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Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get more done than others (yes, I’m looking at you, Elon Musk), yet we all have the same 24 hours each day?
The secret lies in good time management skills.
Because although you might be busy, this doesn’t automatically equate to being effective.
Surveys have shown that while time management skills are some of the most desired in the workforce, they are also among the rarest to find.
So if you struggle with effective time management in your business, I want you to know you’re not alone. Better still, the tips I’m about to share with you can be learned and implemented by anyone.
What Is Time Management?
In a nutshell, time management is the process of organizing, planning, and strategically controlling the time you spend on specific tasks. When done effectively, time management enables you to get more done in less time, even when you have tight deadlines and an endless to-do list.
Without time management strategies in place, the quality of your work may suffer, your stress levels will rise, you might miss deadlines, your work-life balance will be non-existent, and you’re also at risk of damaging your professional reputation.
Some of us are naturally skilled at managing our time well, while others are not so lucky. However, the great news is that anyone can improve their time management skills and run their business more effectively. Yes, even you!
The Importance Of Time Management In Business
With good time management skills, you will be able to focus on solving problems and achieving results rather than getting weighed down by daily activities. As a business owner, you will feel firmly in control of your workday, and you will also be able to inspire a team or cultivate a workplace that values time management. This is especially important for small businesses that don’t have the luxury of being inefficient.
Here are some of the benefits of managing your time well as a business owner.
Boost Your Performance
Planning and organizing your workday will give you a clearer picture of everything you need to achieve and how long each task will take. A schedule will reduce time spent deciding what to do next and distractions and will help you focus on the essential tasks.
Better Work And Results
When you’re rushing to meet a deadline, your work will often suffer. Time management tools will help you stay on track and ensure you have enough time to complete each task. This means you can give your best to your work and make sure it’s always of the highest quality.
Meet Deadlines And Deliver On Time
Time management in business will help you properly allocate your time and give you a sufficient window to complete a task or project ahead of the deadline. When done right, you’ll have a buffer in place for any emergencies or challenges that arise and need to be dealt with, meaning you’ll always hit your deadlines no matter what.
I don’t need to tell you that running a business can be stressful at the very best of times. You’re spinning many plates at once, you’ve got a mounting pile of tasks to complete, and you’ve got a personal life to balance too.
This is where time management skills are worth their weight in gold. Good time management will help you prioritize, organize and allot blocks of time to all of your tasks. You’ll know exactly what you need to do, how much time you have to play with, and more than enough time to accomplish everything.
This can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety levels, which will enable you to show up as your best self each day.
Managing your time effectively and consistently meeting your deadlines will give you more confidence in your ability to run your business. This confidence will inspire you to elevate your time management skills and take on new challenges. And this will often inspire those around you to do the same.
Get More Done
Once you know how to manage your time effectively, you’ll be able to achieve more in less time. You’ll be working smarter instead of harder. You’ll have a better understanding of how you best operate and how and when to tackle tasks.
So, now that you know the importance of time management in business, let’s explore the skills you need to get started.
What Skills Do You Need To Succeed At Time Management?
In an ideal world, we’d all be amazing at managing our time. But unfortunately, this isn’t true for the majority of us.
A quick Google search will result in thousands of articles on time management tips and hacks. But simply reading these and trying to implement them in our daily lives may not work.
Because research has suggested, there are certain skills a person needs to succeed at time management.
Understanding your time is a limited resource, and therefore being realistic with how you use it.
Planning, organizing, and designing your tasks, goals, and schedules so you can use your time most effectively.
Being able to adjust and change your priorities when interruptions or problems arise (which they inevitably will).
How To Improve Your Time Management Skills
If the three A’s above are not your forte, here are three ways you can improve your chances of succeeding at time management.
Focus on self-awareness
One of the biggest reasons why people struggle with time management is because they have no idea they aren’t managing their time well in the first place.
To get a clear picture of your time management skills, you can:
Understand your personality and preferences
Are you someone who often tries to multitask? Are you proactive? Or are you a regular procrastinator? When left to your own devices, what patterns do you default to?
