While there is no denying that running a small business can demand long hours, particularly in the early days, there is a point at which you need to ask yourself a question. Is the time and energy that you are putting in leading to results? Are you working as productively as you could be? In many cases, the answer is “no,” as almost every entrepreneur can take steps to make more efficient use of their time. If you are a small-business owner who is struggling to find the time for all their responsibilities and tasks, here are five steps to smarter time management.
- Identify where you are losing time
Your first job is to take a good look at how you spend your days and identify where you are spending time on unproductive tasks. Keep a log of all the tasks or activities you work through over a few days and how long each of them takes. Think about why certain tasks take longer than others. Are you getting distracted when on social media or taking personal calls during work hours? Are your computer files badly organized, making it harder to find what you need? This will help you to see where you should be making changes to your routine.
- Set yourself specific time-saving goals
If you discover that you are spending a lot of time doing tasks that do not get you closer to achieving your business goals, e.g., replying to personal texts, browsing the internet, or answering calls that are not urgent, it is time to adjust your behavior. Set yourself targets such as “I will not answer personal texts between certain hours,” or “I will not answer unscheduled calls or non-urgent emails until a specific task is complete.”
- Try a time management tool
There are lots of time management tools out there designed to help busy professionals make more productive use of their time. Take a look at some planners, apps, and software programs that will help you to schedule appointments and events and will remind you of them in advance. You could even use them to set yourself time limits on tasks to motivate you to complete them more efficiently and track your productivity.
- Outsource and delegate
Lots of business owners find it difficult to let go of part of their business, but trying to do everything alone can be a big drain on your time and prevent you from spending time where it is most valuable. Consider outsourcing your social media to an agency, your bookkeeping to an accountant, or your website edits to a website support company.
- Stick to a routine and set time limits
Of course, it is not possible to anticipate unforeseen problems or last-minute changes, but for the most part you should be sticking to a routine that suits your productivity. Some people find that they are most productive early in the morning, while others prefer to ease themselves in slowly and leave their big tasks until the end of the day. Find whatever works for you and work out a regular routine for your day, including time limits for certain tasks, e.g., one hour for answering emails in the morning.