Whether you’re just starting your business or are a seasoned business owner, time management strategies are essential for stimulating long-term growth, increasing revenue and improving your life-work balance. Since the goal of time management is to eliminate wasted time, let’s get right to it!
In this guide, you’ll learn:
What time management is
Why it’s important for your business
Nine effective time management skills
How to hit your time management goals
By definition, time management is the process of using your time effectively. For business owners, time management in the workplace is a tool for increasing productivity, lowering stress, and achieving business goals. For employees, these productivity skills help you stand out in your current position, and are transferable skills that can carry you across industries, throughout your career.
You’ve heard the phrase, “time is money.” Nowhere is this truer than in your business. The time management techniques below will help you organize your time, identify important tasks, eliminate time wasters, and save time. By looking at your time as an element of your business strategy, you can quickly find ways to improve the quality of your work without adding more hours or stress to your day. The end result? A more productive business that’s set for increased success and revenue.
No matter how efficient you are as a businessperson, old equipment can slow you down. Instead of banging on your stone-age cash register, hoping it will decide to work today, invest in some updates that will greatly benefit your business. Whether it’s a new computer for your design business or a virtual terminal so you can accept credit card payments with ease, faster, newer tech gives you more time to focus on your customers and other tasks.
When you own a business, there’s a common urge that you need everything to be done, up-to-date, or fixed right now. But when you make everything priority #1, you are really giving priority to nothing. Prioritization provides clarity and an organized path from tasks A–Z. The best way to improve your prioritization skills is to start making task lists. When ordering your list, think about the following questions to determine what comes first, next, and last:
What are your urgent tasks? These are tasks with a deadline or those that need to be addressed in order for other parts of your business to run smoothly.
What tasks are important for your long-term goals? These are mid-level tasks. They are important to you but don’t have an immediate need.
What tasks can you give away or throw away? You can always find a number of tasks to fill your to-do list, but not all of them are necessary.
You know that project you’re really dreading? Make today the day and get it done. Every day you put off a task, you increase the stress around it, and therefore your general stress goes up while that task continues to poke at the back of your mind. Not to mention the fact that work done at the last minute is rarely high quality, and if the task is important, you want to be able to address it to the best of your ability.
A good time management skill is to do the hardest, longest task first, even when you don’t want to. It might not be fun, but when you’re done, you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of your day, without having the sword of Damocles over your head.
You don’t have to do it all. If you’re like most business owners, you’re conditioned to think everything about your business is on your shoulders, but this is not true. One of the best things you can do for your business is to practice effective communication skills and delegate tasks. Not only does this take some of the burdens off of you, it also shows trust in your colleagues, giving your workers the confidence they need to grow in their own careers.
As a business owner, distractions are everywhere, from customer requests to employee issues to personal life concerns. Instead of trying to manage distractions while you work, separate yourself from distractions so you have space to finish your task. Set aside time that is just for your project, and remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of your business until you are finished. When you’re done, take time to address any employee or client concerns, questions, or emails before moving on to your next project.
When you’re working against a time limit, taking a break can feel like a failure. You want to simply push through and get to the end. However, when you’re working at top-speed, using all your concentration, your mind and body can become exhausted. Taking a short 5–10 minute break every hour or so rejuvenates your mind, giving you the energy you need to accomplish any task and do it well.
Let’s say you own a sole-propriety web design company. Your schedule is full when a new potential client comes to you, asking for a large job with a nice payout. Do you say no to new business and the extra income?
For many of us, the idea of turning down work does not feel like an option. But remember, you already have a full schedule. Adding another job will increase your stress, take time away from family and fun, and could lead to a lower quality of work for all your clients as you try to balance it all. Time management isn’t just about managing the tasks you have; it also teaches you to draw lines and understand your personal limits, so you can consistently produce your best work.
If you are working on multiple projects at the same time, your brain has to keep switching gears. Not only does this “switch” take time; it also makes it easy to lose track of where you were, miss details and make mistakes that you later have to correct, adding even more time to each project. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that humans, on average, can only hold 3–5 meaningful items in our minds at once. So if you have multiple projects with multiple moving parts, there’s just no way for your brain to keep up.
Another problem with multitasking comes back to your to-do list. Say you spend 4 hours on three projects, but only do about half of each project. You’ve done a ton of work, but you can’t take a single item off your to-do list! Instead, use your time wisely by focusing on one task at a time and crossing items off your task list one by one.
In the multitasking section, we talked about how your brain needs to switch gears between tasks. No matter what, this is going to take a little bit of time, but there are ways to minimize the time wasted on moving from task to task. One of these is called batching.
As the name suggests, batching is the practice of putting similar tasks together. This helps reduce the stress on your brain since it’s easier to switch between related items. Plus, it can save physical time spent moving to another area of your office, clearing away papers, or turning off programs that you’ll need to come back to later.
Time management skills take time to develop, and that’s okay! Remember that every step you take is going to help your business tremendously. One way to stop from getting overwhelmed is to add one skill into your daily routine at a time. As you master each skill, you’ll gain confidence in the process, and it will become easier and more natural to add in other project management techniques. As you go, set goals and track your success to visualize improvements. Before you know it, you’ll be a time management pro!