7 Important Time Management Strategies for Small Business Owners
Being a small business owner comes with many challenges, of which managing your time can be one of the most difficult.
When you feel pulled in so many directions, it can be hard to focus on the tasks that really matter. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you never have enough hours in the day.
And often the biggest casualties (alongside your stress levels, your relationships and your own health!) are those key strategic projects that would actually help things run more efficiently. If only you could find the time to do them!
The good news is that there are strategies you can use to manage your time more effectively. And make sure you have enough time for the things that really matter.
In this blog post, I’ll share seven ways to help you better manage your time, and take control of your workload, so that you can achieve your goals for your business, and find a healthier work-life balance.
Know what’s important … and what’s not
This is all about knowing what your goals are. Goal setting is an incredibly powerful strategy – in all areas of life – because it drives our focus towards the things that matter.
When we don’t have clear goals, we are much more likely to be pulled off track. Imagine you’re driving to an important meeting, at a venue you’ve never been to before. Before even getting in your car, you’ll make sure you know the address, so you can know which direction to head in, which turns to take … and which turns will take you off course.
Setting goals is just like confirming the address of your destination. They then become the anchor-point you can use to decide where to focus your time and energy, what to defer, and what to say “no” to
Plan your day the day before
Managing your time comes down to managing your focus every day … and from moment to moment within your day.
This comes down to ensuring you have a clear plan each day that sets out what are your most important tasks to complete in that day. How do you decide what they are? Here’s a clue – what are the next logical steps, that you can accomplish in that day, which will take you closer to your goals.
Identify these steps, write them into your daily plan, or schedule, and decide which one you will do first.
When you do this the day before, you are then able to launch into the day knowing what your first most important task is, and you start on it immediately and get it done. Starting each day off with a “win”.
Schedule your priorities
In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey noted how most of us get drawn into focussing our time and energy on tasks that are urgent, rather than prioritising those things that are important. The ones that move you towards your goals!
As a result, a major block for many business owners is that those strategically important projects – that will accelerate what you want to create in your business – continually fall by the wayside.
Projects like systematising or automating processes; updating operations manuals, so that your team operates more effectively; creating or updating your customer relationship management system (CRM), so you are better able to serve your clients, and create new opportunities for your business. And so much more …!
It takes discipline to choose to ringfence time to focus on these priority projects. And only you can do it. Here’s how:
- Block the time in your schedule, and commit to it.
- Imagine this time is a meeting with your #1 priority client.
- Do whatever you need to do to ensure you won’t be interrupted.
- And do it.
Say ‘No’ more than you say ‘Yes’
Your time is your most valuable asset. And it is the one asset in your business and your life that you can never replace. So, treat it as the incredibly valuable asset that it is.
Highly successful people say “no” to most of the things that come across their radar, so they can protect their time, and put it towards the things that really matter.
For every task, request, or opportunity that comes your way, ask yourself “does this take me towards my goals”. If it doesn’t, it’s usually a “no”.
This does require discipline. But the alternative is overwhelm, which reduces our productivity, the quality of what we produce, and impacts the engagement and effectiveness of your team, if you have one.
Saying “no” is not unprofessional; it preserves your and other people’s valuable resources (time included!), and in today’s world it is the hallmark of a successful business person.
Remove distractions from your environment
As humans we have a natural tendency to be distractible. And we live in a world which is filled with “triggers” that can easily grab our attention and lead us down a rabbit hole. How often have you found yourself “just checking something” online, or “just sending one email” … and you surface 30 minutes, even an hour later wondering “where did all that time go?”
An essential skill for business owners today is learning how to reduce your exposure to distractions. There are many ways we can do this.
A great place to start is to remove, as much as possible, distractions from your environment. For example, turning off notifications from email and other apps, and instead scheduling a time when you will proactively check and respond to incoming messages.
And when you do venture online, I recommend setting a timer, just in case your attention does get hijacked!
Take breaks throughout the day
It is important to take breaks throughout the day when working on complex projects or other long-term assignments.
This helps reduce stress levels, and allows you to recharge your mental energy so you can remain productive throughout your workday.
Scheduling regular breaks into your daily routine — even if it’s just a few minutes every hour — allows your brain to stay focussed and gives you more mental clarity. So you are able to accomplish your tasks more quickly, and more effectively.
Choose an Abundant Time Mindset
Your mind is listening to everything you think and say, and taking all of it on board … as an instruction. And your mind will deliver on that.
Every time you look at your schedule and think “I’m just too busy to get everything done”, you are training your brain for that outcome.
Every time you get to the end of the day, and say to yourself “I never have enough time in the day to get through everything I need to do”, again you are programming your mind to keep recreating that experience in your life.
If you want to have more than enough time to accomplish everything that matters in your business, and your life, you must start programming that outcome into your mind.
And it starts with consistently holding to the perspective that “I always have more than enough time for everything that matters”. This is an affirmation, a direction to your mind and your brain, to support you in creating this result.
Try it, and see what happens. (If you want more on how to get affirmations to “stick”, reach out to me for additional success tips.)
Bonus success tip
Something in the past that has often been left out of conversations about “time management” is the essential role your own health and wellbeing have on your productivity.
Your brain does not operate in isolation. It requires a lot of energy, and the right ingredients, to run efficiently!
So, prioritising the essentials for health will make a massive difference in your ability to manage your time well. This includes drinking plenty of water, good nutrition, moving every day, and getting enough good quality sleep.
Your time is the only asset in your business – and in your life – that you absolutely cannot ever replace.
So, managing your time is essential if you want to achieve success as a small business owner. However, it can seem impossible at first glance, with all the competing demands you face every day!
In truth, there are many things we can do to manage our time, and to be more focussed and more effective in what we do. These seven strategies are just the tip of the iceberg!
Putting these in place, consistently, will make a huge difference, so go ahead and make a start now, and watch as efficiency levels skyrocket! And give yourself permission to ask for help if you need to. Here’s to your success!
About the Author:
Anna McKinlay helps women running their own businesses from home to exceed their business goals, while also having time for their relationships, health, and self.
After her own experience with burnout in 2012 – while juggling a challenging career, parenting her young children, and all the “stuff” of managing a household – Anna pivoted, and retrained. To be able to focus her strengths, skills, and experience on helping others to avoid the same pitfalls.
Since pivoting, Anna has earned an Associate Credentialed Coach Credential with the International Coaching Federation, a certification as a Freedom Formula Facilitator, and become an authorised Corporate Plus Coach, through Life in Balance.
She has helped individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses around the world to improve productivity, well-being, and motivation, to lift results in all areas. Her particular areas of specialty are self-leadership, goal achievement, time mastery, well-being, emotional management, and resilience. To learn more about her work see: www.annamckinlay.com