Realistic Time Management Tips for Small Business Owners
Time Management Techniques for the Workplace
Everyone has suggestions for how to best manage time at work, but not every idea is helpful. Each worker has their own rhythm, their own flow, or their own method for getting things done.
As a small business owner, it’s important to recognize that time management isn’t just about knowing how to get the most amount of work done in the least amount of time; it also means better life management (i.e., work-life balance). If you are missing deadlines or missing out on life events because you’re having a hard time staying on task or disconnecting from work, then these time management techniques just might help put things into perspective.
Another thing to consider: Time management is a fluid concept and should be adaptable. Personalize your time management techniques to what works best for you and your company. There are hundreds of tips and tricks out there for managing time, but not every strategy is going to work for you. And what does work for you is not necessarily going to work for your employees, either; be willing to try new time strategies, because it’s the end result that’s important – not how you got there.
Take Time to Evaluate Your Time
The first step to effective time management is figuring out where time is wasted. Many online time management systems offer analytics and data, so take advantage of that information.
Are you wasting time using software that isn’t helping you stay on track? Learn more about some options for time management and tech.
A pen and paper (or a spreadsheet) can also work for tracking how your time is spent each day. Whatever tool you use, keep a log of what you do each day for a week and then review the list to see if you can identify what tasks are “gumming up the works” or any trends in the distractions you experience.
Once you have a good idea of how you’re spending your time, create a “stop doing” list. This is where you can group all the habits, distractions and even actual work-related tasks that are preventing you from getting the most important work done. (After all, is it really essential that every task be done by you and you alone? Delegating can not only help you optimize your own schedule; it can also help your employees be more effective for your company).
Practice Saying No
We all tend to take on too much. Practice saying “no” when asked to take on new tasks so you can use that time and energy to do what you want to be doing. Others may not be aware of everything you’re working on when they ask you about new projects, so looping them in on your to-do list can help make sure everyone’s on the same page.
There are also a few things you can do to within your work environment to indicate that you’re not available for new tasks (or distractions) right now, like setting up an email out-of-office reply, putting up a sign saying, “Do not disturb,” and putting away your phone. When in-person interruptions do inevitably happen, try standing up – this encourages passersby to be quick to the point so you can get back to what you were working on.
Manage Expectations – Yours and Others
There’s already a lot out there on how to manage expectations, so here are just a few of our top picks for quick wins you can implement immediately:
- Set agendas for meetings and stick to them. And don’t be afraid to ask others to provide an agenda before you agree to meet.
- Ask for and give timelines. If something can wait a few weeks, let people know that when you assign the task. And if the deadline someone gives you for a project seems unrealistic, ask them what their real “must have” date is.
- Don’t schedule your entire day; instead, schedule around 75% and leave time for travel, the unexpected, and other interruptions.
- Shorten emails, create walking meetings, set no-meeting days: whatever it takes to cut the waste from your day.
- Proofread everything. If you have to do it over again, that just takes more time from your day and likely someone else’s, too.
Identify “Productive Procrastination” Habits
While this may seem counterintuitive, procrastinating is not always a bad thing. Creating a “procrastination list” (a list of things to work on when you are delaying work on other projects) can help you get through projects that might not otherwise get done. This will also likely get you back into your flow and back to work on the projects you really need to work on.
Delegate and Outsource
If you find yourself doing a little bit of everything, maybe you need to delegate or outsource some of your tasks to others.
For instance, are you doing HR tasks when you should be focused on your business? Most HR professionals spend nearly three-quarters of their time on tedious administrative tasks.
Considering outsourcing your daily HR tasks? Learn more about the ROI of HR outsourcing
Use Technology and Tools
There are several ways you can make the technology you already have work better for you: Learn keyboard shortcuts that save you time in the long run. Set alarms and timers to remind yourself to stop or start projects. Share your electronic calendars with others so everyone is on the same page.
Similarly, consider consolidating your programs and apps so they fulfill more than one purpose. Single-use programs and multiple passwords require more time than those that achieve multiple goals or have a single sign-on process.
Pay attention to how you organize and share your electronic (and paper) files. Disorganization is one of the key time wasters for many people. Using cloud-based services to store your documents and share them with others will save time, energy, and help the environment.
Here’s the bottom line: The key to time management is to find what works for you and stick to it.
Ready to learn how outsourced HR with G&A can help with your time management? Let’s talk!