like to shut your office door so you can tackle those emails and invoices, but you don't want to shut out your employees. So tonight you'll be working late--again.

How can you get your work done and still work with others? Just as important, how can you get your work done and still have a life? Time management. It's not only for managers; all of the employees at your framing business can benefit from it. And if you're a one-person show, then good time management becomes even more important.

Time management is important because time is so valuable. Unlike money, even with proper investment, time doesn't grow. It's not a renewable resource, and it can't be recycled. You have to cherish it and spend it wisely.

The ultimate key to time management is balance. It's wise to take deep breaths and frequent breaks along with all the work you have to do. By pacing yourself throughout the day, you replenish yourself. And when you're fresh, you make better use of your time.

* KNOW HOW YOU SPEND YOUR TIME

The first step toward managing your time effectively is knowing how you use it. How do you spend your time? Monitor yourself and find out. For one week, keep track of what you do during each day.

1. At the top of a sheet of paper, write the categories of activities you engage in: phoning in orders to sales reps, waiting on customers, paying bills, answering emails, planning advertising, holding employee meetings, and even chatting with staff at the water cooler.

2. Jot down how much time you spend with each activity.

3. At the end of each day, add up the time for each category. You may be surprised!

When you keep to a routine, you can better regulate how much time you spend on your daily tasks. However, if you like variety in your life, periodically look at the things you've accomplished and determine whether you've allotted the right amount of time to them. If not, adjust.

* KEEP A TO-DO LIST AND SET PRIORITIES

Respond productively to the tasks that await you by doing these things:

1. Each day, write down what you want to get done.

2. Rank your tasks by their level of importance: 1--most important (cant wait); 2--somewhat important (can wait but may hold things up); and 3--of little importance (can be delayed).

3. Cross off tasks as you do them, beginning with those of highest priority.

4. At the end of your business day, put any tasks you didn't finish--or didn't have a chance to start--on the to-do list for the next day. List them as top priority.

It may be helpful to keep three lists: monthly, weekly, and daily. Then you've got a constant reminder of what needs to be done immediately and in the near future.

* ORGANIZE YOUR SURROUNDINGS

The better organized you are, the more productive you'll be. When you keep an organized store, office, stockroom, and warehouse, you know where things are, and you can quickly and easily get to them. You save yourself the time of fumbling through a pile of unsorted papers looking for that important catalog. Keeping your space organized tends to keep you more organized. To a degree, your surroundings shape your habits. Give everything its place, and always return things to where they belong immediately after you're finished with them. When you receive invoices, either pay them or file them right away. And don't let your emails stack up, either. Read and respond the same day, if possible.

But let's get real. Some days, it's just impossible to deal with all the paperwork, emails, and Facebook messages. In that case, arrange them by priority and designate a to-read section on your computer and your desk. Then make sure to attend to what's in the folder or pile at least a couple of times a week.

* DON'T PUT THINGS OFF

Even though we all do it, try not to fall victim to procrastination. Head if off before it hits you. Be aware of how and why you want to put things off.

* Does the task seem too large to handle? If so, break it down into smaller jobs and delegate some of them.

* Are you afraid of failure? Often, you can diffuse the fear by discussing the project with a partner, business consultant, spouse, or friend.

* Have you already put the task off too long that the pressure of a deadline locks you into inaction? Well, act! You'll suffer more by not doing anything about it.

* Do you find the task too boring and find that your procrastination comes down to simple laziness? Pick yourself up and do it anyway (if you can't delegate it).

* Do you imagine the tasks will take too long? Once you break down how long a task really takes, you'll probably find that you most likely do have the time for it, and you'll be more motivated to dive in.

Things get worse when you postpone action. Being aware of this can be a great motivator to overcome procrastination. Giving yourself positive reinforcement after doing a task can also help to outwit the tendency to avoid that task. Promise yourself a special coffee drink, a bouquet of flowers, or a dinner out after you've accomplished what you know you should do--and are glad you did--during the day.

Even with self-administered rewards, there's no easy way around procrastination. Unless you move right through the middle of a dreaded task, it's not going to disappear. The more time you spend fighting it, the less time you have for other things.

* DELEGATE, DELEGATE, DELEGATE

Just because you're the owner or manager of your framing shop doesn't mean you have to do everything yourself. If you have quality people on staff--people you can depend on to do their jobs well--you're better equipped to delegate tasks to them. Whether or not you delegate well, there's probably at least one more thing you could turn over to someone else, thereby giving yourself more time.

Granted, it may not be so easy to let go and give someone else responsibility for something you're accustomed to handling yourself. It may take you a while to get used to the idea of delegating. The easiest way may be to have so many things to do that you finally realize you're paying people to sit around while you work 12 hours a day.

Successful framing-store owners know how to delegate effectively. If you can give anything on your to-do list to someone else, do it.

* PACE YOURSELF

Retailers who are successful know how to avoid excessive overtime for themselves and how to balance work with family, friends, and fun. So take on only as much work at your framing shop as you can realistically handle. Know when to say no to yourself and others.

Saying no can also mean saying yes to time for yourself. Try getting up earlier in the morning and spending a couple of solitary hours at your business without the distraction of employees, customers, and a ringing phone. Then, make sure you shave off a couple of hours at the end of the day, so you can spend time with people you enjoy, play a little golf, or work in your garden.

When you balance work with recreation, you'll likely produce more during the hours you spend at your business.

* CONTROL YOUR MEETINGS

People spend--and, too often, waste--lots of time in unproductive meetings. To assure yourself more efficient ones, consider the following:

* Schedule your staff meetings. The spontaneous meeting on the spot can be productive, but don't count on it. Avoid drop-ins by refusing to see employees right then. Instead, schedule a meeting time with them. When you plan meetings and stick to the allotted time, you can better control the meetings' content and length.

* Come prepared. Write an agenda for the meeting and email it to employees beforehand. Plan ahead for what needs to be discussed and address the most important items first.

* Limit meeting time. Give each agenda item, as well as the whole meeting, an allotted time and stick within that time.

* Know how to end a meeting. Give a five-minute warning or, when you decide time is up, simply stand up, signaling that the meeting is over.

* MAKE TIME TO VALUE YOUR LIFE

Time is what you make of it. Time management never works if you try to accomplish too much too fast. Instead, go for quality in your minutes, hours, and days.

If you've managed your time reasonably well and you've set out and done the things you want to do concerning your business, then you'll have more time to do the things you value and cherish outside the business. Only then can you make the most of your framing business--and your life.

Claire Sykes is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her business management articles appear in dozens of retail trade publications. She also writes about graphic design, photography, the visual arts and music, health and wellness, and many other topics.
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Comment:Wrestling with time management: get more out of your business and your life by being conscious of how you use your time.
Author:Sykes, Claire
Publication:Art Business News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2016
Words:1545
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