Home-Based Business Time Management: Logging Your Personal Time Use
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Home-Based Business Time Management: Logging Your Personal Time Use

Realizing the importance of time allocation and its influence on your business is definitely the first step in establishing a time-management system for yourself. The only way to track your use of time is to keep a log. Record your work segments in this log for as long as it takes to get a good reading of your typical usage of the workday.
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Realizing the importance of time allocation and its influence on your business is definitely the first step in establishing a time-management system for yourself. You'll want to begin by exploring your personal uses of time. Once you become more aware of the ways in which you spend your time, you can remedy your less efficient approaches to various tasks.

The only way to track your use of time is to keep a log. Record your work segments in this log for as long as it takes to get a good reading of your typical usage of the workday. (One or two weeks should be sufficient.) Aside from its obvious concrete benefits, keeping a log is an extremely important practice because it creates awareness of the way in which you run your business.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself at the end of each logged workday, to make the most of the process:

  • What time did I start my most important project today? (There's a saying: "The way the first hour of the day goes, so goes the day.")
  • Could I have started it sooner?
  • Did anything distract me from completing it? What? Why?
  • Could I have avoided the distraction?
  • Did I recover immediately? (Often, a 10-minute distraction will require another 30 minutes to resolve.)
  • What might I have done differently today?
  • What, right now, is my single biggest time-management problem?

That last question is very important. Time wasters must be identified and eliminated by looking within yourself and assessing your time profile candidly.

Let's deal with interruptions. There are two types: necessary and unnecessary. That distinction is more important than it might appear. To test this, just ask yourself, "If I did not have a single interruption for a month, where would my business be?"

Many interruptions are necessary; the way in which we choose to handle them allows them to bog us down. If we go into a situation knowing full well that there are going to be interruptions because they're part of the business we're in, then we can create ways in which to deal with them effectively. For instance, instead of allowing your incoming calls to be the variable that ultimately determines your daily schedule, you can let your answering machine or answering service take all calls and then choose which ones you will return at a specified time during the day. In that way, your time is yours rather than someone else's.

After you have completed your daily log of activities and identified your own personal time wasters, divide them into categories so you can classify and conquer them. Most time wasters can be categorized as self-imposed or system-imposed:

Self-imposed time wasters or those you create yourself. These include:

  • Insufficient planning
  • Failure to anticipate
  • Poorly defined goals
  • Unrealistic time estimates
  • Procrastination
  • Attempting too much
  • Mistakes (your own)
  • Involvement in details
  • Ineffective delegation
  • Over-control
  • Reverse delegation
  • Going directly to people (when intermediates could handle)
  • Calling people unexpectedly
  • Excessive socializing
  • Inability to terminate visits
  • Preoccupation
  • Emotional upset
  • Lack of discipline
  • Fear of offending
  • Inability to say no
  • Arguing
  • Failing to listen
  • Slow reading
  • Distracting objects in work environment

System-imposed time wasters are those things that the business system or other external forces (like other people) bring upon you. These include:

  • Insufficient planning by others
  • Lack of company policy
  • Inconsistent values within company
  • Lack of authority
  • Meetings
  • Delays
  • Waiting for others' decisions
  • Poor communications
  • Lack of feedback
  • Unclear problem
  • Mistakes (other people's)
  • Mechanical failure
  • Overlong visits
  • Low-priority memos
  • Overstaffing
  • Understaffing
  • Lack of clerical staff
  • Lack of competent staff
  • Ineffective secretary
  • Distractions

Many things believed to be system-imposed are really self-imposed - or a combination of the two. For instance, if a neighbor drops in to chat, you have a time waster caused by others. But if you invite that kind of behavior by being open to it or failing to discourage it, then you are also bringing it upon yourself, at least to the degree to which it occurs. Observe your own behavior in these instances. Did you in any way initiate these visits or prolong them?

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