Working from home offers some great benefits for small business owners. Potentially your working hours are flexible – you can start early or finish late. Plus, there is the added bonus of not having to build commuting times into your day. In theory, time is on your side and achieving all you need to in a day is a breeze. Or is it?
Stress effects productivity
In reality, and speaking from experience, more often than not most of us working from home feel we rarely achieve all we set out to do; spending more time on a work task than it warrants or distracted by bits around the house that ‘urgently’ need doing. Poor time management can make you feel out of control and stressed, which in turn affects your overall productivity.
Never enough hours in the day
Small business owners often feel that there are never enough hours in the day and have to juggle their precious time wearing multiple hats such as salesman, accountant, customer services, marketer and administrator.
Indeed a study from Mavernlink found that small business owners:
- viewed ‘Time’ as their most valuable business asset – ahead or more tangible assets like a computer.
And when asked, small business owners found:
- covering multiple jobs and lack of time were the most difficult aspects of managing a small business.
So, in an attempt to better manage my own time working from home I scoured the internet for the time management tips that I felt were most likely to help keep me motivated and focused on the task in hand.
Seven simple techniques to help you better manage your time
1. Work out clear goals and objectives
It is often hard to see the wood from the trees when you are trying to juggle all sorts of business issues. Therefore, taking time out to create a clear picture of what it is you need to achieve can help you focus and plan effectively. An overall goal will help you implement useful medium and short-term objectives to plan your days around. Try using the SMART acronym when setting your long, medium and short-term objectives, plan your goals and objectives to they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
2. Get organised
Don’t under-estimate the importance of an organised, clutter free work space. There is nothing more annoying or time-wasting than trying to locate a vital piece of paper buried under a huge pile of unfiled paperwork. Get a good filing system in place, sort out your paperwork into urgent, non-urgent, filing or recycling. A clear work space will also stop you procrastinating and thinking ‘I must tidy up’ rather than getting on with what’s on your to do list…
3. To do list
Okay an old, familiar one but still a really useful time-management tool if used properly. Creating a daily list of tasks, ranked in order of priority and deadlines can help keep you focused on the key tasks of the day. It’s all too easy to spend time on the areas you enjoy and put off dealing with something that you find boring or difficult. Keep a single to do list that you can tick off tasks once they are done (which is actually surprisingly satisfying and motivating). Remember though, be realistic – only put down what can be feasibly achieved in a day – don’t put down a week’s worth of work.
Learn to prioritise. We all find ways to put off tasks we don’t enjoy even if they are the most urgent or important. The NHS suggest that you should group your tasks into four categories with the aim of being able to become better at reducing the number of ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ tasks:
- Urgent and important
- not urgent but important
- urgent but not important
- neither urgent nor important
This way you will start being able to focus on non urgent important tasks and minimise the chance of them turning urgent.
4. Do not disturb
I’ve just started not getting up every time my house phone rings. I was finding some days I’d be up and down like a yo-yo – usually for unsolicited and unwanted sales calls. Now I figure that if it is important people will leave a message or call me on my mobile. It is far more productive to try to schedule in time to answer non-crucial emails and telephone calls at a point that suits you, rather than continuously interrupting your workflow. If you have a busy household why not try putting up a ‘do not disturb’ when you have to get something important done.
Where you can , delegate. Have a look at your workload to see if there some areas that really don’t need your input and could be delegated out. For example general correspondence, customer service, administration tasks or basic accounting. If you are a one man band then of course it is going to be difficult to delegate tasks, however if you can find a way to outsource some tasks externally then it can leave you more time tackle the more important and strategic areas you need to build your business.
6. Tools and Systems that can streamline your time
Implementing systems and processes for everyday tasks can help free up time. For example if you deal with a large amount of similar customer service queries than think about putting a FAQ page on your website that you can direct typical queries to. Putting together formatted templates for standard emails or letters will also help save time you time. Consider implementing customer relationship management software to help you manage customer data and information more efficiently. Essentially, take a look at your business and see where systems and processes could be implemented to help free up your time and organise your business better.
7. Take a break
Take regular breaks from your workspace – it really does help productivity. When you have a lot on it is always tempting to stay at your desk and work through lunch. Although this can actually be counter productive. Taking a lunch break, perhaps getting 30 minutes fresh air will re-energise you ready for the next part of the day. According to the NHS:
“As a general rule, taking at least 30 minutes away from your desk will help you be more effective in the afternoon…go for a walk outdoors, or better still do some exercise, you’ll come back to your desk re-energised, with a new set of eyes and renewed focus”.
There is no magic wand for small business owners working from home that will give you the hours you feel you need in a day but hopefully implementing at least a few of these time management tips will help keep the stress at bay and give you back a little control.
We’d really love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.
Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net: Alarm clock: Keattikorn, Old Documents: Nuttakit, To Do list: Stuart Miles, Do not disturb: Smarnad, Cuppa: Michelle Meiklejohn