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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

We live in a world of technological advancement and engineering progression. The unintended consequence is that business is becoming more complex and, because of the increased flow of information, it also makes us very busy. Whilst caught in the “busyness” trap, we might not be paying enough attention to the things that can propel our business forward.

The opening statement says it all – we need to strive towards simplicity, because our ultimate goal is to get things done which will contribute towards the success of our businesses.

Here are a couple of considerations which can simplify our lives as business owners and also free up time to spend where it matters most:

Invest in a week of time accounting

Do you know how much time are you spending on what? Chances are that your answer will be something like “I know more or less, but I cannot really pin-point it exactly.” Have you ever considered that you might be wasting time on things which are really not that important for your business or can easily be delegated to another person in your business, thus freeing up your time to focus on the things which can support your business to reach the results you anticipate?

Here is a thought – make a concerted effort to write down how you spend every minute of your working day for at least 5 consecutive days. Then categorise the different elements and tally the time spent on each category. This will be an eye opener to you. Now decide what you can stop doing, delegate or better manage to be less time consuming.

Deal with e-mails and delete them

One of primary stressors in business is the speed at which our inboxes are filled up and cluttered. The best advice I received to manage my inbox was to (1) allocate time in my diary (as an appointment with myself) to work on my e-mails; and (2) to deal with every single one (not leave it until later) and then to delete it.

Filter your to-do list

In his book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey presented his now renowned “Time Management Matrix” where a distinction is made between “urgent” and “important” tasks and responsibilities. When we look at our to-do lists, we can improve our productivity and output by deciding in which category each task resides and then deal with it accordingly.

Measure your most valuable metrics

In big business it is called a “balanced scorecard”. I wish to refer to it as a “business dashboard”. What are the main elements you want to monitor and manage in your business?

Some elements to consider are:

  • Number and source of leads
  • Conversion rate of leads
  • Number of transactions per client per year
  • Size in Rand value of transactions per client per year
  • The most appropriate financial figures relating to turnover, cost and profit

Re-engineer your meetings

We have all attended and even chaired meetings which goes nowhere, is counter-productive and do not stay within the confined timelines. Make sure all the meetings you attend and chair meet the following guidelines:

  • Is a meeting really needed – can it not be addressed by telecon/e-mail?
  • Is the purpose of the meeting clearly defined?
  • Have you verbalised the expected outcome(s)?
  • Is there a written agenda to govern the meeting?
  • Have you invited the key decision makers needed to meet the expected outcome(s)?
  • Have you time-boxed the meeting?
  • Is the chair person (if not yourself) duly briefed w.r.t. the purpose and expected outcome(s)?
  • Have you seconded someone to minute the outcomes of the meeting?

These points might be conventional wisdom at its best, but in my experience most meetings lack this structure.

Fix your outdated business processes

These business processes are the ones where your intervention is needed, e.g. invoicing, payments, approvals and quality assurance. There might be more efficient ways to address the tasks without your direct intervention. Identify the elements which you can delegate, with the appropriate authority, mechanise with a technology implementation or manage by exception.

Get yourself organized – really organized

About 25% of us are organised by nature; the rest of us have room for improvement. To be organised can be very empowering. Think of:

  • planning you week/month and next quarter in advance – make adjustments when needed, but try to stick to your planning.
  • planning and preparing yourself for tomorrow before the end of today.
  • making sure your filing is up to date.
  • clearing out your desk – clutter adds to the perception of “chaos”.
  • making notes of the things you need to remember or do.
  • knowing your numbers – the financial facts and figures that matter most to your business.
  • using your networks and specialised support when needed.
  • delegating whenever possible.

“Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr. (American author)

To support business owners with the important task of business planning, Sanlam gives you free access to the book Your Annual Business Game Plan for Success, which provides an easy and straightforward framework needed to draft a well-crafted game plan that will create the positive change and growth necessary for business success.

Go to to download your free copy.

Article written by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market



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