Open any basic management textbook, and there will always be a discussion of the importance for an organization to be both effectiveAchieving the outcomes that someone wishes to produce. and efficientProducing the desired results with the minimum expenditure of energy, time, money, personnel, or material.. These are fundamental concepts. An organization demonstrates effectiveness when it achieves the outcomes that it wishes to produce.Amitai Etzioni, Modern Organizations (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1964), 17. Efficiency is “the capacity of an organization, institution or business to produce the desired results with the minimum expenditure of energy, time, money, personnel, material, etc.”“Efficiency, Organizational,” Mondofacto, December 12, 1998, accessed February 4, 2012, www.mondofacto.com/facts/dictionary?efficiency%2C+organizational. In discussing the distinction between the two concepts, Peter Drucker once said, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.”“Peter Drucker Quotes,” Brainy Quote, accessed February 4, 2012, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/p/peter_drucker.html. Regardless of the exact definition of these concepts, it should be clear that any business should strive to be both effective and efficient.
It is important to recognize that for any given endeavor, one can be effective and but not efficient and vice versa. This can be illustrated with the following example. Two students are working in their college mail room. Each is given a stack of five hundred individual class schedules that are to be sorted and placed in the mailboxes of the undergraduate students. They are told that when they are done, they will be given another job. The first student is meticulous and carefully checks that each class schedule goes to the right recipient. She completes the job in 4.5 hours. The second student is less careful about accuracy and makes several errors by putting the wrong schedule in the wrong box. However, he completes his work in 3 hours. The first student was effective because the task was to get the right schedule to the right student. The second student was more efficient, if efficiency is measured in the number of schedules dispensed per hour.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, two important works on the nature of a firm introduced an expanded concept known as “organizational slack.”James G. March and Herbert A. Simon, Organizations (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1958), 46; Richard M. Cyert and James G. March, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1963), 121. Slack was seen as the excess capacity maintained by an organization. By definition, slack implies that an organization is not perfectly efficient. Some argue that slack provides resources for innovation and change. Others see it as a buffer for a firm.Joseph L. C. Cheng and Idalene F. Kesner, “Organizational Slack and Response to Environmental Shifts: The Impact of Resource Allocation Patterns,” Journal of Management 23, no. 1 (1997): 1–18. Although these debates might make for interesting academic discussions, it must be recognized that most small businesses do not have the luxury of maintaining any appreciable slack. Their survival hinges on being both highly effective and highly efficient. Therefore, any technique, program, or methodology that improves those ends is vital to the well-being of a small business.
Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the latter than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never.“Napoleon Speaks on Increasing Market Share,” Stealing Share, Inc., accessed June 1, 2012, http://www.stealingshare.com/pages/Napoleon%20Strategy%20works.htm.
Throughout this chapter, the focus will be on the simple fact that one of the great enemies in life—particularly a businessperson’s life—is the existence and acceptance of waste. One of the resources that we can least afford to waste is time. In many ways, time is the most precious of all resources. Other resources can often be purchased or acquired, but time cannot be purchased. Once lost, time can never be recaptured. Time, as a resource, should be of particular importance for the small business owner.
