No matter where you run your businessfrom a brick-and-mortar plot of land or within a high-quality virtual settingat the end of each busy day you'll need to know that all your hard work to get organized is truly paying dividends. We live in a time of abundant technology, much of it designed to add greater organization to our lives and livelihoods. But a large portion of your success comes not by way of a spiffy new tool, but by the manner in which you utilize the oldest resource at your disposal: time itself.
"Time management" is no longer just some corporate catchphrase; it's an important tenet for all businesspeople to understand and internalize, personally and professionallyhow you use it, how you spend it and how you invest it into your day-to-day business planning. Therefore, take some time to consider time. Pause a moment and reacquaint yourself with some of these simple, yet effective, methods that will help you reclaim your most precious yet non-renewable resource.
Enlisting tangible tools to save time
For starters, look at your current toolset (or begin forward-planning to improve your collection) and recognize the time-saving value of these "tangible" devices:
Consider using listing and e-mail templates to save time
- Use a bulk-listing tool. If you're not using a facilitated bulk inventory tool or "listing agent," you're already letting money slip through your fingers. You'll save significant time if you invest effort into a bulk lister, where you can specify your goods and their relevant details, posting the entire volume (or logical sub-sets) to eBay all together, rather than one at a time. If you're going to be listing a lot of items week after week, let the bulk lister help you easily re-list, revamp and automatically release your offerings, helping ease some of the manual burden, increase your throughput and save you time.
- Try templates. Use pre-fashioned listing templates (or create your own if you're handy with HTML), then re-use them again and again. Why repeat the entire designing effort when all you might need to do is change some text and an image or two. Also consider using e-mail templates that will save you time in your correspondence. There's no sense in writing the same sentences over and over and over again. When you harness the template approach, you not only save time, you also establish a consistent look and feel to your business that your customers will notice.
- Develop a database. Keep track of your inventory, sales and customer records by utilizing software designed specifically for that purpose. Filing and retrieving information in a database is far more time efficient than hopeless searches through e-mail or fruitless riffling through a stack of sticky notes or dog-eared pages. Whether you use Auctiva's own inventory and reporting tools or the information from My eBay to download data to your PC, invest time in an inventory tracking tool and you'll quickly enjoy its time-saving value.
- Check your hardware. By the way, just how old is your computer? Is it a trusty digital soldier that may be showing a bit more "weariness" than when you first put it to use? If so, it could be robbing you of precious time as you wait for it to execute tasks that an updated computer would easily whiz through. This can be a costly upgrade, granted, but weigh how that cost might be offset by increased productivity and increased sales.
Don't overlook the intangibles
Now, consider some of the "intangibles" that can saveor costyou hours every day of every week of every year. While these techniques are more related to your business behavior, they're often the ones that can bring the greatest returns over the long haul.
Many home-businesses fail because of a lack of discipline
- Establish regular working hours. At the auctions, you're the boss, so set your own hours. It's what you've always dreamed of, right? Whether you choose to work hours on end or segmented times of the day, put a schedule in place when work is to be done and do it. Many home-business enterprises fail because of a lack of discipline in setting regular working hours.
- Stay in your office. With so many products and resources now available online, you can save the time that was once wasted driving here and there (you know, "running errands"). Today, you can order packing supplies online, buy postage online and research your customer market online, all with just a time-friendly click of the mouse.
- Limit interruptions. If your friends keep calling to chat, let the voicemail take a message. If "you've got mail" throws you off, close your e-mail application. If there's a television in your home office, either turn it off or get it out of the room. Granted, working from home was envisioned as doing work with all the comforts of home, but you'll soon realize why traditional employers prefer the standard office space when it comes to focusing on productivity.
- Develop a weekly work schedule. Monday is e-mail day. Tuesday is inventory and listing day. Wednesday is packing day. Whatever schedule works best for you, develop a routine so you can anticipate the next day's duties and avoid wasting time pondering, "Hmm…what do I feel like doing today?"
Now there's time for you
OK, now it's playtime. Yes, time off can be an incredible productivity boost and can save you from wasting time daydreaming or generally feeling sluggish and burnt out. Get away for lunch. Take a midday exercise break. Get up and stretch for 10 minutes. It's been proven that regular (but not excessive) breaks serve as a proven mental re-energizer, allowing you to return to work with a refreshed perspective and renewed motivation. So take time management seriously and you'll discover a higher level of productivity that you can take to the bank.
Other Entries by this Author
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay…and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues.
Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.