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Updated Mar 18, 2024

8 Tips to Manage Your Time as a Small Business Owner

A small business owner's time is precious. Here's how to make the most of it.

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Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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When running a small business, you’re at the center of everything. You juggle meeting client deadlines, handling finances, and leading your team. It might often seem like there’s no end to your to-do list. 

Let’s face it, time is priceless and managing it well is a crucial skill for you, as a small business owner. There’s no perfect formula for mastering time management but you can always develop habits that align with your schedule and work rhythm. 

Here are  eight practical time-management strategies that will empower you to ramp up productivity, make wiser choices, and shift your focus to the expansion and success of your business. 

How to best manage your time

If you feel like there are never enough hours in the day, these tips can help you better manage your time.

1. Get organized.

An organized workspace and a clear work plan can vastly improve your productivity. If either is chaotic, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and have your workflow disrupted. Take these simple steps to streamline efficiency: 

  • Organize your workspace. This involves decluttering and designating places for important items. Discard needless items or effectively store them away. Convert your physical files to digital versions to create more room for yourself. Organize these digital files based on the client or the project, depending on what works for your business.
  • Organize your work. Organize your work process by setting clear, achievable goals. Creating a list of about five tasks you want to target within the week is a good start. Elaborate on each task, specifying its importance, and then focus on executing them one after the other. This strategy ensures you make substantial progress towards your broader plans.
  • Know when you are most productive. Recognizing your productive periods can contribute to better work efficiency. Note the times when you’re more active and productive. I could be after a morning exercise or post-lunch. A digital app, like Toggl, could be beneficial in understanding your productivity patterns by keeping track of the time spent on each task. Once you’ve identified your peak productivity period, you can devote that time to more challenging, higher-priority tasks, leaving simpler ones for other times. 

By following these simple suggestions, you can overcome the clutter – both tangible and intangible – that may be hindering your effectiveness, and direct your effort more productively towards achieving your business goals. 

FYIDid you know
Paperless office solutions reduce clutter while lowering your business's environmental footprint and creating more secure access to sensitive documents.

2. Embrace apps.

If you have a smartphone, turn it into your ultimate small business tool with apps designed to help you take charge of your schedule and workflow.

Here are some excellent time- and task-management apps:

  • Wunderlist: If traditional paper to-do lists aren’t cutting it, the Wunderlist app allows you to prioritize tasks, set reminders and share your to-do list with others. It’s accessible from smartphones, laptops and Apple Watches, so you can stay on top of your tasks from any location.
  • Harvest: If you’re a small business owner who charges clients by the hour, an app like Harvest can easily keep track of the time you spend on each task, making invoicing easy. Even if you don’t charge by time spent, Harvest lets you track how much time every project takes, making you more aware of how long a project truly takes to complete.
  • Trello: When it comes to managing overall workflow, Trello is an excellent resource. You can create boards for each project and set up step-by-step pipelines to send them through, allowing you to track tasks from beginning to completion. It’s also a great tool for collaboration and tracking your remote staff’s productivity and efficiency. 

3. Learn when to delegate.

When you’re starting out, it’s natural to take on anything and everything to do with your business. You’re likely accustomed to learning on the job and have picked up marketing skills, accounting skills and other abilities required to run your organization. 

However, as your time becomes more precious, delegating becomes crucial. Learn to outsource some tasks or assign projects to employees, giving yourself the freedom to take growth opportunities. 

First, decide what tasks you’d like to offload. Pinpoint tasks you typically procrastinate on to determine who could better handle the job. If you don’t have a staff ready to pitch in, find independent contractors or freelancers specializing in that area who can work on an as-needed basis.

Reach out to your professional network and get referrals to find trustworthy people who can do the job. A delegated task is only successful if it gets done properly, so hire carefully and enforce deadlines.

Did You Know?Did you know
Time management and delegation are essential business skills, along with communication skills, strategic planning and leadership ability.

4. Keep track of your finances.

Handling finances can take a great deal of time and cause massive stress. Implementing an accounting system early on will help you stay organized, which will save you time later.  

If you don’t already have accounting software in place, consider one of the best accounting solutions to get you on the right accounting and bookkeeping path. 

