By Andy Bailey, Senior Product Manager, Exact

It's a common conundrum among entrepreneurs and business leaders: there never seem to be enough hours in the day to get things done. We all know we need to manage our time better, but we just can't afford the time to sit down and tackle the issue head-on.

Or can we?

According to recent research by the Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research (CEEDR) – carried out among 757 UK SME owner-managers – there is a very strong correlation between the leaders who place considerable importance on time management efficiency and those predicting strong future growth.

Nearly all respondents (95 per cent) said that time management efficiency is a factor in their business performance with 23 per cent saying that it is of considerable importance. Among the elite group of trailblazers identified by the research (the three per cent of SMEs who more than doubled their sales in the previous year), 56 per cent had above industry-average levels of operational efficiency, and none of them had poor operational efficiency levels.

So how should you go about improving your time management?

First we need to see time management as a strategic issue that is fundamental to operational efficiency, and therefore business success. That means we need to make time to consider improvements, research what is on the market, and adopt new practices.

Set aside time for you and your management team to take a close look at non-productive time in your business – and make attendance at the meeting non-negotiable. Of course, in the interests of efficiency, you need to ensure you have a solid agenda and clear goals for each of these meetings.

New technology also plays a key role. As the CEEDR research makes clear, investment in cloud and mobile technologies is a quick way for small businesses to make immediate operational efficiencies. The adoption of cloud and mobile technologies for communications and time management appears to be key to SME growth and development. The research shows that almost 80 per cent of those businesses already investing in such new technology are performing above their peers.

Furthermore, businesses with cloud-based and premises-based ICT systems assisting management exhibit higher sales growth predictions than their counterparts with spread sheet and manual, ad hoc systems.

Among businesses that have adopted cloud-based technologies, around three-fifths predict at least 10 per cent growth in sales. Over one-quarter (26 per cent) of the best performing businesses (those increasing sales turnover by more than 25 per cent), are already using cloud technology.

The report finds considerable evidence that SMEs that are agile and early adopters of new technologies are better able to compete with larger businesses, form powerful global business clusters and achieve substantial and sustained growth.

These days, being small shouldn't prevent your business from gaining operational efficiencies and improving time management efficiency. Quite the opposite. The advent of cloud-based and mobile service offerings means SMEs can be more agile and competitive than ever.