As a small business owner, you’re the most important person in your organization. Between meeting client’s deadlines, tracking finances and managing personnel, it can feel like your to-do list never shrinks.
Since time is a limited commodity, effective time management is one of the most essential skills for small business owners. While time management isn’t an exact science, you can create new habits that work best for you and your schedule.
We’ll explore eight time-management tips to help you boost productivity, make better decisions, and focus on your company’s growth and success.
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.
Clutter – both literal and figurative – can slow your progress. If your workspace or workload is chaotic, you may be too overwhelmed to tackle your tasks effectively.
Follow these recommendations to get organized:
- Organize your workspace. Get rid of things you don’t need by throwing them away or filing them. Paper files can be scanned and filed electronically to save space. Then group your files by client or project, whichever makes sense for your industry.
- Organize your work. Setting business goals – both small and large – is a great way to keep you and your business on track. Begin by creating a list of five attainable goals for the week. Make them detailed, starting with the priority, and then start accomplishing one at a time. This helps you make measurable progress toward larger initiatives.
- Pay attention to when you’re most productive. Pay attention to when you’re most productive. This time could be triggered by a course of action, such as after a morning jog or right after lunch. Consider using a time-tracking app like Toggl to log how much time you spend on each project so you can visualize your productivity. If you find you have a particularly productive time of day, use it to focus on the highest-priority, complex tasks. Spend the rest of the day on easier, more manageable jobs.
FYI: 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.
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.
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, the biggest struggle you may face is staying productive without having others hold you accountable. As your own boss, you must work diligently to stay motivated and avoid distraction.
Follow these tips to minimize distractions:
- Turn your phone on silent.
- Use an app like SelfControl to block websites you mindlessly browse.
- Ensure you’re mentally and physically present during work hours.
It’s also crucial to keep business matters out of family time to ensure a positive work-life balance. Segmenting your day will help you manage your time and make the most out of each precious 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? 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 all the time can be physically and mentally unhealthy while negatively impacting your creativity and problem-solving skills. Many leaders say they get their biggest revelations while on a nature walk, in the shower or otherwise relaxing.
Downtime helps your subconscious sort through data and come up with creative solutions. It’s not only about taking a vacation, although that counts. Consider taking time to hang out with family and friends, find a hobby, do something active outside or read a book for fun.
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.