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How To Handle Your Business Time Wasters
It is essential to devise a strategy for dealing with the time wasters in your business. This article provides practical advice on efficiently handling the various interruptions to your working day.
The key to running your own successful business is having efficient management systems in place and having control of your working day. You can put strategies in place to help you, but you will inevitably get interruptions to your routine. So you must devise a plan to reduce them and then deal with them efficiently. Here are some of the interruptions you can expect and some advice for handling them. • Family and Friends –You must from the start make it clear that you are running a serious business. If you have family commitments it is essential that you discuss your plans and get the full support of everyone before you even start. Agree with them when you will work and when you will be available to do things with them. If they understand your commitment it will reduce their interruptions. Your family is relatively easy to get onside, but with friends it is sometimes harder. Some years ago I was working as a business manager and when I was out and about I would just drop in on a friend who ran his own business from a small workshop in town. He would stop what he was doing, make a couple of coffees, and we'd spend the next hour or so talking about anything but business. He was reasonably successful, but could have achieved much more if he had been better at managing his interruptions. I wouldn't have been offended if he had just quietly explained to me that he hadn't got the time to stop and chat during the day, and that we should arrange a time to meet after work. But he didn't and so, at that time, I knew no better. You must not be like my friend. Your friends will understand if you explain to them that it's not convenient for them to drop in without warning. Your business success will depend on it and, over time, maybe your friendships too! • Customers/Clients – This will depend on the type of business you are running. If it's a venture like a store then dealing with customers is going to be your main priority. Remember though that you must be able to manage your business and need to decide if it will be better to have someone to serve your customers at certain times so that you can see to other important tasks. Otherwise you run the risk of having to work extremely long hours. In other types of business, where you have occasional contact with customers, devise systems to handle their potential interruptions. It's a good idea to agree with them that they need to make an appointment to see you. That way not only do you take control of managing your time, but if you are expecting them you can prepare for the meeting, and so deal with it far more efficiently. If you want to maintain some flexibility, agree set times when they can visit without appointments. • Employees –It is important to remember that it is your job to run the business so you don't want constant interruptions from employees to ask questions and get advice. Of course you should be open and approachable but not at the expense of disrupting your own work. A complete "open door" policy will never work but you can set specific times when you will be available and for other times they must arrange an appointment. You can reduce interruptions from your employees by ensuring that you put in place good induction and training programs so that they understand what is required of them. Ensure that training of your employees is an ongoing activity in your business. • Phone Calls –You will receive phone calls for various reasons and at any time. If you are operating a system whereby you sell products over the phone it makes good business sense to answer them all, although at some point you may need to employ someone else to do so, or use a fulfilment service. Otherwise it is good practice to use a good answering service for part of the day so that you can avoid the constant interruptions. Have set times when you will take calls and let your customers, clients, suppliers, etc know when they are. For the remaining hours of the day switch on the answering service but have set times to check the messages and write them all down. Then decide which need a response that day and which you can deal with tomorrow and put them onto two lists. Have specific times scheduled for returning the calls and make sure you prepare by gathering all the information you need. Then work down the list. This will enable you to handle each call quickly and efficiently. Make tomorrow's calls one of the first things you do the next day. • Emails –Have set times when you will read the many emails you receive. Switch off the new message alert and check only at those times– early morning, early afternoon, and just before you finish work are good times. Decide on those that need a reply that day, those that can wait until tomorrow and those that don't need responding to at all. It's a good idea to set up folders for "today's" and "tomorrow's" emails and transfer the messages to them. Delete or file the rest. Then have specific times scheduled for dealing with them. One of your first tasks for the next day is then dealing with the emails in the "tomorrow" folder. • Mail –You should also avoid rushing to the mailbox as soon as mail arrives. Instead gather up your mail at a certain time and put it into your in-tray. Check it then or at another scheduled time and sort it into items that need dealing with that day and those that don't. Put both categories into a new tray and have scheduled times for dealing with them. Make dealing with the post in the tray for the latter category one of your first tasks the next day, along with your "tomorrow" phone calls and "tomorrow" emails. Dealing with interruptions to your working day efficiently will be achieved by scheduling them as tasks and managing them systematically. These are key aspects of good time management, a skill that is essential to the success of your business.