Good time management skills are important in everyone’s life but are essential for small businesses. Small business owners are left with many responsibilities, fewer employers, and a smaller network than larger corporations.
Wearing many hats doesn’t have to mean wearing yourself out. With these 7 time management tips for small business owners, you can learn to be efficient and effective in all you do.
1. Clear the Clutter
Clutter has been linked to many negative issues. It can lead to stress and anxiety, trouble focusing, impatience, and a lack of restful sleep. All of this makes it nearly impossible to be productive.
A cluttered physical space makes it difficult to find what you need. For example, it cannot be easy to find the notes you took for your report when your desk is cluttered. And while you’re searching for those notes, you’re going to get distracted by other memos, reports, and ideas lying on your desk.
A cluttered mind is equally destructive. It can make it hard to determine what you need to do and harder to focus on the task at hand, which can lead to anxiety and a complete lack of productivity.
If you add all these effects, it’s easy to see how your time management suffers from clutter. Fortunately, you can take control of this.
Declutter Your Office
There are hundreds of tips for decluttering your office space, but none will do any good until you do two things. First, figure out what you need to do your job. Second, figure out what motivates you.
Once you have figured these things out, you can remove everything else from your workspace. You’ll then need to place the things you keep in a usable fashion. A great way to do this is to utilize visual cues, a tip from author James Clear in his book Atomic Habits.
James Clear explains that our habits are a direct reflection of our atmosphere. By changing our environment, we can influence our behavior, and we do so by setting up visual cues.
For example, if the first task you want to complete every morning is to create content for your website, you’ll want to have your computer, content calendar, and any related research on your desktop. It will be the first thing you see in the morning, so it can help shift your mind to that task.
Visual cues can also be used to break habits. If your phone is lying on your desk in front of you all day, chances are high that you’ll pick it up every time it rings and check it often. However, if you turn it on silent and put it away in a drawer, you’re less likely to let it interrupt your work.
Keep this tip in mind as you organize your office. You can set yourself up for success with the right visual cues without so much intentional effort.
Declutter Your Brain
It’s hard to have an organized office if you don’t have an organized mental space. It doesn’t take much to clear out the mental clutter, though.
One of the biggest reasons people suffer from a cluttered mind is that they try to remember too many things. Therefore, one of the most important steps to achieving balanced headspace is to get those things out of your mind with a time management log. This is crucial for creative people!
Take out a pen and a piece of paper. Start listing everything that comes to mind, whether it relates to your small business or personal life. Get it all out on paper so you can clear your mind. Also, in your log, write down every task you do today. You can process the list later. It’s a good idea to make this a regular practice.
2. Prioritize Tasks
Another reason small business owners often have too many things on their plates is a lack of clarity about what’s important. When every task you need — or think you need — to complete is lumped together, it can be difficult to determine where to focus your energy.
After you get everything out of your head, you need to put it in its proper place. Take some time to go through your list. You’ll want to separate your personal, household, and family tasks from the ones for your small business.
Next, you need to determine the most important tasks to complete. These tasks should fall into two categories:
- Those you must do to keep your business in operation.
- Those that will move you closer to your business goals.
If they do not fit one of these descriptions, they may not belong on your to-do list. Take another look at them and consider whether they are worth spending time on. If not, mark them off and forget about them.
3. Learn to Delegate
One of my favorite time management tips for small business owners is learning to share the burden. You have a lot to take care of and a lot of roles to fill. And just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to run a small business successfully.
Take a look at all of the tasks left on your list. How many of them do you need to do yourself? Probably nowhere near as many as you think.
After an honest look, pass on some of the tasks to others. The following are some ideas for what you can delegate:
- Answering or returning phone calls
- Finding and chasing leads
- Researching a competitor
- Managing accounts receivable
- Scheduling interviews or meetings
Are you concerned about putting others in charge? It’s understandable and common, but it doesn’t have to stop you. Try either or both of the following:
Train Your Employees
Most of the time, your team needs guidance. If you create a clearly defined set of rules and expectations, everything can be handled as you wish.
For example, you can have a team member manage incoming emails. You can make guidelines such as, “X type of email go straight to the trash, and Y type of email requires ‘Z’ response.”
Outsource to Experienced Freelance Contractors
Many think outsourcing costs more than paying employees or just doing something yourself. Usually, though, that is not the case at all.
First, you don’t have to pay freelancers the same full-time wage that you do employees. You either pay by project or by the number of hours they work.
Second, you know the saying, “Time is money”? You are saving money if you outsource several tasks to focus on others. And often, you can have those tasks completed more timely.
Imagine this scenario: You are a small business owner that needs a website and social media pages. Unfortunately, you have no idea how to create either, and no one on your team has the necessary experience.
You have two options.
- You or a team member can spend endless time online learning how to create your site and pages.
- You can outsource to someone who knows what they are doing and have it completed in a fraction of the time.
