As someone who wears all the hats in their business, you’re probably all too familiar with the feeling of grasping into thin air to find that the little free time you have has managed to slip away before each day’s end. And for many, personal time is often the first thing to drop.
A new study by OnDeck has quantified business owners’ daily race against the clock—the new Main Street Pulse Report evaluated the attitude of 348 small business owners toward time management and running a business, and found that 49% said they sacrifice personal time in order to create success in their business.
In addition, 86% of business owners surveyed said time management is one the most critical components to running a successful small business. Here are a few tips we’ve taken from experienced business owners on how to best manage time in your business and gain back part of your day.
1. Stick to your routine — including your at-home routine.
Respondents to the Main Street Pulse Study reported needing 69 hours per week to successfully run their business. On average, these business owners clocked in a typical work week at 48 hours.
Sticking to a routine that limits your hours and maximizes your productivity is a tough gig, but it makes a world of difference.
Levi King, founder and CEO of Nav, suggests building rest and relaxation into your routine: “You need to set a routine with work, rest, and play specifically in mind. It might feel funny at first, scheduling rest and play… But however awkward or unintuitive it may appear, if you just stick with it, you’ll notice improvements in the way you feel sooner rather than later. You’ll probably have to experiment and try different routines before you settle into one that fits—especially if you’re in that hectic but happy stage known as building a fledgling business. But once you settle on one, stick with it.”
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2. Get organized.
According to the OnDeck study, the area where entrepreneurs need the most help is with administrative work. If entrepreneurs could have another set of hands on deck, 33% of them would want help working on administrative duties such as filing paperwork.
Dave Crenshaw, author of time management bestseller The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing It All’ Gets Nothing Done, suggests that setting aside time for processing can make a hectic schedule more manageable and reduce the contagious nature of chaos. He says that setting aside processing time is one of the most important tips to creating organization: “In this time, you go through all of your physical inbox, all your email, all your unorganized ‘stuff’ and process it. Bring it to zero. How much time should you spend processing? I recommend five hours per week.”
Of the business owners surveyed by OnDeck, 31% reported that there wasn’t enough time in the week to devote to their business.
Prioritizing may seem like an obvious principle for most entrepreneurs, but it’s easy to get swept away with the little things and let slip the bigger-picture items that really move the needle.
“I had to learn to really focus, because it was easy for my days to just slip away,” says Derek Hales, founder of Sleepopolis, a website that reviews sleep products. “Prioritizing the things that are really moving the needle [was something] I really struggled with in the first year. I wanted to make sure that I was spending time on things that were going to make the biggest impact and be the most desirable.”
For Hales, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds to focus on the big picture. “It sounds very easy, but I would get a lot of pressure from a relatively small number of people asking for a review or a comparison or a particular piece of content on something. A lot of time[s], that wouldn’t necessarily match up to what the marketplace at large was demanding.”
Of business owners surveyed for the Main Street Pulse Report, over 40% said that if they were given hours back in their day, they would spend that time with family and friends. Although the tips above aren’t utterly inventive, we don’t always practice them as much as we say we will, and hearing them from a fellow entrepreneur who is likely going through the same lack of time can help remind you that work-life balance can be achieved, and you can win back some of that family and friends time.