With a 24-hour news cycle and an infinite supply of computer games, the way people can waste time has entered a new dimension. But frittering away minutes means hours lost from critical business activities.
So to be successful, businesspeople must learn to effectively manage their time. “We are each in charge of our own time and calendar,” says business coach Sal Levatino, owner of the ActionCoach franchise in West Windsor, “particularly those of us who work for ourselves and small businessmen.”
Time management involves not just techniques but also a mindset that is sufficiently disciplined to say no to a customer if something more pressing is on the agenda. Levatino will share tips in a seminar on “Time and Systems Mastery,” Tuesday, August 14, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Pellettieri, Rabstein and Altman Conference Center, 100 Nassau Park Boulevard.
The seminar series also includes “6 Steps to Massive Results” on September 25, “Financial Mastery” on October 23, and “Networking with a Purpose” on December 11. Cost: $15.95. For more information, contact Levatino at 609-799-7177 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To register, go to http://conta.cc/MwoYTS.
For the time management-compromised, Levatino suggests a number of steps for improving these skills:
Assess how time is spent. The first step is simple but absolutely necessary. “Keep a log for two to three weeks — every single minute of your workday — and be honest about where you spend your time,” suggests Levatino.
The log is helpful because people often assume they are being more efficient than they really are. “Some are not willing to admit to themselves that they spent 20 minutes on Craig’s list or on mlb.com looking up last night’s scores,” says Levatino. “What is the magnitude of those minutes and hours being wasted rather than focusing on what you should be doing in a small business?”
Focus on critical business activities. Once the time leaks are located and plugged, you should determine the best use of the time that was formerly wasted. Typically, the types of activities that business owners list are ones that will generate more revenue, such as marketing, for example.
Often, making the log of activities frees up enough time to make some real headway. If the person has been honest, there are at least five hours a week that can be redeployed, says Levatino.
A log may also open up time for business owners in another way; it may make them realize that some of their activities, such as buying supplies or entering data into Quickbooks, might be better handled by an administrative person.
Learn new approaches. Learning more about time management can also help, for example, by reading a book like “Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” by Brian Tracy, or going to seminars like the one Levatino is offering.
But sometimes the best approach is to learn new strategies from an expert, he suggests. “It’s about cutting time into more manageable pieces and celebrating the small victories. You need someone to motivate you. Many business owners are in a pretty discouraged state, and they need to reconnect with past successes.”
Creating a default calendar. This technique begins with a decision — what are the top two to three things you want to accomplish in a particular week that are critical to the success of your business?
Suppose that you want to reach out to leads more effectively through E-mail marketing. You would block out at least an hour on your calendar every couple of days to work on only that. Perhaps the first hour you set aside would be devoted to understanding the options for online marketing. Then you might create a constantcontact.com account to access a web-based tool that helps you manage your contacts.
The challenge of maintaining a default calendar is not giving way to interruptions. You have to be determined that nobody will overwrite the time you have set aside, suggests Levatino.
If a client calls, unless it is a critical emergency, the call must be deferred. “The hour allocated is important to the success of the business, and the customer will not leave you if you decide to meet at another time. Nobody has perfect availability,” he says.
Reduce distractions. One simple way to gain some extra time is to get a handle on your E-mail, for example, by turning off E-mail reminders unless you are waiting for something critical.
Or you can set aside specific times of the day to check and respond to E-mails — 8 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 5 p.m., for example — and send back automatic messages to inform senders of your procedure. Another way to reduce distraction is to divert phone calls to an assistant.
Document business processes. By carefully documenting standard business processes, consistency is assured and tasks can be easily replicated.
“The reason to do that is to begin to move the business owner out of some of the processes that he does not need to do,” Levatino explains. “If you have a consistent written system you can delegate, which can free up owners’ time.”
Take, for example, something as simple as what happens when an owner returns from a networking meeting with a handful of business cards. He may enter the names in a database and then update lists for his business newsletter and for his e-mail marketing campaign.
If this task is handed off to an administrative assistant, says Levatino, the owner gains an hour or two a week and can refocus from the administrative to the critical.
Levatino grew up in Brooklyn. His father worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Manhattan, and his mother for New York City in the personnel office of the department of social services.
He graduated from St. Francis College in Brooklyn with a degree in accounting and is a certified public accountant. He worked for almost 30 years in an internal consulting/audit/project management role in large corporations, including AIG, Munich Reinsurance, and Crum and Forster Insurance.
About three years ago, he says, “I decided that the next decisions that would affect my career would be my decisions — that I would take charge of my destiny and my career.” Two years ago he became a business coach and bought a franchise of the ActionCoach network.
The techniques Levatino proposes are worth trying because they grow on themselves. “People feel more empowered and more in control of their time, which leads to further improvement, because they are in a better mindset,” he says.