If one is serious about maximizing the use of time, then one should consider two venues: use a time-management system and avoid what are referred to as “time wasters.” The term time-management system is a broad concept and covers many different approaches. Regardless of the approach used, its adoption provides multiple benefits. As one author puts it—“‘Time managementWorking on the right things (effectiveness) and doing them the best way (efficiency).’ involves working on the right things [effectiveness] and doing them the best way [efficiency].”Peggy Duncan, The Time Management Memory Jogger (Salem, NH: Goal/QPC Publishers, 2008), xi. Steven Covey, author of First Things First,Steven Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill, First Things First (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1994), 35. a “bible” for time management, identifies four generations of time-management systems. He defines a first-generation time-management systemA system composed of essentially a list of tasks that must be done. as being composed of essentially a list of tasks that must be done. A second-generation time-management systemA system that ties deadlines to those tasks that must be done. ties deadlines to those tasks. A third-generation time-management systemA system that incorporates a system of prioritization to tasks that must be done. incorporates task prioritization. Many businesspeople are familiar with paper-and-pencil or computerized systems for listing tasks, noting their due dates, and prioritizing them in terms of relative importance. Covey argues for a fourth-generation time-management systemA system designed to bring balance into the personal and professional life of an individual.. This system is designed to bring balance into the personal and the professional lives of individuals. It is best illustrated by Covey’s 2 × 2 matrix, where one axis is composed of tasks that can be categorized as urgent or not urgent. The other axis is composed of tasks that can be characterized as either important or not important (see Figure 13.1 "Time-Management Matrix"). He emphasizes that those tasks that might be found in the important/not urgent quadrant (quadrant 2) might be critical to an individual’s well-being. Unfortunately, because they are listed as not urgent, they might fall by the wayside. His goal is to produce a “balanced manager.” This balance refers to what he argues are the four fundamental human needs: physical needs, social needs, mental needs, and spiritual needs. His approach to time management is based on valuing relationships and recognizing that the proper management of relationships will reduce the amount of time wasted in activities.
Figure 13.1 Time-Management Matrix
Source: Steven Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill, First Things First (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1994), 37; James Cooper, “3 Vital Time Management Principles for Small Business Owners & Entrepreneurs,” mimosaPLANET, December 2, 2010, accessed February 4, 2012, http://mimosaplanet.com/Small-Business-Blog/bid/55824/3-Vital-Time-Management-Principles-for-Small-Business-Owners-Entrepreneurs.html.
Covey advocates that an individual should have a deep understanding of what is important in one’s life and recognize that, on any day, one will assume different roles. Both elements need to be incorporated into the time-management system. For Covey, we all have to assume different roles in our personal and professional lives. The objective is to identify what these roles require time-wise and how they can be successfully integrated. To achieve integration, we need to better understand ourselves. Covey suggests that developing a personal mission statement is vital to achieving balance. Some characteristics of such a statement might include the following:
The following is an example of a personal mission statement that uses the Covey approach:
I am at my best when I am challenged by a task that has some significance.
I will try to prevent times when I have to work with individuals who think only of their own advancement.
I will enjoy my work when my company provides customers with value and earns a profit.
I will find enjoyment in my personal life when I feel that I have done something that benefits all members of my immediate family.
I will find opportunities that will allow my firm to double its sales every three years.
I can do anything I set my mind to; I will grow my business to the point where I can retire when I am 55.
My life’s journey is building my business and providing a comfortable life for my family.
I will be a person who has created a business that provides value to its customers, and I will be an individual who made his family understand how much he loved them.
My most important future contribution to others will be that I expanded my business’s operations so that I might provide opportunities and gainful employment for additional workers.
I will stop procrastinating and start working on the following:
I will strive to incorporate the following attributes into my life:
I will constantly renew myself by focusing on the four dimensions of my life:
Covey’s complete system of time management is comprehensive and is supported by both paper-and-pencil and software support materials.
If Covey’s comprehensive approach appears to be initially overwhelming, where else might a person begin to improve their time-management skills? An excellent—in fact a critical—takeoff point would be to ask the following question: “Where has the time gone?” How often have we asked ourselves or heard others pose this question, and how often are we unable to answer it? Until one has a solid idea of how time is spent, it is impossible to manage time effectively. It is comparable to beginning a journey to a location without knowing the exact starting point. An excellent way of knowing how time is spent is to use an activity log.
An activity logA technique that involves writing down every task and activity that one is involved with during a day. involves writing down every task and activity a person is involved with during a day. It also requires noting when these activities occurred during the day and how long they lasted. It would be very useful to also comment on one’s emotional state and energy level while performing these tasks and activities. The log should be maintained for a period of time—generally one or two weeks. At the end of this period, analyze how time was spent. This analysis should look for some common threads:
The goal of this analysis is to identify what task or activity should be eliminated and when, if there is a pattern to productivity, a high-value challenging task should be scheduled. The activity log should provide useful insights into how a person should structure time flow.“Activity Logs: Finding Out How You Really Spend Your Time,” Mind Tools, accessed February 4, 2012, www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_03.htm. As one author put it, “Find your rhythm and schedule around.”“5 Time-Management Tricks,” Shifting Careers, December 12, 2007, accessed February 4, 2012, shiftingcareers.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/12/5-time-management-tricks.
