As a business manager, there is always more to be done than you possibly have time for.  If you want to work reasonable hours and have a life outside the business, you will have to prioritise what you do.  This article describes a system to reduce the often seemingly overwhelming number of things you have to do to a more manageable approach.  If you don’t learn to manage the workload, you will find yourself flitting from one task to another and not getting much of importance done. This article is a Yellow Belt tool to help you manage all the “stuff” to do.  

What is covered here?

We do look at;

 

We do not look at;

  • doing tasks that relate to your professional skill.  That is part of your professional training and
  • we do not look specifically at routine tasks like Operations and Marketing.  These are things that you do on a day-to-day basis as part of your operations.  You should have a process for these and we have resources for you if you drill down on this link to find what you want. 

 

Make Success a Routine

The first time you do something, it can be stressful while you puzzle out what to do, and how to do, things.

A system or routine dramatically reduces this stress and success becomes a habit; and easy to keep doing.

We outline our routine for Getting Stuff Done here!

Introducing Sprints

You don’t know how you are going in a race until you near the finish.  In your business, if you just continuously do stuff, you never really know how you are going!  If you break it up into bite-sized chunks we call Sprints, you can do a whole PDCA Cycle every couple of weeks.

Inevitably you will hit some dead-ends in your work plans.  If you do a short Sprint rather than a Marathon, only a couple of weeks are lost. 

The length of a Sprint depends on how long it takes you and your team to execute a planning step in addition to all your normal production work you have on.  

We suggest you start with 2 week Sprints and see how it goes.

You can learn more about Sprints on this this link.

Don’t Multitask

It is easily proven that doing several tasks simultaneously is much less productive than doing one, and then the next, and so on.

When multitasking, you waste time flitting from one task to another other and even more time winding down from one task and winding up the next.

Read more about the perils of multitasking in the article: Why Multitasking is Not Your Friend 

Always Focus on the Important Things

That is probably a fairly self-evident statement but what are the important things?

Manage Bottlenecks

The first clue is things that will cause log jams preventing other tasks getting done and other people getting their work done.

Normally, it makes sense to focus on these first because little else can get done while these are a bottleneck.  

A powerful approach to managing bottlenecks is known as “The Theory of Constraints“.  To start learning about finding and relaxing your constraints, Go to the Skills Module introduction: SM5.0 Theory of Constraints (TOC) Find and Remove Bottleneck

There is normally only one (or very few) constraints so how do we manage the rest of the demands on our time?

Focus on the Minority of Things that Count

There is a rule known as the 80/20 Rule or Pareto’s Principle.

Essentially it says that only 20% of the tasks ahead of you are truly important.

Typically these 20% contribute 80% of the improvement in your business.

Most people spend their time addressing the 80% of relatively unimportant things that only contribute 20% of the improvement in the business.

By focusing on the 20% of important things, you will be a whopping 16 times more productive than wasting your time on less important things.

Learn how to manage productivity according to the 80/20 Rule: SM2.0 80/20 Sales Growth; Double Sales, Triple Profits

Allocate your Most Valuable Possession; Time

Once you agree that not everything is of equal importance, and that trying to multitask to get things done is wasteful and inefficient, you can read about how General, and later President, Eisenhower managed his time.  I think we can agree that the leader of the D Day Landings in Europe in WWII probably had a few things to do in his day, but he managed by using this tool.

Learn how to implement the Eisenhower Matrix at the article: How to Use Time Management Skills

Find Solutions to Problems

If you are doing something in your business for the first time, there can be a steep learning curve.   You might also overlook solutions because you lack experience in a particular area.

We have bundled up our resources to help you get ideas on how and what to do into our Fix SBS Problems menu.

You might also benefit from finding an experienced mentor or coach  to act as a brainstorming partner.  

Get the Whole Team Onboard

If you have staff, you should ideally work them into your Sprints.  

They can do some of the tasks you would otherwise need to do; freeing you up for other jobs.

They will also probably find it more satisfying to be a part of the journey as well.  

You can access our resources on Leadership on this link 

Managing Sprint Tasks

So, by now we have turned the mass of things to do from a mish-mash of issues into a straight line, or queue, of issues ordered by importance.  We know the most important and they go to the head of our queue.  All the others are ranked after them in declining order of importance.

What we want now is a technique for popping the next task out of the queue and executing it.

Ideally, we want the whole business team to be working off the same queue of tasks so the business is operating in unison; and on the most important things to be done.

Several tools have grown up to do this for you and there are even apps for mobiles and other computers so you can always be close to the agreed list of priorities.  Many of these tools are free.

Generically, this process is referred to by the Japanese word “Kanban“.  Specific adaptions of the Kanban technique include  “Agile” and “Scrum”.

Because tasks in a Kanban are easily shared around the team, everyone can see what is important to the group and how each individual is progressing. 

Go to the article: How Kanban Improves Workflow
And
The article: Take Advantage of Agile/Scrum/Kanban to Increase Productivity

Still Stressed?

Management of the limited time we all have when running a business is one of the most important skills both managers and staff can learn.  

Without a good grasp of how to get the important things done, your business will drag and, quite likely, you will be very stressed which is not good for your health and social and family life.  

It will turn what might have been one of the most exciting times of your life – launching your business dream – into a bit of a nightmare.

You are not alone with this problem and 12Faces has articles on several aids to reducing the stress.

Learn how to do reduce stress in the Skills Module: SM3.0 How to De-Stress Introduction

Wrap Up

This material may take you some time to work through and therefore you might find yourself saying “I will come back to it later”.

But that just means you are perpetuating the problem of too much to do and too little time to do it.

Mastering work priorities now will have a lifelong benefit and the return on investing some time reading and internalising this material now is incalculable.

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