In such situations, outsourcing is typically the best option.
4. Make a Plan
After delegating and outsourcing, you should be left with a list of important jobs only you should be working on. Now is the time to plan out how to tackle them.
The smart way to plan things is to start with the big picture and work your way down. Start by determining which tasks you need to accomplish this month. Then, break that down by week and again by day.
You’ll want to follow this same idea for larger projects. It would be best to break projects down into the smallest tasks for as much productivity as possible.
For a simple example, let’s say you plan to create a new social media campaign to increase brand awareness. You might break this project down into the following steps:
- Create a social media content calendar
- Assign a team member to create each post
- Create images for posts
- Schedule posts through an automated
Again, this is a simplified example, but it shows how easily you can break a project down. Each task listed here can be done in just a matter of minutes, and you can fit them in over a week or several weeks.
5. Organize Your Days and Weeks
One of the most effective time management tips for small business owners is to learn how to organize their days and weeks. You have several options to do this, but here are a couple of good ideas:
#1. Pick a theme for each day of the week.
- Monday- team meetings
- Tuesday- work on a new business plan or new products
- Wednesday- write blog posts
- Thursday- client meetings
- Friday- networking or recruiting
Your themes will, of course, depend on your business and the tasks you need to complete. The idea is to have different days dedicated to specific needs. How does this help? By allowing you to focus on that one task.
Let’s say you use the above themes and dedicate Mondays to team meetings. This means that you can focus fully on nothing but your team that day. You won’t have client meetings or blog posts screaming for your attention because your week has a very specific flow.
#2. Block out your days
Let’s stick with the same weekly schedule for this example, too. Monday is your day for team meetings, but you’ll likely not be in these meetings for your full business day. Therefore, Mondays might look like this:
- 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.- Settle into the office. Go over the daily schedule. Look over the meeting agenda and make sure you have all you need.
- 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.- Answer emails.
- 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.- Return calls.
- 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.- Lunch.
- 1:15 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.- Team meetings.
Organizing your weeks and blocking off your days allows you to get on a routine. Routines can help you save time because you don’t worry about what you are supposed to do next — you do it.
Additionally, having specific time blocks to focus on a task can help a small business owner be more productive than ever before. For example, if you focus for three hours on a new product every Tuesday, you’ll likely complete it much quicker than expected.
6. Improve Your Focus
Learning ways to improve your focus is important for any successful business owner.
Spending three hours working on one task does no good if you can’t focus on it. These focus and time management tips can help:
Prepare Your Space
We’ve already talked about keeping your space uncluttered, but do another sweep before you start your task. Make sure nothing is on your workspace except for what you need. And double-check that everything you need is there before you try to dive in.
Turn Off Distractions
You’ve blocked off this time, so make sure nothing interrupts it. Let your employees, family, and friends know not to call or come by the office unless it’s an emergency. Turn off your email, phone, and social media notifications. Lock your door if you need to, and post a sign on your door.
Find Some Music
Plenty of tracks are available on YouTube with sound waves and beats to help you concentrate better. It does this in two ways. The first is that it helps block out distracting sounds. The second is that it has been shown to activate both the left and right brain, which can help process and absorb information.
Most studies show that classical music has many tones that improve concentration, making it the most recommended music for brain work. However, music generally activates your brain, so you can choose any type that does not distract you.
7. Don’t Forget Free Time
The last of our top time management tips for a small business owner is to turn it off. You only get time away from work if you make time away.
As a small business owner, you can easily stay wrapped up in your business all day and all night. There is always something to do, a new product to create, a deal to close, a meeting to schedule, and a presentation to prepare — it is never-ending. It can permeate every waking minute of your life, but it doesn’t stop there. Many business owners also dream about their business, meaning their minds never take a break.
It may seem that this kind of dedication is a good thing — that it will push you straight to the top. It can likely knock you to the bottom in business and your whole life.
Thinking about and working on your business can do more harm than good. Your business, health, home, family, and relationships can all suffer.
Let’s start with your health. There is a reason humans are supposed to take breaks and sleep: it gives your body time to heal from any damage done throughout the day. Work stress can increase the cortisol level in your body, so your stress levels go up.
Let’s be honest, no one — not you, your family, nor your business — will benefit from you developing any of these health issues.
Also, your relationships suffer when you pour all your time into work. Your spouse and children can begin to feel unimportant. Marriages can fall apart. Though there will be times you’ll have to spend more of your focus on your business, doing so chronically can lead to broken or unhappy homes.
Most business owners work hard to provide a better life for their families, but too much work can mean the opposite. And if you’re having problems at home, it can impact your ability to focus on work.
It’s a vicious cycle you can prevent by being kind to yourself, your family, and your health. Schedule consistent breaks and time off. When you are at home, be present with your family.
Your small business is an important part of your life, and you want to take care of it. With the time management tips listed here, you can begin choosing and managing tasks more effectively, increasing your chances of business success.