There are 24 hours in a day, but when you are operating an e-commerce store, you wish there were more. The powerful thing about the internet is that it is always alive and buzzing with activity. If your store ships out of country, it is even more important to keep a tab on all time zones. Time management is crucial in this scenario, because you have to make sure that the site operations go smoothly.
Why does time management matter?
If you don’t spend time wisely, chances are that you won’t be able to handle the things that really matter. Poor time management is one of the key factors behind the failure of any business. Startups are about product, purpose and customer.
However, you can’t just sit around if you have a great product or a great website. You need to focus on improving and advancing your business to become the next big enterprise, and this takes time and dedication.
Understanding the time management matrix
How is it that some people are able to accomplish many tasks every day, while some have difficulty with small challenges? The most obvious answer is that these people don’t know how to manage their time effectively.
So how does a person accomplish a heap of tasks every day? Stephen R. Covey, the management guru, introduced an intelligent time management grid to help us understand the difference between urgent tasks and important tasks.
He uses four different quadrants to help us prioritize tasks according to their importance and urgency, so we can decide which task we should address immediately and which one to deal with later.
Here is the graphic representation of the time management matrix, separated into four quadrants:
Urgent and important tasks are those that require a lot of time, but are necessary. As an online retailer, your urgent tasks may be dispatching orders, responding to customer service or fixing a bug on the site.
Not urgent, but important tasks are the actions that matter a great deal to the business in general. These tasks may be an integration with an affiliate, expansion of the store, sourcing new products or implementing a new system.
Urgent but not important tasks are necessary to run your business, but don’t add value to your business processes.
Not urgent and not important tasks are the ones that waste your energy and don’t return any value to the business.
Once you are able to categorize your tasks according to this matrix, you can address your tasks in a better way, without burning the midnight oil.
Here are some tips that you should apply to deal with your urgent and important tasks every day:
Invest in a good virtual assistant
The right software can do wonders for your company’s efficiency. One of the best types of software that you can implement is analytics software and a virtul assistant. A virtual assistant will be the best thing to help you complete urgent or important tasks. It will map out the high priority items on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
First decide if work is necessary. If it is and you have to do it more than three times, you’ll need to develop a process that is well-thought-out, includes everyone who touches it, and is documented so anyone can follow it. Once you figure out the best way to proceed, choose the right technology to get it done.-Peggy Duncan of personalproductivityexpert.com
The more prioritized your work is, the easier it is to complete work. You can enter the categories on the basis of errands, problems, fixes and specific projects. As a child, we all wished that our work would be automated. The dream can finally come true now. From morning meetings to a tea break, it is a piece of cake to automate daily tasks now.
Some things that you can automate are:
- They can be scheduled at pre-specified times. A tool like MailChimp makes this task easy.
- Facebook posts. They can be automated and scheduled months in advance so you never run out of content.
- They can be scheduled and sent when the time is right. Many blogging platforms come with preinstalled scheduling options.
When you spend some time planning for the future, it gives you a lot of free time to pay attention to other issues at hand.
Prioritize tasks using the ABCDE method
Prioritizing tasks is important in any business. Be it urgent or non-urgent work, it has some priority. Tor Refsland came up with the ABCDE method of prioritizing work. Here’s how you should divide the tasks:
A: Tasks you must do – serious consequences if they don´t get done.
B: Tasks you should do – mild consequences if they don´t get done.
C: Tasks you could do – no consequences if they don´t get done.
D: Tasks you delegate.
E: Tasks you never do.
Here´s the trick: you never do a B task before you have done all the A tasks, and you never do a C task before you have done all the B tasks. Then apply the 80/20 rule to identify each day; which 20% of the tasks on your to do list will give you 80 % of the results.
By using the ABCDE method or any method of prioritizing, you can make sure that you complete tasks gradually without ignoring anything.
Technology is wonderful, and most of the e-commerce businesses online are using technology to their advantage to finish tasks. There are plenty of tools that can help you manage time effectively.
Apps can help you schedule your day, remind you of pre-scheduled meetings and help you track shipments from your phone. If you are working on a big project that requires months to complete, the best way is to implement a project management software to help you manage the project. You can order, collaborate, organize and reach milestones quickly.
