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The art and science of time management

The art and science of time management

By Kelli Korducki


It’s hard to wear many simultaneous hats on one, normal-sized head. Yet, this tricky balancing act mirrors the experience of most small-business entrepreneurs who must divide their attentions across multiple overlapping tasks in order to see their businesses thrive. The question arises: how does one manage to effectively run a small business while juggling a handful of attention-demanding tasks?


NASA rocket scientist-turned-time management coach Peter Turla, founder of the Dallas-based National Management Institute, likens the challenges of running a small business to those of parenting a large family with many mouths to feed.


“ If you had a limited amount of food, you’d ration it,” says Turla. “You wouldn’t give it all to one of the kids and let the others go hungry. But some kids are bigger or more active and need a lot more food than others. You need to keep that same awareness when rationing out your time.”


Turla recommends that small business entrepreneurs treat their multiple roles as separate jobs, and to delegate as much as possible. If delegation isn’t an option, Turla suggests people schedule uninterrupted meeting time with themselves to deal with various aspects of business.


“If you don’t block out the time, you’ll tend to get sidetracked with other issues,” he says.


Ann Max, president of Productive to the Max strategic planning firm (based in Ottawa) agrees with Turla that prioritizing is key. But, above all else, Max believes that planning is the most important piece of the time management puzzle.


“You really must plan everything you do,” she says. “Every day. Every week. And if you’re a small business owner, you should be planning for the year.”


Max reports that a majority of her consulting clients have neglected to do this; instead, people tend to waste time reacting to problems or tasks that may have cropped up due to poor planning or, more specifically, a distraction from core business objectives.


“I tell anyone I’m teaching time management to have a white board posted up, literally, wherever they have their office, and to have their mission statement and a little strategic plan for the year [visibly posted],” says Max. “And as you’re planning your day, you have to say to yourself: ‘These are the tasks I have to do.’”


Max says that, for many entrepreneurs, there’s a constant threat of getting derailed by other potential opportunities that may not be conducive for building their specific business. She points out that it’s essential to stay focused and on-track.


Turla agrees that both a strategic plan and a clear idea of what a successful day would look like are crucial.


“As you go through the day, whenever you start a new task, stop and ask if what you’re about to do is going to help you accomplish your key goal,” he advises. “If it’s not, then don’t do it.”

He adds: “Time is precious, so use it to focus on the things that really count.”

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