You’ve heard the old saying “time is money,” but do you understand why it rings true? It all boils down to better time management skills.
If you know how to master the art of selling, money is always just a sale away. On the other hand, once your time runs out, you can never get it back.
Poor time management in retail leads to reduced productivity which leads to less money in your pockets. Since you only get 24 hours in a day, it’s up to you to manage your time well and make the most of each precious minute.
Most people think that managing time only relates to the number of hours available in any given day. However, how you manage your time has little to do with the number of hours available to you and more to do with how productive you are with those hours. In business, managing time is about working smarter and getting more done, not just knocking items off of your to-do list.
How many times have you looked up and wondered where all the time went? Understanding how to plan your day and schedule your time can help you take back control of your life, prioritize your day-to-day tasks, and keep you focused so that you can have a better work-life balance.
Not enough time in your day? Here are 19 time management tips to help you become more productive each and every day.
1. Stop Thinking About It as Time Management
The simplest way to manage time is not to manage time at all. As mentioned earlier, no matter how you slice it, there are only 24 hours in your day. Maximizing productivity often boils down to your ability to manage your energy. No time management process in the world can replace your ability to focus and act when necessary.
2. Find Harmony in Business and Your Personal Life
Hate to break it to you folks but work-life balance — just like unicorns and the easter bunny — is a complete myth. When you’re a small business owner, it can be difficult to be away from work. But when you’re away from work, it can be hard to be present in your everyday life. Simply put, balance is all about arranging parts of a whole in an orderly manner.
Seeking harmony in your personal and professional life is about prioritizing your time and schedule regardless of the amount of energy it takes. Depending on the stage you’re in with your business, different seasons in life are going to alter the balance, and that’s ok.
For example: If you just opened your first brick-and-mortar store, it’s likely that you’re going to work long hours and spend less time with family and friends. This is totally understandable. However, you want to seek harmony in your personal and professional life by carving out time, if possible, each day, to dedicate to the priorities that exist beyond the four walls of your business.
A good way to approach this is to create a to-do list of personal and professional priorities, then create a schedule and block out time for work and life accordingly. Everything else that falls outside of these priorities needs to be dropped, or squeezed in around existing responsibilities. This will require some fine-tuning. Be mindful of squeezing too much extra time into your crowded schedule, which can lead to burnout.
3. Stop Trying to Do It All By Yourself
When you’re working with limited resources or used to doing it all on your own, it can be tough to delegate responsibilities in your store, but it is a necessary evil that comes with running an efficient retail business. Doing it all yourself is not only a surefire way to burn out fast, but it’s also one of the biggest productivity killers.
To effectively delegate tasks to your employees, and be a manager that maximizes their productivity, it’s important that you learn to be comfortable with the fact that your way, isn’t necessarily the only way. It’s also important that you understand the difference between delegating and offloading tasks onto your staff.
For example: Just because you hate accounting doesn’t mean that’s a responsibility you want to leave entirely in the hands of your retail store manager. Delegate the tasks that make the most sense for both you and your employees. You might enjoy taking care of retail store fixtures, but if that one hour spent redoing fixtures is not an efficient use of your time, it’s important to entrust that task to someone else and focus on the business rather than working in it.
4.Control Your Attention
If one of your goals is to increase the quality of the time you currently have, you need to limit your focus to one task at a time. Controlling your attention is about effectively managing l distractions such as checking emails, smoke breaks and gossip, so that you can produce higher quality results, faster. The same goes for your staff. Establish rules and expectations with your staff to help eliminate distractions. Policing employees is a fine art and you want to be mindful of creating an environment that can feel too oppressive. Establishing official break times and times to check emails is a healthier way to encourage your retail staff to control their attention and stay focused during work hours.
5. Adopt a Time Management System
Time management systems work because they help busy retail shop owners exercise conscious control over what tasks they’re prioritizing and the amount of time that should be dedicated to each. When adopting a time management system in retail, there is no use in reinventing the wheel. Some of the more popular systems for managing time include the Pomodoro technique, the POSEC method, and the Eisenhower system. Adopt one of these systems for 60 days. If the specific technique doesn’t work for you, try different ones until you find an adequate solution for both you and your staff.
6. Limit Information Overload
Time management techniques also work for the limiting of information overload. Minimizing the amount of information you are exposed to down to just the details that are absolutely necessary to be an effective boss. The same goes for your staff. Make sure all of your employees understand what information is key to doing their jobs effectively so that they can prioritize and avoid feeling overwhelmed by the minutiae that comes with managing a retail business.
7. Build Unstructured Time Into Your Schedule (AKA take breaks)
Despite what some of us have been brainwashed to believe, taking breaks isn’t just for the lazy and unproductive. In fact, there is science at work here. The human brain isn’t built for the extended amount of focus we ask of it in this day and age. This is why focusing on a task for too long often turns out to be counterproductive. Part of managing time well is scheduling brief interruptions, such as 15-minute breaks to retain information better, as well as allowing time to reevaluate the job at hand and our goals. Start by blocking out two 15-minute intermissions into your day — one in the mid-morning and the other around 3 p.m. Apply this same practice in your shift scheduling and watch productivity increase with employees.
8. Set Boundaries
As the person calling the shots, your limits define the culture that you create in your business. For example: If you find yourself constantly being interrupted by employee inquiries, you could train employees to get into the habit of limiting questions to the first 15 minutes of a shift, or set times during the day to address questions and concerns. This not only empowers them to find solutions independently but also limits interruptions in your day.
On the flip side, it might not be questions related to your business that are causing distractions, but water cooler chatter that is being the most disruptive. To minimize employee distractions, make sure your staff is clear on when personal conversations are and are not appropriate. Remember, employees can’t meet your expectations unless you set them. Make your boundaries clear through verbal reminders and by leading by example.
