Running a small business can be a fulfilling experience.
BUT (and that's a big but), it's no secret that it can be challenging to manage all the things that need to be done at all hours of the day.
We recently polled readers of our newsletter, The Weekly, and an OVERWHELMING majority (59% to be exact) said their biggest struggle as a small biz owner is Lack of Time / Time Management.
Now, if someone could figure out the whole time travel thing to give us back hours in our days, they'd be a very wealthy person. But short of any breakthroughs made in the study of quantum mechanics or whatever, we'll have to make do with the 24 hours we're given.
So, what do we do?
Small business owners have to fulfill several roles within their company, which is one of their most significant challenges. They are responsible for marketing and sales, customer service, bookkeeping, peacekeeping, hiring and firing, and many other tasks. This type of multitasking can make it nearly impossible to allocate time efficiently to different tasks, resulting in inefficiency and lower productivity.
If not operating with a clear plan and priority system, small business owners can find themselves working on tasks that may not significantly impact their business; meanwhile, crucial projects get neglected.
When you're working hard, it's almost guaranteed that something will come up to distract you. You might get a call or an email, or there's a fire you need to put out, making it hard to focus on your to-do list.
Sometimes, small business owners struggle to establish streamlined processes and workflows, resulting in wasted time on repetitive or unnecessary activities.
A lot of small business owners have a hard time letting go of certain tasks or handing them over to employees. This inevitably leads to unnecessary workloads and time management difficulties.
Repeat this mantra: Not all tasks are created equal. Start each day by identifying your most important tasks and focus on completing them first. Tools like the Eisenhower Matrix can help you categorize tasks based on urgency and importance.
As they say, the Devil is in the details. Therefore, it's critical to establish specific, measurable, and time-bound goals for your business. A well-defined vision and purpose will help you prioritize tasks (see above) that are in line with your objectives.
Think of this as an after-school special. The word no is powerful and can (and should be) used in many areas of your life. Small business owners often feel compelled to say "yes" to every opportunity or request. No money left on the table! However, being selective and learning to say "no" when necessary can save valuable time for more critical - or lucrative - tasks and opportunities.
Ask yourself this: Would your whole business fall apart if you delegated just ONE task to an employee or outsourced it? (Hint: The answer is no.) Yes, you are an important piece of your small biz puzzle, but you don't need to be the ONLY piece. Identify tasks that can be delegated to employees or outsourced to experts. Delegating responsibilities can empower your team, reduce your workload, and allow you to focus on strategic decisions.
Time blocking involves scheduling specific blocks of time for particular tasks or activities. This can help you maintain focus and discipline, making it easier to manage your time effectively. We favor the Pomodoro Technique (work 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, repeat 3x. Read more about it here.)
Multitasking FEELS productive, but more often than not...it's not. In fact, it can often lead to mistakes and inefficiency, which kind of defeats the whole purpose. Concentrate on one task at a time, complete it, and then move on to the next.
Boundaries, people. Learn to set them (for yourself and others). Designate specific times for checking emails or taking phone calls. (Another reason to incorporate the Pomodoro Technique into your work day.) Turn your notifications off, stay off social media, and use an app that blocks distracting websites.
Listen, even IF you implement all eight suggestions above, there will be an adjustment period. It's not going to work perfectly right away. Periodically analyze what's working and what's not, and be open to making changes to optimize your efficiency.
The truth is that time management will continue to be a thorn in the side of many small business owners unless they start being proactive rather than reactive.
Some of you are going to think the solutions we've listed are “too basic” for a complex problem. But you know what they say - sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. And that's the beauty of it. You don't need an expensive program or grow an extra set of limbs or wait for Doc Brown and Marty McFly to roll up in the DeLorean. Heck, you don’t even need more hours in the day at all. There are simple tweaks and processes you can implement right this very second that will benefit you and your business. You just need to be willing to give it a try.