Personal organisation and time management

This time around Ruth gives us her top tips for effectively managing your workload, prioritizing your tasks and delegating to your staff to insure efficiency and delivery. After speaking with the attendees from the SME Lab, clients and visitors to the Ruth Badger Hub website it is clear that this is an issue that affects many small business owners.

In February 2013, I ran the 'SME Lab' in partnership with Towergate Insurance. This included me answering challenging questions from SME owners. The first question I answered was on personal organisation and how to do it effectively. I have always acknowledged that I get done in a day what most other people get done in a week and I strongly believe this is because I am highly organised.

Being well organised is a discipline and I am going to give you my top tips!

1. An hour a day keeps chaos away!

The only way you will ever truly organise yourself is to give yourself time to get organised. I allow myself between 15 minutes and 1 hour to sort my day out. Arriving at the office early offers some peace without interruption although alternatively getting this done in the evening or afternoon before means I can start the next day with a bang. Having time to work on your business is as important as working in it but you will never do this unless you can organise your workload and priorities.

2. You control your emails they don't control you!

One of the greatest developments of the modern world is the email but for some people it's like a noose around their neck. It's great that we can read and reply to emails within seconds of receiving them but do they get actioned? I always know how effective a person is by how up to date their emails are. My key tip is once a day clear your inbox, either read it and action it, delegate it to another person to action or have organised folders that are prioritised in the order need to be actioned. A clear inbox is a clear mind so having 100's of unactioned emails will result in lost revenue and bad management.

3. Buy a memory book!

I often buy business owner's I work with the most powerful tool I have in business, a note pad! I have always had a good memory but I am not the Rain Man! My day moves so fast and so many points are agreed that if I did not write them down I would never remember. I pride myself on doing what I say I will and this would be impossible if I did not write action points in a pad. My pad is not tidy or easy to read and often one word can be a day's work but each note is a memory trigger to help me to plan my workload. A £1 note book can earn me ££££ in won business all because I deliver what I agree to.

4. Agenda, minute, action

Meetings can take up a great deal of time and I will never have one unless it has a clear purpose. A meeting should have a written agenda and I always ensure all points are covered prior to it ending. During the meeting I write a list of all action points and the initials of who has agreed to do what. As I sell a service, this is difficult to quantify. Proving I am organised and efficient is key to me closing a deal. Where possible I will send an email the same day thanking the attendees for their time and detailing the action points that were agreed. Doing this ensures every meeting stays relevant, time efficient and nails objectives.

5. To do lists are the future

I love writing "To-Do" lists! The main reason for this is it motivates me when I can cross action points off once they are completed! A "To-Do" list is not just a paper exercise for me, it is the way I prioritise my whole life, business and personal. At least once a fortnight I will sit down and allow myself 2 hours to write my "To-Do" list but most importantly each day I go through the "To-Do" list and delegate actions to my staff. I then choose 5 points a day to action and I don't go home until I have personally done them. The points can be personal or work related. At the end of the week regardless of what has happened I know I have achieved 25 things by doing this!

6. Take accountability and delegate responsibility!

There are only so many hours in a day and there is only so much work one person can do. Delegation is an art, so make sure you get it right! When going through your emails, decide who needs to action each one and if it's not you - delegate it, give clear instructions and do it quickly. Getting a member of your team to take some of your workload is not a negative, they are simply doing the job you are paying them to do. Simply ask for feedback on the outcome of each point you have delegated and empower them to make decisions.


In summary, being organised makes you a more effective business owner! Self-discipline is a mind-set and I know first-hand if I am organised I feel in control. If I am in control, I prioritise more and make educated decisions. I need time to plan, build and manage my business so using my time effectively is as crucial to my business as having a good cash flow.

About the author

Mike Stephens FCII is a respected senior industry professional and Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) with well over 40 years’ varied experience in the commercial insurance sector as a director, underwriter, and operational improvement manager.