9. Set a Technology Curfew
You might be wondering what a technology curfew is and what it has to do with time management advice. Scientists have recently discovered that technology impacts our sleep by suppressing melatonin, the chemical in our bodies that regulates our sleep patterns. When our sleep is disrupted, it changes our energy levels and ability to focus, which in turn affects our performance. So, if you’re in the habit of catching up on emails and running late-night sales reports, it could be impacting both the quality of your sleep and your overall job performance. If you aren’t able to personally power down at night, try using a desktop application like F.lux to limit the effects of poor technical hygiene. These kinds of applications manipulate the color of your computer’s display and adapt to the time of day, adjusting your screen to be warm at night and brighter during the day. It also allows you to set a reminder based on the regular time you wake up in the morning so that you know when it’s time to wrap things up and call it quits at night.
10. Do Your Most Important Tasks in the Morning
According to research, our willpower is stronger earlier in the day. So commit to completing your most important tasks earlier in the day, and you’ll be more likely to finish what needs to get done. Also, in retail, things tend to get busier as the day goes on. Dedicating the first part of your day to the most important responsibilities on your to-do list limits the possibility of distraction.
11. Break Down Bigger Tasks into Smaller Ones
Breaking down larger goals into more manageable daily tasks is one of the best ways to complete projects and improve productivity in your business. Start by working backward from your end goal and outlining everything that needs to be accomplished to achieve your bigger goal. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve already done something like this when starting your business. To start a successful business, you needed to think about what you needed next, every step of the way. Working backward not only reveals the time frame in which your project can be accomplished, but allows your staff and yourself to feel more confident in your finished task. Once you have a grasp on everything that needs to be accomplished, decide how much time you need and work towards achieving your goal. As you may have encountered when starting your business, you probably aren’t aware of what you don’t know. So allow some wiggle room for unexpected delays that might arise because of lack of information.
12. Make Automation Your New Favorite Word
In today’s modern world the best way to manage time is to identify business processes that you can automate. Need a virtual assistant to help you answer emails and set up meetings with vendors? There’s an app for that. Tired of manually tracking sales and spending countless hours on accounting? You guessed it. From inventory management to managing your online reputation, there are numerous applications that can help automate many of the tedious tasks that suck the time out of your workweek. Keep in mind, not all business tasks can or should be automated. Start small, automate the easiest of routine processes first. Then learn, adapt, and take it from there.
13. Do Simple Tasks First
If you struggle with procrastination, one of the hardest parts of working on something is simply getting started. By focusing on the easy tasks first, you relieve some of the self-imposed pressure because it requires less mental or physical commitment. Practice managing your time by becoming more mindful of the daily tasks that you regularly put off. If one of the leading deterrents of your productivity is getting going, it makes a lot more sense to start with the smaller tasks — saving difficult tasks for when you get into your work groove.
14. Eliminate Your Least Productive Activities
Eliminating the tasks that are least productive can free up as much as 20 percent of our workday. Every business, big or small has room to improve. In tip 13 we talk about how you can eliminate unproductive activities through automation, but are there other tasks in your retail business that can be scratched from your schedule?
Perhaps you are having regular open-ended meetings with staff that doesn’t lead to any concrete results. Or, maybe you are making regular visits to the post office when you could be paying your bills online or arranging pickups. Routine habits that are no longer necessary can quickly become time killers. Make a list of all of the time sucks that can disappear without hurting your business and get rid of them.
15. Start Your Day Early
We know, the idea of waking up early can sound painful to overworked, time-crunched business owners. But, when you start your day earlier than 99 percent of the rest of the world, it allows you to get ahead in work without external distractions. Waking up earlier also helps relieve the stress that comes with rushing in the morning. You can take this time to exercise, relax, and ease into your day which leads to a more positivity and productivity.
When you wake up late, however, you have the tendency to prioritize the urgent non-essential tasks first, which can hurt productivity. If you’re struggling with this concept, build the habit slowly by setting your alarm 10 to 20 minutes earlier each day and going to bed 10 to 20 minutes earlier each night.
16. Write It Down
A lot of mental energy and time gets wasted daily trying to remember and figure out tasks that need to get done and in what order. Making a habit of writing things down not only helps relieve the pressure of having to remember what the priorities are for your business but it also serves as a great productivity tool for staff. Practice managing time in your retail business by creating a checklist of responsibilities that your employees can tackle during their shifts. The list should include required duties as well as nice-to-haves that they can tackle when there aren’t any customers in the store. Just make sure employees sign off on what they have done so that you can hold them accountable and reward them for a job well done.
17. Avoid the Morning Email Trap
A Deloitte survey confirmed that at least 43 percent of consumers check their mobile phones within five minutes of waking up, and another 17 percent check their phones immediately. The problem with this is that you’re priming your mind to be in a reactive state. This hurts your ability to be more strategic, which further limits your ability to practice better time management.
18. Train Your Staff
Quality training leads to improved employee performance, consistency, and satisfaction, which all adds up to more productivity. Often, when employees don’t have time to accomplish their day-to-day responsibilities, it can be a reflection of the quality of their time dedicated to their priorities rather than the quantity. The more time you invest in teaching employees how to manage time well in their roles, the more time it will save you in the long run.
By now, you understand that how to manage time well has little to do with the number of hours available to you and more with how productive you and your staff are being with those hours. The true goal of time management in your retail business is to reduce the number of distractions and inefficiencies that are keeping your business from functioning at its maximum potential. Use these 19 time management tips and strategies you learned in this blog post to start reclaiming productivity and peace of mind in your day-to-day.
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