You also likely need a solid priority management system to help manage your priorities. We like to call this your “Master Plan.” This is where you list your immediate priorities and all the associated tasks. You can also list your “someday, maybe” goals on your Master Plan, but you should be clear that you do not have time to focus on these until your current priorities are achieved – Ann Gomez of clearconceptinc
Between building content for your store and keeping up with blog and social media monitoring, you often get lost and waste hours doing mindless work. Some tools help in providing all social media platforms to one screen so you can monitor everything at one place.
Other tools track the time you spend daily on each task, so you can see which tasks waste your time. Some tools help you monitor and analyze important information on the go. You will only realize the importance of having a centralized system when you start using it.
Fix a routine for the most important tasks of the day
Just like building a strategy for your business is important, so is building one for daily tasks. These daily tasks contribute to your productivity levels.
Some of these include workout sessions, meals, breaks, running home errands or finding some leisure time for yourself or loved ones. These important tasks keep you grounded so you can put other bits of work around them. If you keep working for hours without having a meal or taking a break, your mind will feel completely exhausted, your productivity levels will drop and you may even lose motivation for your work.
Do the hardest thing first, every single morning. When you start your workday, tackle the task you find the most difficult to do or are most likely to procrastinate on. When we postpone those kind of tasks till later in the day, we often get stressed about them and keep postponing them- Thanh Pham of asianefficiency.com
Make a routine and stick religiously to it. This will ensure the completion of your business-related tasks, and your private life will also stay on track.
Make a list of five things you can commit to doing before 11am tomorrow morning. Does each task move the needle forward on your purpose, priorities, and goals? It should. When you do your 5 Before 11 tomorrow, you will have a blissfully peaceful sense of accomplishment, knowing you have done what is meaningful to you. After 11am, you can add whatever you want – knocking out an unfinished task that does not relate to your priorities, taking an unexpected meeting, doing something spontaneous with your kids or husband. You actually have some freedom and flexibility now.- Allyson Lewis of the7minutelife.com
Delegate work to your team
Many e-commerce solopreneurs don’t feel comfortable delegating tasks to other people. They feel like they have to do everything themselves. If you are one of those people, you should know that wearing so many hats at once will gradually become overwhelming, and you might explode one day.
The truth is that you can’t do it all yourself, and teamwork is a proven way to achieve a goal with lots of energy. It is also a great time management strategy to have a team function, like parts of a machine working together.
While the success of your online store is ultimately your responsibility, you should never attempt to do all the work yourself. Whether this means outsourcing some items in your business or hiring someone to help out, you should have support when it comes to running your business. Having someone to take on some of the minor tasks that keep your business running smoothly is a great way to devote your time to more important tasks.-Pixelfish.com
Hire a team that understands your vision and wants to work actively for it. Hire a team that you can trust. Divide tasks like customer service, content, design and shipping among the team members, and follow up with each of them.
If you don’t have anyone in your company who can do a certain task, then do a bit of research and outsource the task to another service provider. Whether it is product descriptions, high quality product photography, shipping or packaging, you can find a good partner outside the company to help you. At the end of the day, your management skills matter the most.
Have a solid SEO strategy
Your business works online and thus needs a strong online presence. In order to be visible to users and search engines, you need to have a solid SEO strategy. SEO will make sure that your business ranks high on the search engines so you don’t have to put in extra effort to make people visit your site. If you invest in a good SEO plan when you are just launching your business, chances are it will start paying off by the time your business is about six months old.
You can either cut the time in optimizing by hiring an SEO strategist, or you can do it yourself by correctly installing Google’s webmaster tools. Either way, this practice is going to save you time. You can work on new products while the site continues to bring in more traffic.
Always pay attention to customer service
The customer is the most important part of your business. Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, always leaves a chair empty during meetings and says that it is the customer. His business is so bent on customer service that his strategies revolve around what the customer wants. Your business also needs to pay attention to your customers because they deserve it. Since customer service takes a lot of time, a good idea is to dedicate a member of the team to attend to the customers’ needs.
Some customers don’t feel secure paying online, so you can build a bond with them by providing the option of phone payments. Dedicate 20 percent of your day to dealing with customer issues, and always keep an eye on your customer service team to make sure they are providing the best customer service.