These are a few to consider:

  • MineralTree lets you track the accounts payable process from invoice approval to final payment. 
  • QuickBooks, which is compatible with MineralTree, offers myriad functions to simplify your accounting. Read our in-depth QuickBooks review to learn more.
  • Xero is a timesaving, cloud-based tool that graphs your payment schedule and debts, so you can better manage your cash flow and make payments on time. Find out more in our full Xero review

5. Avoid unnecessary distractions.

If you’re a solopreneur, it’s up to you to keep yourself motivated and stay focused on your work. There’s no one else to make sure you’re working hard or keeping on top of things. Here are some tips to help you limit distractions and remain productive: 

  • Keep your phone on silent. 
  • Consider using tools like the SelfControl app, which restricts access to websites you tend to waste time on. 
  • Pay attention to your emotional state and general well-being during working hours. Be present and aware of your work. 
  • Maintain a healthy work-life balance by keeping business discussions separate from family time. Planning your day allows you to manage your time effectively, helping you to make the most of each hour. 

6. Use the 80/20 rule.

The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort – and vice versa. Identify the 20% of your tasks that result in the most “bang for the buck” and concentrate on them. Delegate or spend less time on the rest. 

For instance, if you spend a large chunk of your time on the phone, ask people to email you rather than call.

Some customers or employees are high maintenance, taking up more than their share of time with complaints or drama. Consider letting these time-wasters go.

7. Avoid multitasking.

While multitasking may seem like a great way to get everything done, it’s ineffective because the brain takes a little while to refocus attention, making you less productive and more error-prone. 

Concentrate on one thing at a time, and organize your day that way. For example, you could focus on answering emails first thing in the morning to get that out of the way, and select another block of time to return phone calls. Once finished with a task on your list, move on to the next one.

Did You Know?Did you know
Time management statistics from Trafft show that, on average, office workers check their email 50 times and their social media platforms 77 times a day while at work.

8. Schedule downtime – really!

Working non-stop can tire you out, both mentally and physically. It can dim your creativity and reduce your knack for problem-solving. You’ll often hear business owners sharing how their best ideas were sparked when they were taking a relaxing stroll, enjoying a refreshing shower or just chilling out. 

Giving yourself some downtime helps your unseen mind sift through various data and cook up innovative solutions. This doesn’t just mean going on a break, though that’s a great start. Make some time for family and friends, dive into a hobby, step out and get moving, or explore a fun book. It’s about balancing work with relaxation. Harness these moments of peace to help your business shine. 

Did You Know?Did you know
Over the last 20 years, work time has increased by 15%, while personal time has decreased by 33%. This makes it even more essential to practice self-care in the workplace.

Why time management is critical for entrepreneurs

Here are several key reasons why time management is crucial when you’re running a business:

  • You should think of time as a limited resource. There are only so many hours in a day to get things done. Don’t you want to make the most of them?
  • It increases competitiveness. This is especially important if you are in a highly competitive industry. Being first to market or the first to come out with a new feature can be the difference between success and failure.
  • It could boost your bottom line. Whether you pay your employees hourly or with a fixed salary, the more productive they are, the more value you gain. If you’re disorganized, you can’t efficiently assign tasks and monitor employee productivity, so you may end up spending more money than necessary.
  • You make better decisions. When you prioritize critical tasks, you have more options and can make a bigger impact on your operations. Conversely, when vital tasks get buried and neglected, you may miss out on opportunities and need to hustle and pay a premium to get stuff done.
  • You’re better able to focus on growth. When your day-to-day operations are a smoothly running machine, you’re free to consider expansion opportunities.
  • You could get more clients. Business efficiency creates higher-quality work and a better customer experience. Happy customers are loyal and can boost your business with positive reviews and referrals.
  • It reduces stress. Being organized, taking things off your to-do list, and getting things done efficiently is enormously satisfying and eliminates some of the stress inherent in being a business owner. Stress lowers productivity, so stress reduction is crucial for business operations and your physical and mental health. With lower stress levels, you’ll be less likely to experience burnout.

Meredith Wood contributed to the writing and reporting of this article.

author image
Jennifer Dublino, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Jennifer Dublino is an experienced entrepreneur and astute marketing strategist. With over three decades of industry experience, she has been a guiding force for many businesses, offering invaluable expertise in market research, strategic planning, budget allocation, lead generation and beyond. Earlier in her career, Dublino established, nurtured and successfully sold her own marketing firm. Dublino, who has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an MBA in marketing and finance, also served as the chief operating officer of the Scent Marketing Institute, showcasing her ability to navigate diverse sectors within the marketing landscape. Over the years, Dublino has amassed a comprehensive understanding of business operations across a wide array of areas, ranging from credit card processing to compensation management. Her insights and expertise have earned her recognition, with her contributions quoted in reputable publications such as Reuters, Adweek, AdAge and others.
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