Why does it always feel that there are never quite enough hours in the day? Lack of time is a challenge most small online business owners face daily. The very nature of a small business or start-up means constantly juggling multiple tasks, trying not to let anything slip. Small business owners have to wear many hats, dealing tasks ranging from formulating company strategy to changing a printer cartridge.
Interestingly, 50% of small business owners feel lack of time is one of the most difficult aspects of owning a small business – even higher than making a profit! Clearly getting on top of managing your time effectively is something worth conquering. In the US 1 in 4 small business owners believes that just one extra hour in the working day is worth more than $500. Successful time management can help:
- increase productivity
- reduce stress levels
- improve efficiency
- cut time-wasting.
We take a look at some practical, easy to implement tips that will help you better manage your valuable time.
There are always going to be some tasks that need to be prioritised over others. The trick is to ensure you focus on the real priorities rather than just the tasks that are easier or of more interesting. Before embarking on your working day decide what your priorities are. A simple way to do this is to get into the daily habit of categorising tasks into order of importance and urgency. This way you can focus on the tasks that have to be completed today rather than ending up spending your time on something that really could wait. For example categorise tasks into groups –
1 – Critical tasks. Important tasks that have to be completed today or you face significant consequences
2 – Tasks essential to the daily smooth running of your business – important but not so urgent as your critical tasks
3 – Everything else.
Ensure you get everything completed in group 1 before you move onto group 2 and then only move on to group 3 when all the tasks in group 2 are completed. Getting into the discipline of prioritising your daily workload will enable you better focus your time on the areas that matter rather than being sidetracked by the ‘nice’ but not essential’ tasks.
Planning follows neatly on from prioritising. Once you know your priorities then you can schedule them into your day. A schedule can sometimes be more effective than a ‘to do’ list. There is a tendency to just keep adding to a ‘to do list’ until it becomes a very long, endless list of tasks – which is no help to anyone.
Juggling lots of things at the same time makes it difficult to see the wood for the trees. Try putting half an hour aside first thing to plan and prioritise. This will help you feel in more control of what you are doing. Think realistically about what you want to achieve that day and plan your day around those task. At the end of the day it feels rewarding to have completed what you set out to do.
There are certain times of the day that we work better. For example if you know you are a morning person then plan to get all the tasks that you know you need to focus on done first thing. Plan the routine ‘no brainer’ jobs during the afternoon slump time – it’s a far more productive use of your time. Trying to get complex tasks done when you are tired will take twice as long as it would if you were fresh and at your best.
3. Stay motivated
Small online business owners often work from home and as a consequence can find themselves spending long period of time alone. Humans are inherently social creatures so it can be demotivating not having people around to banter with or bounce ideas off. The weight of your business usually rests on your shoulders alone so keeping motivated is essential. Of course everybody has an off day now and then but you need to remain motivated to ensure you stick to plans, manage your time well and stay focused.
- Make time to be social. Try joining small business discussion forums or local networking groups. This can be a good way to share any small business concerns or ideas you have amongst like-minded people.
- Take regular breaks. Typically the human brain uses up its energy reserves in 60-90 minutes so putting time aside to recharge is essential.
- Try exercise. research shows that regular exercise is closely linked to increased levels of motivation.
- Remind yourselves of all the positives. It can be all too easy to focus on the harder aspects of owning a business. Make time to remember all the great benefits there are to being your own boss!
4 . Streamline your processes and organise your work space
Sounds simple but an ordered workspace will make you more efficient. A messy, cluttered environment can be a real distraction. Keep on top of paperwork and have a proper filing system in place.
Think about what processes could be streamlined in your business. For example, do you spend hours a week dealing with customer queries? If so implement a Help / Frequently Asked Question page on your website and direct people there as their first port of call. Can you set up templates for routine communications? The more efficient you can make your systems and processes the more time you will be able to free up.
And, don’t forget there are some excellent automated software and apps available to help you in all aspects of your business such as time management, task management, scheduling, accounting and email, to name just a few. Work out what areas you could do with a bit of help and investigate some of the software on offer.
5. Stop procrastinating
We’ve all been there. It’s all too easy to put off things we don’t won’t to do by focusing our efforts on more enjoyable things. Many a time I’ve put off doing a task I’m dreading by distracting myself with other ‘pressing’ jobs such as tidying the house or surfing the internet. Of course we all know that in long run the unwanted task doesn’t go away and often just gets worse the longer we leave it. So instead of leaving it to fester, grab the bull by the horns and just deal with it. I promise you’ll feel a whole letter better and waste a lot less time by getting uncomfortable tasks done as soon as possible.
“Done is better than perfect”
We also put things off by spending too long trying to get things perfect. Perfectionism can eat up your time like nothing else. Sometimes it’s better to just do ‘good enough’ and get it finished so you can move on to the next thing.
6. Delegate or outsource
We all have things that we are better at doing than others. But as small businesses owners the need for control in all areas of our business can mean we end up doing absolutely everything – even things that we know we could easily delegate or outsource to somebody else. It is always going to be a struggle to keep up with the demands of a small business. According to research, the average small business owner has between 3-6 different roles in any one day. If you want to manage your time more effectively try outsourcing or delegating areas you don’t enjoy or feel confident doing to someone who is better placed to do it. It will free up your time to focus on other important areas.
7. Get rid of distractions
Distractions can disrupt all you good time management intention. You could be cracking on with a priority task only to get distracted by a phone call, email or social media update. Once distracted it can be hard to get back to the task in hand and you can end up wasting a lot of valuable time. Learn what things are most likely to distract you and have a strategy to cut those distractions out until you have got on what you need.
The average American worker admits to “wasting” about 3 hours of a typical 8 hour work day (not including lunch breaks).
For example group together routine tasks such as admin, social media updates, answering non-urgent emails and phone-calls and build in a specific time of the day to deal with all such tasks. Put your phone on silent log-out of the social media, close the door and focus on getting on with what is important.
The very nature of small business means we’ll always want more hours in the day. Of course that’s impossible, however getting on top of time management will help you better cope with the many jobs and pressures you deal with on a daily basis. In return increasing your productivity and helping lower your stress levels.
We’d love to hear your own tips on time management – so please do share you thoughts and experiences.