Work Smarter, Not Harder – The Secret to Time Management

If you’re the owner of a small business, you may often think you don’t have enough time to accomplish all your tasks during the day. For a small-business owner, every minute that ticks on the clock represent money, that can either be earned or wasted.

In a study conducted by Microsoft, researchers found that workers used only about 60% of their available work time. This means that out of a five-day work week, they were productive only three of those days. Now, apply that to your own business. If time is money, then how would you feel about earning only 60% of what you could/should be earning?

The truth is that time is easy to waste, and unless you have a detailed plan of how you’ll spend it, it will go by before you even realize it.

According to a survey conducted by eVoice, a virtual phone service, most small business owners would love to add more hours to the day. In fact, one in four small business owners believe an extra productive hour in the workday would be worth more than $500.

Knowing we don’t have the power to slow down the clock, here are 8 tips that every small business owner can use to make the best use of their time.  Applying these effective time management tips and tools will help you to use your work time more effectively and get most of your tasks done.

Ignore Your Email

This probably sounds a lot easier than what is actually is since most people tend to check theirs every 5-10 minutes. If you add up all the minutes that it takes to constantly check your email and then answer, it’s easy to see why it’s such a time waster.

Instead of being a slave to your email, make it subject to your time constraints. Plan two time periods during the day to check and answer to all of your messages. This will take some serious motivation and discipline, but it will allow you to devote more focus and time to other tasks that might otherwise be continually interrupted by checking email.

If you’re worried that people will get offended by how long it takes you to reply, set up an auto responder that lets people know that you take 10-12 hours to respond, or even 24 hours if your business allows it.

Set Step-by-Step Goals

There is a big difference between setting a goal and setting a detailed goal where the steps and improvements needed to conclude it are marked before. A large number of people set general goals and then never really follow them because don’t know how to implement them.

Therefore, your day should be made up of a series of goals that have specific milestones in order to make the best use of your time for your business. For example, if your goal for the day is to find a new supplier, you should write down all the steps that you will be required to take in order to reach your goal. For example, emailing potential new suppliers, reaching out to old contacts, making a list of items and quantities you’ll need from said new supplier and so on.

Breaking large goals into smaller steps is a great idea to be able to more effectively accomplish your goals since you know in advance what steps must be done along the way. And since they are smaller, they feel more realistic and easier to achieve, making it more motivating.

In addition, once you know you have completed certain steps toward reaching your goal can boost your motivation and you will be eager to perform better afterwards.

Don’t Multi-Task

Researches show that only about 2.5% of people are able to effectively multi-task and still do a good job at each activity. Moreover, the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London shows that a person’s IQ falls 10 points when they’re extremely stimulated by emails, texts, and phone calls.

On the contrary, time management experts estimate that focusing on one thing at a time will double productivity, work output, and performance. And when you’re running a small business, that can mean the difference between success and failure. Push yourself to do one thing at a time by setting a clock or timer for a certain amount of time, and then focus on that one task until it’s finished.

Organize Your Time and Space

It is quite hard to work in an organized way when everything that surrounds you is a mess.  A study done by Esselte shows that 43% of Americans consider themselves unorganized, and that lack of organization causes them to stay late at the office at least two nights per week. This is not the right way to work.

Organization experts agree that the first step in order to increase productivity is to organize your space. Eliminate everything that is unnecessary, then create a system for the things that are necessary. For example, use a color-coded file folder for the items that are urgent, to be done that day, and another for things that can wait until tomorrow. Or if you’re a technological person, use your scanner and create files on your PC or Smartphone using the same kind of system.

You will be required to organize not only your space, but also your time.  With great free online tools such as e.ggtimer, a gadget that works just like an egg timer, you can set the time, and then be alerted when it’s over.

If you realize that you spend a lot of time answering basic sales questions, you should consider the idea to write some template responses that you (or an employee) could personalize in response to questions. In the same way, adding an FAQs page to your website could help free up more of your time. Customer relationship management software can also save a lot of time and effort.

Put It In Writing

Writing your plan on a paper makes it stronger in your mind. By writing down your plan of action for the day, including your goals and milestones in a detailed way, you will be helped with a plan that should support you efficiently during the day. You’ll of course still be confronted with distractions, but if you have a clear understanding of what you need to accomplish for the day, you’ll be more likely to get right back to the task at hand, rather than wasting time with other tasks.

Some experts believe you should create this list the night before. This way, you’ll be able to begin the next day completely prepared, rather than wasting time deciding how to approach tasks and figuring out what you need to get done.

Track Your Time

Without tracking your time, any attempt at improving time management will be a failure. If you don’t track where and how you spend your time, you’ve no idea on how to measure your current time management, or identify what wastes your time or tasks you could delegate to someone.

Start off by recording what you do each day and how long it takes you.
If you think that the amount of additional time you’ll waste tracking your time is not worth the effort, try one of those free time management tools that can help to make this task easier: Toggl,  Yast or  WorkTime.

Delegate Appropriate Tasks

Have a close look at your current workload and see if there are applicable tasks you could delegate to others. Small businesses owners usually think that they do the job better and so are very reluctant in delegating tasks to other people. However, delegation can give you valuable time so you can focus on growing your business rather than spending all your time focusing on the day-to-day activities involved in running of your business.

Prepare a list of tasks you could delegate. Most employees desire to develop in their jobs and would value the opportunity to have added responsibility or the chance to learn new skills. Try not to fall into the trap of only delegating the jobs you don’t really like doing  and remember that you want to free up as much time as possible to allow you to work more strategically and effectively.

Work to Your Personal Productive Times

It makes sense to work when you work best. We all have different cycles and preferences. If you’re a morning person, use this time to accomplish important projects. Schedule more routine things or less creative tasks for the afternoon when you’re in your less productive cycle. Avoid routine production planning meetings during your most productive times.

If you’re not a morning person, get those routine tasks in the morning and then schedule important meetings or big projects for when you’ll be able to give your best.

The old proverb “time is money” is based on reality that isn’t going to change any time soon. If you own a small business, the simplest method to get your income higher is to pay attention to how you’re spending your time, and then make adjustments to help you manage your time in the best way possible.

How do you manage you time?