When it comes to running a business (or life in general, really), two things nobody ever complains about having too much of are Time and Money. We can’t imagine any scenario where someone would turn down more of either. And yet, both are far too often squandered by small business owners.
Where money is concerned, it’s easier to track. You’ve got bank statements and budgets and cold hard numbers to determine where the waste is happening. It’s all very black and white; it just takes some leg work.
Time - more specifically, effective Time Management - is a bit more nebulous. A dollar is a dollar, but what one person can do with an hour is vastly different from what the next guy can do with those same 60 minutes. People work at different paces.
That’s why it’s critical you carefully evaluate your own time management skills on a regular basis. Time is a valuable asset, and you want to ensure you’re getting the best ROI for the effort and energy you’re putting into your business.
Here are six tips for small business owners to help manage their time better.
Get in the habit of listing the daily and weekly tasks you need to accomplish and prioritizing them according to their importance. A good trick to help remember what’s on that list? Write them down the old-fashioned way. (Think all the way back to the early 90s, pre-Palm Pilot era.) Studies have shown that putting pencil to paper activates the part of your brain specific to memory retrieval. This simple act will help you stay focused on the things that really matter and avoid becoming distracted or overwhelmed by unnecessary tasks.
One of the perks of owning your own business and being your own boss is that you don’t have to make excuses for being late to work or taking a long lunch. The downside, of course, is that it’s a lot easier to fritter away the minutes and hours when you don’t have someone watching the time clock. Establishing a daily routine can help you be more productive and manage your time effectively. Whether it’s getting up at the same time every morning, scheduling specific times to check emails and make phone calls, or working on particular tasks during certain hours, your routine will help set the rhythm for the day and ensure you’re making the best use of your time.
This is a hard one, no? As a small business owner, it’s natural to want to handle everything yourself. Your biz is like your baby; it takes time to trust that an outsider will treat it with the same level of love and attention as you would. But the inability or unwillingness to delegate can have a significant negative impact on effective time management and, by extension, your business’s ability to grow. Cut the apron strings and begin delegating those time-consuming tasks to team members or hire a virtual assistant. This will allow you to focus on matters that require your expertise.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” right? While we aren’t here to speculate whether overworking yourself will lead to a reenactment of The Shining, we can say with all certainty that working long hours without breaks can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. Make sure you take regular breaks throughout the day to rest and recharge. Make yourself lunch. Walk down the block for a cup of coffee. Do a quick, 5-minute yoga flow. Read a chapter in a book. Step away from the electronics and the blue screens and be unreachable for a bit. When you return, you’ll feel more energized, focused, and productive.
The most dangerous distractions are the tiny ones. Think about the number of times you’ve stopped what you’re doing to pick up your phone to answer non-urgent texts. How about the time spent idly scrolling through social media feeds? Internet browsing? Google alerts? Taking breaks (scheduled and planned breaks) is healthy and good, but while you’re in work mode, stay in work mode, and minimize the distractions that try to derail you. A few minutes “here and there” to get the latest ‘ish on Elon will add up quickly - alarmingly so - and steal valuable time. Try silencing your phone, closing unnecessary tabs on your computer, or even setting time limits on certain apps.
Cluttered desk, cluttered mind, right? While there’s an argument to be made that a messy desk is a sign of creativity and ingenuity (just take a look at Einstein), it can become an absolute nightmare when you’re trying to locate important documents. Create a system for keeping your work area and files organized, so you aren’t wasting your time on menial administrative tasks.
Wrapping it up:
There’s a reason they say time is money. And by ‘they,’ we mean Ben Franklin. (Now, there’s a dude who knows how to manage his time. A delegate to France. Helped draft the Declaration of Independence. Founding Father. Ladies Man. He was a busy guy.) But his advice given 100+ years ago still rings true today. Time, like money, is one of your small business’s most valuable assets. Treat it as such.