If there’s one resource everyone wishes they had more of, it’s probably money, followed closely by time. There never seems to be enough of it in the day, especially for small business owners responsible for running their companies. It’s even more difficult if you’re the only one running it, making time management an essential skill to learn. If you need a better way of managing your valuable time, here are some tips.
It’s tempting to start setting up a system right away, especially if you know the results could be a huge help to your company, but chances are you’re starting with an incomplete picture. In order to make a system that works for you, you need to know exactly how you’re spending your time now, allowing you to see exactly where that time is being wasted. Track the hours you search for new business trends, time spent talking to customers, time spent packing products, and everything else you do on a daily basis. Make sure every hour is documented for at least two weeks, and see what patterns emerge. Are there regular times when your energy flags? Do you spend too much time on your phone? Are other distractions disrupting your focus? Don’t be ashamed of anything you document. It’s all important data to help you improve.
Start the Day Before
In order to manage your time better today, you should have prepared yesterday. At the end of each work day, or even before you go to sleep, make a list of the things you want to achieve the next day. It may take some practice to see which lists are realistic and which are ambitious. If you keep scheduling too much into your days, leaving you with incomplete to-do lists, you’ll always feel defeated, even when you’re accomplishing a lot. Make sure you give each task a priority level, so you know which tasks must be done first and which can wait. After that, make sure you get enough quality sleep and plan healthy meals for the day. Otherwise, you’ll be shooting your focus in the foot before you even get to work!
It’s easy for multitasking to feel productive, especially when you’ve got a handful of tasks going at once, but in reality, you’re splitting your focus and taking more time to complete all the tasks than you would by focusing on them one by one. When you’re dealing with one task, doing anything else is merely a distraction, and distractions make you prone to mistakes. You may miss important information that has consequences for later. You might put in the wrong quantity for an order, or make a mistake on a custom request. If you’re handling money, you might get the wrong amount or give incorrect change.
If you track your time and notice a common distraction, you know you need to eliminate it in your workplace. If it’s your phone, use an app to control your access to games, social media, or other distractions. If you need your phone for work and keep getting distracted, try removing the apps during the day, or consider using a separate phone for work. The way your workspace is set up could also be distracting. Try reorganizing and see if that makes a difference.
To get a handle on using your time effectively, take scheduled breaks during the day. You can use this time to decompress, evaluate your progress, and transition to new tasks. It can take your brain some time to switch, which is part of what makes multitasking so ineffective. There’s also no shame in altering your schedule if some tasks are taking longer than intended.
Time management isn’t always easy, and is often an ongoing project for many small businesses. As you grow and evolve, your needs will too, especially if you hire people to help you meet your goals. With these new skills, you’ll be able to adapt and use your time wisely no matter where you are on the journey.