Running a business is time-consuming work, and as a new business owner, time is exceedingly hard to come by. Though you may not be able to add an extra hour (or minute, for that matter) to your day, there are ways you can capitalize on, and make the most of, the time you do have. By following the nine time management tips below, you’ll be able to take charge of your day and manage your time in a way that improves both your productivity and state of mind.
1. Define Your Tasks and Goals
When thinking about time and how to better manage it, there are two dominating categories for which to break down all the obligations and to-dos and your list: operational tasks and business goals. Tasks are those mundane-yet-import requirements that happen daily, weekly or monthly, without fail.
Emails, meetings, bills, inventory, etc. all account for the tasks that must be completed to keep a business up and running. On the other hand, things like new projects, sales incentives, marketing initiatives, hiring and expansion activities, etc. all represent goals that are important to business success and growth.
Identifying and defining them can help you better manage and make room for them as you further establish your time management strategy.
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2. Figure Out How Much Time You Are Currently Spending
Time management techniques are easier to build if you know your starting point. Calculating the amount of time you spend on specific tasks currently can let you adjust more easily. Start by time tracking your to-do list for a few days or a week — until you get a clear idea of your average time spent and where you waste time. Then you can figure out where you need to spend less time and what tasks turn into time wasters.
Along the same lines, identify your most productive time of day and use it wisely. If you are at your finest in the morning but you typically use it to check social media or make phone calls, you may want to switch to finishing the work that requires all of your attention before lunchtime.
3. Organize, Prioritize, and Cluster
Once a list has been created, it’s easier to prioritize, organize, and cluster tasks. By prioritizing, you can determine what tasks and goals belong at the most productive time of your day, and by organizing and clustering, you can take similar tasks and work on them as a huge chunk, as opposed to scattering them throughout the day, negating systematic productivity.
4. Schedule Time
Scheduling time may seem like a binding practice, but in reality, the time you’ll gain from thoughtfully dedicating your time to certain projects or tasks can be quite freeing. By creating a schedule, you can carve out time for both goals and daily minutiae.
Though schedules are and should be designed to follow, it’s also important to account for all the unexpected things that happen as a business owner. That makes flexibility an important consideration in designing a schedule that will work. Filling a schedule with back to back tasks and goal attainment exercises can quickly backfire with even a minor curveball, so add some space for the unexpected.
5. Avoid Multitasking
It is incredibly easy to try to multitask when you’re a small business owner — you feel like you have 100 things to do at any given time. But for any freelancer, entrepreneur, or startup founder, it’s best to try to avoid it, especially because it’s not actually possible for humans to multitask. Instead, you are merely switching back and forth between tasks, which is exhausting.
Try focusing on a single task at a time and you’ll likely become more efficient at your work.
6. Give Yourself a Break
It may seem counter intuitive, but it’s incredibly important to give yourself some time to break away from the daily grind, the endless responsibilities, and your devices, even if it’s only for a quick 15-minute stroll or an off-premise lunch.
Taking a break, particularly between task clusters, can give you time to reset your mind, and though you are taking time away from the tasks at hand, the fresh mindset will make you far more productive than you would have been should you spent the day tethered to your desk, computer, or phone.
7. Delegate When Possible
In the early stages of a business, delegation can be tricky, but as you become more accustomed to the way thing should work, and hire and train skilled employees, there will be more opportunities to delegate tasks that can and should be easily handled by those you trust to carry out your business initiatives.
Delegation is not only part of becoming a strong business owner, it’s also required if you want to free up time to focus on the important issues at hand. Keep in mind that delegation means letting others take charge and providing feedback and assistance only as needed or required.
8. Decrease Distractions
Distractions are common place in the work place, and when you’re the business owner, everyone wants a piece of your time. Combine that truth with the endless amount of distractions supplied by a digitally connected life and getting anything done can be difficult.
Close your door, schedule open-door office hours, silence your phone, and stay off line to get the most out of a chunk of time. If endless browsing it one of your weaknesses, consider using a focus inducing, like OmniWriter and FocusBooster, which can help keep you on track and out of the digital wild.
9. Take Advantage of Business Apps
Speaking of apps, when it comes to organizing, managing, and running a business, there are a ton of them, and if you’re looking for a way to really make the most of your time, you should be looking into them.
From accounting and finances to scheduling and human resource concerns, there are apps that will help new and seasoned business owners streamline tasks and remove the need for redundant or unproductive manual effort.
For most of us, well managed time comes with practice, but with the help of the tips above, managing new business to-dos and shaping habits for the future is well within your reach.
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You may find yourself wondering, “How do business owners get free time?” The answer is to rely on time management tools and outsourcing as many tasks as possible to improve your work-life balance. No small business owner can go it alone, and Nav is here to help you get the right support for your business goals. Nav makes getting the right small business loans and other funding easy and quick — no more searching for hours. Simply set up a free account at Nav.com, enter a few business details, and see your best options instantly.
This article was originally written on May 15, 2018 and updated on February 8, 2023.
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