Tackle what tasks are most important and clip the rest.

You’ve heard the expression ‘time is money’, and nowhere is this more apt than among small business owners. Recent surveys suggest that many entrepreneurs regard time as their most valuable asset, more so than their premises or equipment.

If you’re running a small business, the pressures of time management will be all too familiar to you. When you’re having to routinely juggle the roles of CEO and Finance Director, Marketing Manager, HR and Admin Department, is there ever enough time in the day to get everything done? No wonder, then, that managing your time efficiently is one of the key criteria for business success.

Here are some valuable time management tips that will help you improve the way you spend your day, for the benefit of both your business and your personal wellbeing.

Review Current Time Management Practices

Start by building up a picture of where and how your time is currently spent, so that you can identify where your process has bottlenecks. Make a spreadsheet listing all the important business tasks that need to be carried out and how much time should be spent on each. You can create meaningful categories for your business such as client meetings, sales calls, marketing activities, product delivery, invoicing/bookkeeping, and so on.

Now track the actual time spent by you on each of the tasks you listed. Be meticulous in your time logging and do it for a week or two to get accurate data and a good overview. At the end of the period, take a look at the information you’ve gathered for each category and see what insights you can gain.

Compare Actual and Desired Time Allocation

By comparing the desired situation with the actual scenario, you’ll be able to see where the discrepancies arise. Are you spending most of your time on the most important tasks? If not, there could be two reasons for this:

  • You made a mistake with your first list, failing to recognize the most important tasks for your business. Review the list and repeat the process.
  • Your first list is correct but you are failing to manage the time dedicated to each task. If this is the case, you need to make positive changes to how you manage your time.

Make Adjustments to Time Management Tasks

Go through every task line with a fine tooth comb to discover where you’re spending too much time. Which tasks are the time wasters? Once identified, you can choose to:

  • Delegate: Find an employee with a suitable skill set that you could assign tasks. If you’re finding it hard to relinquish control, this should be tackled as an issue that might stop you from growing the business in the future.
  • Hire: Are you trying to do it all yourself, limited by the fact that there’s only 24 hours in a day? Do you need extra resources to help you cope with the workload? Identify the type of assistance you need and recruit extra staff to help drive the business forward.
  • Drop: Consider each task carefully and determine whether it needs doing at all. Could some jobs be changed or eliminated altogether? Whether you spend hours answering emails or go to every networking event in the area, perhaps there are different ways of achieving the desired results?

Implement Vetted Time Management Techniques

At the end of the above process, you’ll be left with all the tasks you need to carry on doing. This is where specific time management techniques can be very useful to help you maximize available time.

  • Use to-do lists to help with personal organization, task prioritization and productivity, which will allow you to focus your time and energy on high value activities. Whether you scribble on a piece of paper, use your smartphone’s memo pad or dedicated task management apps, the main thing is that all the important jobs get done.
  • Have you got into the habit of holding a lot of unstructured meetings with no real outcome? While these can be a real time sink, there are many ways to use meetings much more effectively. Start by reducing their number, keep them short and on a tight agenda, with a specific action plan to follow through.

Don’t underestimate the benefit of making space for periodic breaks in your schedule. Being on the hamster wheel all day long can be exhausting, while stepping away from your work now and again will allow you to refresh and recharge, improving your productivity levels over the longer term. If you’re struggling, use The Pomodoro Technique as a simple way to add breaks into your workday.