Understanding this will give you insight into where you might struggle to manage your time effectively.
And remember that even if it’s not in your personality to manage your time well, anyone can learn new skills, and it’s these skills that will ultimately give you the biggest return on investment.
What skill do you need to improve most?
Focus your efforts on pinpointing and learning the one skill that is the most urgent and will give you the greatest results concerning time management. Once you’ve mastered this, then you can move on to learning other skills.
15 Time Management Tips You Need In Your Small Business
Now that you have a good grasp of how to improve your time management skills, let’s move on to my top time management tips that will drastically improve your efficiency day to day and ultimately lead to more success in your business.
1. The First Step For Time Management In Business: Plan Ahead
Whether you’re a company of one and you work out of your home office, or you’re leading and scaling a start-up, planning ahead will help you prepare, prioritize your most important tasks and alleviate unnecessary stress.
Upcoming deadlines, launch dates, and urgent tasks should be taken care of and planned into your schedule first, with less important tasks (i.e., admin, meetings) taking a backseat for later in the week.
Use a diary, a blank piece of paper, or a calendar app to plan out each day for the week ahead. Use colors and labels for different tasks and appointments. If you’re not sure which you prefer, try out both a paper and digital calendar and see what works best for you. Make sure your calendar is always easily accessible so you can stay on track and make changes if needed. Remember to schedule any personal appointments and downtime too.
In an ideal world, we would all be highly productive every hour of every day. But the reality is, we’re human, and we don’t quite work that way. So be realistic when planning out your week. Allow room for the unexpected to happen because interruptions, distractions, and unforeseen challenges are bound to arise.
2. Time Block
One of the best time management tips for business owners is to time block. Essentially, this means splitting out your day into blocks of time and assigning specific tasks to different blocks. It’s the opposite of multitasking and encourages you to focus on one thing at a time, so you can devote your full focus and attention to the task and complete it faster and to a higher quality than if your attention is split.
First, get clear on the hours you have available each day. Ideally, you want to split each day into three or four blocks of time.
Next, think about when you are most productive in the day. For example, some people are early birds while others don’t get started until after lunch. Resist the urge to judge how you naturally function—there’s no right or wrong here.
When you know your most productive window, rank your blocks of time each day from your most productive time to your least productive time. You can then assign your most important tasks to your most productive blocks of time. Leave less important tasks for when your output starts to dwindle.
3. Group Related Tasks And Tackle Them Together
Alongside time blocking, another highly effective time management strategy is to group similar tasks together on the same day. The idea is that this eliminates hopping between wildly different activities, which saves you time and energy and allows you to deepen your focus.
Here’s an example of this in practice. You might decide to block out an entire day to complete all your marketing tasks, including writing and scheduling emails to your list, planning out and creating social media content, checking and tweaking your ad campaigns, and writing and publishing a new blog post.
Another example would be sorting and paying invoices in one batch and looking at your cash flow one afternoon each week or every fortnight.
Write out all the tasks you regularly have to do each week or month, and start grouping and tackling them together.
4. Track Your Time
If you’re new to time management or you know it’s not one of your strengths, tracking your time over the course of a week can give you a great insight into how you currently spend your time.
Set a stopwatch when you begin a new task, turn it off when you’re done, or take a break. Record these tasks and the time taken, and do this for an entire week.
Because you know you’re on the clock, you may find this helps you stay focused and increases your productivity. In addition, you’ll be able to get a strong picture of your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to your time management skills.
This is key for making improvements and being more intentional with your time and energy going forwards.
5. Time Management In Business Is About Setting Goals
Setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals is key for accomplishing anything in your business and driving it forwards. But I find that many small business owners don’t take the time to set goals or become overwhelmed by how big they are.
This is why setting big goals and breaking them down into smaller, manageable goals is essential. Think about a handful of things you’d like to accomplish in your business this year. Next, break those down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. This way, you’ll be able to celebrate smaller milestones and know that you’re successfully on track to hitting those bigger targets.
Work backward from the date you’d like to reach your goal, and plot in smaller checkpoints for yourself between now and then. This will help you and your employees stay on track and understand where you’re heading.
