You may have heard the well-known saying ‘time is money’ and nodded your head in agreement. However, this old adage becomes much more meaningful and pressing when running a small business. This is because time really is of the essence, and not using it productively could result in poor decision-making that costs you money and causes you stress. That’s why good time management is essential for small business success.
Here are 4 time management tips to help keep your time (and business) on track.
This may sound obvious, but planning ahead is an essential aspect of time management. You’d be surprised at how few people do this effectively and soon discover that time runs away from them.
You can plan ahead by simply making a list of all the things that need to be done that week in advance and grouping tasks by priority, project or type. You can use a notepad and pen or one of the many online tools available. Some people find whiteboards beneficial as they provide an easy-to-glance-at visual.
The benefit of grouping similar tasks or having allocated days of the week to work on certain things is that you can be more focused rather than skipping from one task to another – which can lead to multitasking and confusion.
For example, you might do marketing on a Thursday and admin-related chores such as invoicing and taking stock of inventory on a Friday. Once you have a clear overview of what the week has in store, it’s much easier to manage and allocate work to specific times or days. Ideally, you should be able to zoom out and apply this to your monthly and even yearly workflows, so you have a road map of what needs to be done and when.
It’s important that you try to complete all your allocated tasks on a daily basis so as not to create bottlenecks that impact the rest of your week.
As Jim Rohn was quoted as saying: “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”
A giant distraction for most people nowadays is social media and various smartphone apps, and small business owners are not exempt from getting sucked into such intentionally tempting distractions.
Where you can, limit your time on social media, and if you are using social media to market your business, schedule posts in advance, use an automated scheduler or hire a social media manager to do it for you. This can free up a tonne of your valuable time.
If you are constantly distracted by your smartphone, consider getting hold of a smartphone lockbox. These now come with timers, too, so your phone spends time ‘in jail’ while you get to focus on your business.
Other distractions, especially if you work remotely in a busy household, might be family or even pets – so always ensure you have an allocated organized work space and time so friends and family (and furry ones) know you are ‘in the zone’ and are not to be disturbed. Admittedly, the furry ones might not always take note!
Delegate and automate
As a small business, it makes perfect sense to delegate or outsource tasks you are not an expert at or take too much of your precious time. But first, you need to identify those tasks and evaluate what options are available to you. Most tedious admin jobs can be outsourced to a Virtual Assistant (VA) or be performed by an app.
Take invoicing, for example. Good invoice software allows you to effortlessly send your invoices at the push of a button. You can also automate otherwise time-consuming tasks, such as reminders for past-due invoices.
As well as streamlining your invoice admin, Invoice Ninja, a leading free invoicing software for small business invoicing, online payments, tracking expenses and billable tasks, has a helpful inventory feature and product library. You can set inventory stock in your product library with threshold notifications. When you create invoices and populate invoice line items, the inventory stock levels will reduce automatically. When your stock runs low, the system will email you a notification reminder to stock up. All freeing up valuable time.
Track and hack time
It makes sense to track time spent on tasks to establish where the bulk of your time is spent. If there are any ‘time wasters, ’ you can deal with them accordingly. If you have staff, it makes sense to track their time, too (not intrusively, of course), to see if you can identify any areas that need review. For example, is time being eaten up by unnecessary meetings that could be handled just as well over an email?
Another way to use time productively could be by adopting the Pomodoro Technique. Some freelancers and small business owners swear by it. This is where you set a timer for 25 minutes and, in that time, focus on the task at hand with no distractions. Once the alarm sounds, you take a five-minute break and start again. After following this process four times, take a more extended break.
With all the points mentioned above, try to be realistic with the number of hours you have in a day. It’s simply not possible to be super focused all the time and, in any event, counter-productive. So make sure you schedule in time for the unexpected, over-runs and, most importantly, ‘You’ time.
Good time management is about good work-life balance.
And as we started on a well-known saying, it’s apt to end with an appropriate one too.
‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.’