After identifying workflow patterns, then seriously begin planning for time management. The first stage of this process involves identifying the required tasks to be performed across various time horizons, such as the upcoming year, month, week, or day. Draw on Covey and others to include a broad spectrum of life activities, not just work-oriented activities.Rachna D. Jain, “10 Ways for Entrepreneurs to Find More Time,” PowerHomeBiz.com, September 9, 2003, accessed February 4, 2012, www.powerhomebiz.com/vol124/findtime.htm.
In addition to identifying these tasks, it is vital that a person prioritize these tasks. Some tasks are clearly more important than others. As an example, securing a major sale would have a much higher priority than selecting the appropriate stationery for a business. The next step is determining—or more likely estimating—how much time and what resources will be required to complete the tasks. Use these estimates of time to generate a to-do list specifying the completion date for the tasks and the activities. Plan on working within realistic blocks of time.Susan Giurleo, “11 Time Management Tips for Small Business Success,” DrSusanGiurleo.com, April 11, 2011, accessed February 4, 2012, drsusangiurleo.com/11-time-management-tips-for-small-business-success. When dealing with a large complex project, learn to break it down into manageable segments and components.
It is one thing to create a prioritized time schedule; it is something entirely different to successfully follow such a schedule. Time management involves learning how to consistently carry out these tasks while avoiding the many time-robbing traps that exist in all our lives.Donald Wetmore, “Some Time Savers,” PowerHomeBiz.com, accessed February 4, 2012, www.powerhomebiz.com/vol70/timesavers.htm.
The following are some dos and don’ts of time management:
In addition to these suggestions, one should learn to use some form of time-management system: a paper-and-pencil system, such as a day planner; a computer-based system; or a system that works on one’s smartphone or an iPad. Select one system and stay with it.Donald Wetmore, “Some Time Savers,” PowerHomeBiz.com, accessed February 4, 2012, www.powerhomebiz.com/vol70/timesavers.htm.
Do not become addicted to the rush of constantly being busy. For some individuals, there is confusion between being “on the go” and actually accomplishing what one needs to accomplish. Many of these people view themselves as successful multitaskers. This ability to multitaskThe ability to handle several tasks simultaneously. is often referred to as a modern-day requisite skill. However, the reality is that multitasking appears to reduce one’s productivity. Some studies indicate that multitasking prolongs the accomplishment of a list of tasks by as much as 20 percent to 40 percent.“10 Time Management Mistakes: Avoiding Common Pitfalls,” Mind Tools, accessed February 4, 2012, www.mindtools.com/pages/article/time-management-mistakes .htm. A better use of one’s time is to focus on one task at a time.“20 Quick Tips for Better Time Management,” Stepcase Lifehack, accessed March 12, 2012, www.lifehack.org/articles/lifehack/20-quick-tips-for-better-time-management .html#. In conclusion, it is important to recognize that one should not expect to achieve a perfect allocation of one’s time, especially as unexpected events arise. The best that can be hoped for is that “we can actually manage ourselves.”Susan Ward, “11 Time Management Tips: Part 1: Coming to Grips with the Time Management Myth,” About.com, accessed February 4, 2012, sbinfocanada.about.com/cs/timemanagement/a/timemgttips.htm.
Time-Management Tips Are Really Self-Management Tips!(click to see video)
Harvard Business Publishing covers time management.
Secrets of Effective Time Management(click to see video)
Several time-management techniques are discussed.
Eleven Time-Management Tips, Part 1: Coming to Grips with the Time Management Myth
This site provides useful tips on successful time management.
Three Vital Time-Management Principles for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs
What principles are key for small business owners and entrepreneurs?
Learn how to schedule and manage time wisely and effectively, avoid procrastination, and improve productivity.
Time-Management Tips for Small Business Owners
Tips that focus on small businesses.
A sampling of links on time management.