Knowing the tasks you have to complete is not enough because there are so many things to do at any given time. Knowing what your priorities are and the order in which to tackle them is a crucial time management skill in any business or job. This is how you’ll stay focused on the activities that really matter and will help drive your business forward.
Covey Time Management Matrix
The Covey Time Management Matrix (also known as the Eisenhower Method) is my preferred method for prioritizing your time. Created by Steven Covey—author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People—this method outlines four quadrants to help you manage your time more effectively based on urgency and importance.
The four quadrants are:
Tasks that are both urgent and important should be done first. Jobs that are neither urgent nor important should be left to last.
With this model, you rank all your tasks with the letters A, B & C in order of importance, with A being the most important and C being the least important. Tasks can also be prioritized further within these groups by assigning numbers 1, 2, or 3 next to the letters to indicate which task must be completed first.
Pareto Analysis (the 80/20 rule)
The Pareto principle, or 80/20 rule, pertains to the belief that 20 percent of the work you do will generate 80 percent of the revenue in your business. This rule can be applied to everything in business. For example, 20 percent of your customers will generate 80 percent of your revenue.
So once you figure out what that critical 20 percent looks like, you can focus on doing that work first because it will likely bring you the greatest ROI.
POSEC stands for Prioritizing by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing, and Contributing.
Give each of these models a try and see which one is most effective in assisting you with time management in your business.
7. Keep Two To-do Lists
The first to-do list should be your forever to-do list. This is that endless list that always seems to get longer rather than shorter!
The second to-do list should be for this week or each day. If it’s a daily to-do list, limit your tasks to no more than four items.
Having both of these lists will ensure you eliminate overwhelm daily, stay organized, and continue to work through your important tasks.
Use the models above to help you prioritize tasks on these lists. Check things off as you go to stay motivated and on track.
8. Time Management Tips For Small Business Owners: Eliminate Distractions
And while this may be because they dislike their job and are simply counting off the hours until they can clock off, you’re not safe from distractions as a business owner either.
Whether it’s your phone, social media, kids in the background, or the black hole that is the internet that gets you, it’s easy to become distracted from the task you’re working on throughout the day.
Do you know what tends to distract you most often?
For example, is it when your phone vibrates on your desk? Too many tabs open on your computer? Or forcing yourself to concentrate for too long that your attention eventually hits rock bottom?
Once you know what your triggers are, you can then take conscious steps to eliminate these distractions. Although this can be difficult, eventually, this will become a habit that you do without thinking.
Here are some tips to help you avoid distractions:
9. Hire A Business Coach To Help You Stay On Track
If time management has always been a struggle for you, have you ever considered working with a business coach?
The right business coach will understand the challenges you’re facing because they will have experienced them while building their own business. They will work with you to create tailored time management strategies that work for you and the type of business you’re running. And, this will leave you with more time to focus on what you do best.
Investing in yourself and your business is a great habit to get into. Plus, you’re likely to save yourself money in the long run by reducing wasted time and seeing the growth you desire in your business.
10. Focus Your Attention
There’s a vicious urban myth still circulating that praises the art of “multitasking,” but research in neuroscience has proven that our brain cannot handle more than one task at a time.
Hopping between multiple activities might deceive you into thinking you’re achieving lots and staying on top of everything, but the reality is the opposite. The stop and start process costs us precious time and is less efficient.
Focus your attention on one task at a time. This is also known as deep work—a term coined by Cal Newport.
So, what’s the secret to doing deep work?
Be intentional with your time. Block out windows for uninterrupted work between all your other daily responsibilities, as mentioned earlier. Focus on the task at hand. Don’t allow your attention to be captured by anything or anyone else. Fiercely protect your time and use it like it’s a finite resource because it is.
The more you practice focusing your attention, the easier it will become and the less resistance you will feel.
11. Time Management Tips: Master The Art Of Delegation
Delegating tasks to others can be one of the most challenging yet crucial parts of running a business. You know better than anyone that you cannot do it all on your own. But it’s difficult to release control and find someone you can trust to get the job done as effectively as you.
