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Time Management: Leveraging Productive Hours in Your Small Business

To propel their businesses forward, owners must grasp the intricacies of time management, implement strategies for optimal efficiency, and make the most of every minute.

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It's true that no one has a special advantage when it comes to time, but in the realm of small business, leveraging productive hours to yield maximum results is an absolute must.

When you look at your competition, it can sometimes be tempting to believe they've discovered how to cram additional hours into their day. Having a larger staff than yours might enable them to devote more people to the tasks at hand, but fixating too much on another company's infrastructure can stop you in your tracks. There's nothing constructive that can come from envying another entity's resources, and doing so will automatically deter you from ever pursuing creative problem-solving.

Even looking at time management in a small business context can be deceiving. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, an entity can have up to 500 employees yet still be considered "small." A more common category is that of micro-businesses, comprising an astonishing 78.5% of all businesses in the United States. These are comprised of fewer than ten employees and can benefit the most from the judicious leveraging of working hours. With staff and operating revenue limitations, these companies need to take intentional steps to ensure that each working day yields the highest possible productive output.

An ancient English expression dating back to the year 1225 tells us that "time and tide wait for no man." And if we're not conscientious and intentional about managing time in our businesses, then time will start to manage us. This yields the misperception that there can never be enough hours in the day – that we're somehow always under the gun, hopelessly behind schedule before we even start. Ironically, businesses that operate in that mindset can sometimes fall into the trap of believing that it's only by hiring more people that they can solve the problem at hand.

"Time is money" is an expression that sometimes governs decisions about allocating staff hours to get something done, but this, too, can send things in an unhealthy direction. Time and money aren't genuinely interchangeable, so it would be much more accurate to say that the use of time can impact money because it can impact the business's financial success. Entrepreneurs need to ensure that the work hours allocated for staff are managed prudently and utilized most efficiently. As counterintuitive as it may seem, committing more staff to the performance of a task doesn't automatically ensure that things are getting done more expeditiously.

The underlying truth is that however long it takes to do something is how long it takes, regardless of how many people do it. If it takes two hours to dig a hole, putting a second person on the job might mean that the hole gets dug in one hour – but it's still two hours' worth of work, with two people each working for one hour. A task may be able to be completed more quickly by adding additional workers, but the cumulative amount of time it takes to complete the task doesn't really change. Therein lies the need to look deeper, pull back the layers, and determine the best use of time.

Aristotle is credited with saying, "Nature abhors a vacuum," denoting that empty spaces tend to get filled by something else. This same phenomenon can occur when it comes to structuring the use of time in our businesses because time is not automatically well spent -- we have to be intentional about how we spend it. In 1955, Cyril Northcote Parkinson developed a proposal called "Parkinson's Law." Building on the fundamental precept of Aristotle's idea that "nature abhors a vacuum," Parkinson observed that work expands to fill the time available for completion. 

This can mean that we sometimes need to better analyze workflow in our businesses, or else we will have a wildly distorted perspective about how long it takes to get things done. Although it's decidedly unhealthy to demand that three hours' worth of work somehow get completed in one, the inverse can be even more detrimental to the efficacy of business operations. Suppose someone in a management position is too generous in establishing a deadline for completing something. In that case, human nature dictates that staff might artificially inflate the time required to complete the task to align it with the allotted time. 

Making assessments about how long it takes to get things done can be quite the balancing act, and overestimating completion times is just one possible miscalculation that can occur. In the 1970s, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky proposed what's now commonly referred to as the "planning fallacy," the belief that estimates about how long it takes to do things can be a little over-optimistic. In that scenario, enthusiastic determination at the outset can quickly evaporate in the face of the harsh reality of unexpected complexity.

Business owners who can establish a healthy equilibrium will learn how to balance Parkinson's Law and the planning fallacy, embracing a clear and realistic understanding of how long it takes to get things done. This can serve as the predicate for creating an approach that falls into the "under-promise and over-deliver category." Having this kind of nuanced assessment of operations takes time to be mastered, but developing it is worthwhile. Now, if additional time is available, enhancements or additions to the scope of the original undertaking can be introduced as a seeming afterthought, conveying to a client or customer a sense of truly receiving added value in whatever the service offering might be.

One of the most beneficial tools for embracing a practical overview of the allocation of time is what's commonly referred to as the "80/20 Principle". Derived from the works of a 19th-century Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto, the core element of this hypothesis is that 80% of a business's results will come from 20% of its efforts. From a practical perspective, the underlying truth is that not everything we do in our enterprises is of equal value. Everything might be beneficial, but there will always be critical elements that are the "big payoff," yielding the most significant results. Identifying these components and adequately allocating resources toward supporting them can help us establish where they realistically fit in our daily "to-do" list.

Yet even with the intentionality of studying our efforts and making solid determinations about the best use of our time, we can still fail to identify seemingly unrelated items that end up being some of the biggest time-robbers in our businesses. Staff meetings, which at their core can play a vital role in the proper training and equipping of employees to perform at peak levels, can also eat into our productivity if they're not conducted in a balanced way. Meeting each Monday simply because of a recurring calendar invite may not necessarily be a wise use of paid hours. It's important to remember that meetings are non-revenue generating. If each staff member is in attendance, the cumulative effect must be carefully analyzed to determine if it justifies the interruption of regular job duties.

It's also critical to ensure that the business functions within the confines of standard operating procedures. Clarifying and documenting how various job functions are performed will always contribute to the most effective use of available hours. When staff lack detailed resources and reference materials to provide guidance in the carrying out of their duties, loss of productive time will inevitably occur. Having to ask a co-worker or manager for assistance involves disrupting two people's work. When repeated over an extended period throughout the entire business, the overall impact can be considerable.

Time is the one element common to every business. Each entrepreneur needs to invest in determining the best use of the available hours each day and developing strategies to make the most of every minute. This will serve the business's goals and mission for years to come.


Ready to optimize your time management and propel your business forward? Contact ValorExcel today for expert guidance and tailored strategies to boost efficiency and productivity. Visit, to book your power hour session. Or, you can email us at, or call 240-329-9387. Then, don't forget to check our recent videos on YouTube by clicking HERE. #TimeManagementTips #EfficiencyBoost #ProductivityHacks #BusinessSuccess

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