Time. It’s something that we all take for granted. But, as a business owner, it’s your greatest resource. Without enough time, you’re less likely to achieve your goals. You won’t be able to focus on what’s really important. Less time — adds stress to your already hectic life. And, you can kiss a healthy work-life balance goodbye without it. Here are the time management skills a successful business owner must have.
For the business owner — here are the essential time management skills that you will want to possess.
Work the hours that suit you.
Here’s one of the best things about being your own boss. You can work whenever you want. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can slack off or just come and go as you please. What this means is that you aren’t forced to work that 9-to-5 schedule if it doesn’t fit you well.
For example, let’s say that you’re a parent. Your working hours could be when your children are in school, let’s say around 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. When they’re doing their homework, you could then use that time for administrative tasks or reviewing your calendar for tomorrow.
Another option would be to work around your energy levels. If you’re a morning person, then knock out your most essential tasks bright and early when you have the most energy. Night owls, on the other hand, are more productive in the late morning or afternoon.
What’s more, well have our own ultradian rhythms — which are the body’s rest-activity cycle. But, for most of us, that means that we can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes before we need to take a break.
Keep a time log.
Want to get more done? Then keep a time log so that you can see how you’re spending your time. Additionally, time logging will let you know what your biggest time-wasters are. It will keep you from over-or-underestimating how long certain things take down the road. And, tracking your time encourages you to stop multitasking and hold yourself accountable.
There are actually a couple of ways that you can conduct a time audit. The first would be to track everything that you do throughout the day, such as your morning commute or the time spent on a specific task.
The other way would be to set a timer for every 15 minutes. When the time is up, write down what you did during that block of time.
You could also use time tracking apps and tools like Toggl, RescueTime, or Timely to keep tabs on your digital usage.
Focus on what you do best.
“As much as you need a strong personality to build a business from scratch, you also must understand the art of delegation,” Richard Branson once said. “I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back,” he added. “The company must be set up so it can continue without me.”
When you stop trying to do everything on your own, you’ll not only free up your valuable time. You’ll also make more money. That’s because you have the right people working on the right tasks.
For instance, even if you’re familiar with the basics of accounting or coding, you’re going to spend more time on these tasks, then an expert would. And, you’re more likely to make a costly mistake.
Implement the Two-Minute Rule.
In the famous words of David Allen, “If it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.” Sounds simple, but think of all of those small things that add up. Instead of taking a minute to respond to an email, you wait until the end of the day when your inbox is overflowing. That dish you didn’t wash after lunch? It becomes a dish full of dirty plates.
Furthermore, this rule helps you form new habits. And, most importantly, it can help overcome procrastination. As an example, instead of declaring that you want to read more, start with a small goal like read one page daily.
“The idea is to make your habits as easy as possible to start,” says James Clear. “Anyone can meditate for one minute, read one page, or put one item of clothing away. And, as we have just discussed, this is a powerful strategy because once you’ve started doing the right thing, it is much easier to continue doing it.”
Break your activities down into simple problems.
“Utilizing your consciousness requires more energy and can be avoided by simplifying your problems,” writes Mario Peshev for Entrepreneur. “Excellence in time management revolves around establishing a process and breaking it down into small, atomic operations that are easy to grasp and don’t require intensive resource consumption.” Cutting down your resource consumption is what makes business owners successful. They’re able to take a “complex task and decompose it into pieces, thus making the remaining process easier to comprehend and follow,” adds Peshev. “The simple operations are simple, and executing them doesn’t require dozens of follow-up questions preventing you from checking tasks off your list.”
Don’t fall into the urgency trap.
As a business owner, you have a lot of responsibilities. To make sure that you achieve them, you need to have a system in place. For me, that’s writing down my to-do-list and adding the most important items to my calendar. It’s a simple and effective tactic to make sure that I don’t forget to do anything. And, it allows me to block out time for these actions, so I don’t schedule something else.
Here’s the problem, though. With so many things to do and so little amount of time to get to them — which tasks do I start with? Well, that depends on your specific priorities. These are usually the activities that move you closer to your goals or have a date attached to them. So, your top priorities should always be scheduled first and come before everything else.
Unfortunately, a lot of us get sidetracked by things that are less important — even though they seem deserving of your time and energy. Eventually, your time management and productivity suffer — which is never good for business.
To avoid this, don’t fall into the urgency trap. Identify which items you must do, defer, delegate, and drop. Stick to listing no more than crucial tasks for the day. And focus on your priorities when you have the most energy.
Schedule “me” time.
Scheduling “me time” isn’t a waste of time. Me-time may turn out to be your secret weapon against stress and lack of focus. The more you add to your schedule, the busier you’ll get. Over time you’ll be burning your candle at both ends. As a result, you’ll become burned more. Or, even worse, you’ll be putting your mental and physical health in peril.
Always schedule free time in your day. It doesn’t have to be much. But, if you have an hour of blocked time throughout the day where nothing is listed on your schedule — it can do wonders for you mentally and physically. After all, free time makes us happy, encourages self-care, adds flexibility in our calendars, and recharges our batteries.
Cluster similar tasks.
Switching between tasks all day isn’t practical. It’s chaotic and encourages us to multitask. Think about it. You respond to an email, then rush out the door to speak with a supplier, and then come back to file paperwork. And, in between all that, you have to attend to any problems that your customers or employees are experiencing.
As opposed to jumping all over the place, organize your day by blocking similar tasks together. For example, block out a specific time to clean out your inbox and return call, another to file paperwork, and one more for problem-solving. Depending on your business, you may also need to box out time for meetings, checking your inventory, or testing your products.
Identify and eliminate distractions.
Distractions are the leading cause of poor time management. But, how can you remove them when they’re constantly screaming for your attention?
One way would be to keep a distraction log. It can be as simple as a piece of paper or Word Doc, where you jot down what interrupted you from work and when. For instance, if an employee takes a break at about 10:30 a.m., they may stop by your office to chat with you. The problem is that this is when you don’t want to be disturbed. To correct this, either take a break around the same time or close your office door.
You can also eliminate distractions by putting your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, installing tools that block distracting websites, or scheduling check-ins or phone calls instead of taking them when you have something else planned.
Arm yourself with the right tools.
Finally, surround yourself with the right tools. An online calendar is an obvious choice. But, you may also want to use a tool like Calendar to automate all of your scheduling needs. Evernote and Todoist care useful for managing your tasks. While Hootsuite, Pardot, and Xero can put your social media, email marketing, and accounting in autopilot.
By using these tools to automate your most tedious and redundant tasks, you’ll have the availability to focus on your priorities.
John’s goal in life is to make people’s lives much more productive. Upping productivity allows us to spend more time doing the things we enjoy most. John was recently recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine as being one of the top marketers in the World. John is co-founder and CEO of Calendar.