If you’re a solopreneur, consider hiring freelancers to handle specific tasks or projects that you know are not your strength. Chances are they will do these much faster and to a higher standard than you can.
If you manage a team, use them as effectively as possible by playing to their strengths and experience. Avoid unnecessary meetings and focus as much of your time playing to your own unique set of strengths, such as creating new products and services or leadership.
When it comes to deciding what to delegate, think about how much time it would take someone else to complete it compared to you. Would there be extra training or support needed? Would you spend longer reviewing and editing their work than if you were to do it yourself?
The 80/20 rule applies once again here. If someone else can complete a task 80 percent as well as you, that’s a sign that you can and may want to consider delegating it.
12. Invest In Technology To Automate Tasks
There has never been a better time to run your own business than today. Almost anything you can dream of can be automated or streamlined to a certain degree.
For example, using software to handle discovery calls, bookings, and sales. Using a chatbot to answer queries on your website or Facebook page instantly. Tools like Trello and Slack make it simple to keep your team connected and on track even if everyone is working remotely around the world.
If you haven’t yet invested in technology to automate tasks that can easily be automated, why not start today? This is one of the best time management tips that every business owner can implement with little to no cost. The majority of these tools offer free trials, so you can try them out before you buy.
13. Commit To A Time Management System In Your Business That Works For You
As you can see, there are so many different time management tools, systems, and approaches available to you. After trying them out, you may commit to one or combine various methods to create the best time management approach for you.
But when it comes down to it, the system you use doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you understand it, commit to it, and consistently implement it. I could give you a thousand effective time management strategies, and they will be completely redundant unless you stick to them.
Naturally, no matter how much you plan and organize, some days you won’t be able to stick to your schedule and get everything done that you set out to. As long as this doesn’t become a regular occurrence, there’s nothing to worry about. You may choose to work a little later to get back on track or commit to catching up later in the week.
14. Celebrate Your Success
I see too many business owners ticking off goals and accomplishments and immediately setting new ones without pausing to take a breath.
It’s great (and necessary) to be committed to your work, but it’s equally important to reward yourself for the things you do achieve.
A reward can be as small or as grand as you like, depending on what you’re celebrating. For example, when you finish a small task like completing payroll, reward yourself with a ten-minute break and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. When you complete a big project or reach a big goal, treat yourself to something a little more special, like an indulgent massage or an evening out with friends.
Celebrating your success reminds you of how much you’ve done instead of what’s left to do. It also keeps you motivated and can help create a healthier work-life balance.
15. Give Yourself Time To Rest And Recharge
Similarly, it’s easy to get caught up in your work and allow it to take over your life. While it’s true that if you want to start and run a successful business, you will have to make sacrifices, this shouldn’t come at the expense of your health or wellbeing.
As I mentioned earlier, we’re only ever productive for a certain number of hours each day. So even if you sit at your desk for 16 hours, it’s unlikely you’ll achieve much more than if you worked for 10 hours and planned a few more breaks into your day. Plus, it’s important to regularly get up, stretch your legs, give your eyes a break from the screen, and drink in some fresh air.
Schedule short, deliberate breaks of five or ten minutes each hour into your day. This will give you much-needed time and space to pause, reflect, and recharge. You’re bound to feel more inspired, energized, and productive as a result. Sometimes taking a break or even a day off can lead to you having ah-ha moments or breakthroughs that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Getting enough sleep each night (8 to 9 hours) is equally important and can improve your mood, concentration, motivation, and learning capacity. So although it may feel like you’re losing time by staying in bed longer, it’s likely you’ll get more done when you’re well-rested.
Time Management Is Worth Making Time For In Your Business
I hope this article has shown you just how important time management skills are for any business owner or employee, but equally how simple it is to start managing your precious time more effectively.
Start small and focus on implementing one of these tips at a time. When you feel like you’re managing it well, add another strategy. Continue to layer them on top of each other over time.
Do you think a Certified Business Coach can help you improve your time management skills and take your business to the next level?