We’ve all likely experienced the pain of being late for a meeting, missing a deadline or being unable to keep to our schedules. While this is sometimes down to unavoidable interruptions or delays, it’s often reflective of an inability to manage our time effectively – a skill that is becoming increasingly important to businesses of all sizes.
However, it’s particularly important to small businesses, who need to be able to ensure they’re keeping a close eye on their schedules and deadlines. One missed meeting or deadline can reflect very badly on a small business, and can often result in them losing clients and income.
So how can we learn to manage our time more effectively? One simply way is to build in ‘buffer zones’ to our schedules, ensuring they are flexible enough to incorporate interruptions and unavoidable delays.
When you’re next putting together your schedule, consider building in 20-minute buffer zones either side of a meeting, task or appointment. It may seem tricky if you’re used to dealing with hectic and packed schedules, but it can make a huge difference to how well you can manage your time and stick to your schedule. A 20-minute buffer zone gives your schedule some flexibility, and means if you’re stuck in traffic or a call overruns, it has less of an impact on the rest of your day. Let’s say you have a meeting at 1.00 – by setting a 20-minute buffer between your meeting and the previous task, you can ensure a much higher likelihood of being on time, even if you overrun or you’re delayed beforehand. The time also gives you an opportunity to reflect, or to prepare for your next task.
You should also consider adding breaks to your schedule to give you some time to unwind during the day. Although there is a culture among some business-people (particularly entrepreneurs) that you should constantly be grinding and putting in the hours, this can quickly lead to burnout, or to underperforming due to fatigue. Give yourself small breaks throughout the day to rest and regroup, and you’ll likely find your performance and results improve at the same time.