How to take control of your time 

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The lead-up to Christmas can be a frantic period for most small businesses, but for time management expert Kate Christie it’s the calm before the storm.


It’s in January that her phone starts lighting up; that’s when tired and overworked business owners usually contact her, desperately looking for ways to reduce their stress levels and reclaim their weekends as they head into the new year.


“Most business owners are just in survival mode in the lead-up to Christmas. They’re just trying to get through it. And then they have a holiday in January, and realise they want to start working differently. They come to me saying: ‘I can’t sleep. I’m so tired of working at this unsustainable pace.’”

They come to me saying: 'I can't sleep. I'm so tired of working at this unsustainable pace.'

- Kate Christie, Time Stylers

By the time people approach Christie, many are exhausted. Some are managing so many aspects of their business that they feel paralysed by indecision; others feel guilty for constantly working at the expense of their families, and “all of them feel that they don’t have enough hours in the day”.


Time management issues are nothing new for small-to-medium sized business owners, who are often juggling numerous tasks on tight budgets and with limited staff.


But this year has presented unique challenges in terms of business productivity. COVID-19 forced many retailers and businesses to radically change the way they work, with some business owners pivoting their products or services completely. Other workers have struggled with remote working and the blurring of boundaries between work and home life, or the uncertainty of living – and working – through a pandemic.


Melbourne fashion designer Elinor Joslin, of Joslin Studio, admits that during lockdown her productivity faltered. “I’ve really struggled creatively this year… I didn’t design anything for four months. For me, trying to shut off my brain from COVID-19 news was the biggest challenge, alongside the financial and operational issues. It’s been incredibly hard and expensive.”

I didn’t design anything for four months. For me, trying to shut off my brain from COVID-19 news was the biggest challenge.

- Elinor Joslin, fashion designer

All of this – as well as the financial toll that COVID-19 has taken on the global economy – means that maximising productivity has been harder than ever during 2020. But Christie says there’s reason for optimism, too. “We have a phenomenal opportunity coming out of COVID-19 to create a ‘business as usual version 2.0’,” she says. “There’s an opportunity to reframe right now.”


She says that some ways to take control of your time include:


·      Make five- and 10-year plans for your businesses, so you’re clear about your key goals and objectives.


·      Consciously try to switch from “reactive mode” to “proactive mode” by focusing on what you want to achieve from your day, not what other people need.


·      Identify your most productive working period of the day, and don’t squander it on menial tasks. Otherwise, you’ll end up tackling important tasks when you’re tired, and take twice as long.


If you’re looking for ways to boost efficiency – and maximise profit – within your business, then explore the rest of the stories in this series on productivity below.

5 retailers on how automation boosted their business

How to increase staff productivity

4 business coaches share their top time-saving tips


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