Time management tips
Time is priceless, especially when it comes to running a small business. While being your boss is the dream of many, it comes with a lot of responsibility. You are unlikely ever to be able to cross all the items off your to-do list.
Everything from accounting and inventory to networking and marketing rests on your shoulders, and it may seem like there are infinitely many tasks, and time is always short. If you want to maintain a work-life balance, your time management skills need to be at their best.
After all, there are only 24 hours in a day. Some entrepreneurs take this for granted and focus on the main thing, while others spoil their nerves. If you are in the second group, don’t worry.
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By wisely applying time management techniques, you will learn to control your time, make your work efficient, productive, and relatively stress-free. The following time management tips will help you get the job done and also enjoy your free time.
Goal setting is critical to any good time management strategy. To ensure that you are involved in activities that align with your business goals, both short and long term, you need to articulate those goals clearly and clearly.
After all, if your goal is to “grow your business,” you may find yourself overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. To counteract this stupor, many companies use a SMART goal setting methodology to help them get things done and stay on schedule.
The abbreviation SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.” SMART goals provide you with straightforward, step-by-step tasks to help you get where you want to go.
For example, a SMART goal might be: “Increase traffic to my site from 1,000 to 5,000 unique monthly visitors over the next six months.” If we break it down, we see that this is indeed a SMART goal:
Transparent: The goal states what exactly needs to be achieved.
Measurable: A goal can be measured using a dedicated tool, in this case, Google Analytics.
Achievable: Rather than vaguely wanting to increase the number of visitors or setting a goal too high to achieve, this goal indicates a specific number within the limits of the possible but is still ambitious.
Important: Instead of measuring something like site sessions or total site visitors, the goal is to reach potential new customers, which is always essential when developing a small business.
Time-limited: The term for achieving this goal is six months.
Once you’ve established your SMART goals, you can work backward by identifying the individual steps you need to take to achieve your goals. Anything else is a potential waste of time. Your daily plan should revolve around working on tasks and activities directly related to growing your business and generating income.
Once you’ve identified your goals and set specific tasks to accomplish, it’s time to prioritize. Of course, you want to make sure you are doing it right.
Stephen Covey, the co-author of First Things First, provides tips on creating a to-do list based on urgency. He advises evaluating the tasks at hand and categorizing each of them into one of four categories:
Important and urgent: if a task falls into this category, you know it needs to be done right away. Focus your energy on the most critical and urgent tasks before moving on to less time-sensitive issues.
Important, but not urgent: These are tasks that may seem important, but on closer inspection, can be postponed to a later date if necessary. While these tasks are likely integral to running your business smoothly – perhaps you need to update your website or find a better payroll solution – they don’t burn.
Urgent but not necessary: the tasks that create the most “noise”, but when they are completed, have little impact on achieving the long-term goal. In this category, you might get a call from a potential salesperson who wants to work with you, or perhaps a colleague suddenly drops by to ask for a service. Delegate these tasks whenever possible.
Not urgent or essential: low priority tasks that create the illusion of being busy. Perform them later.
Write down three or four “important and urgent” tasks that need to be completed today. When you’re done with each one, cross it off your list. This will help you feel a sense of accomplishment and motivate you to move forward and move on to the next highest priority task.
You are the boss. If you need to decline a request to do something significant and urgent, feel free to do so. The same applies to any projects or activities you identify as pointless: getting ready to move on to more productive tasks. Learn from your experiences, so you don’t waste time later.
One of the worst things you can do is start your day without a clear idea of what needs to be done. While it may seem like you’re wasting 5-10 minutes planning instead of getting started right away, you’ll be surprised how much more efficient you can be just by spending a little time planning your day.
If you plan your time wisely, you can focus on one task at a time, instead of wasting time jumping from one to the other (rarely completing anything). Planning allows you to work smart, not crazy. Depending on your preferences, choose one of the planning options and follow it every day:
Plan the night before: At the end of the day, take 15 minutes to clear your desktop and make a list of the most pressing tasks for the next day. This is a great decompression technique that will make you feel better sitting down at a clean desk in the morning.
Begin to pay attention to how many times you are interrupted while performing an important task. Keep track of how distracted you are, especially on social media. Your smartphone is handy, but it is also highly addictive and one of the most insidious time-wasters known to man.
It can take a lot of willpower, but close the door and turn off your phone to save time as much as possible. Instead of being “always in touch,” schedule a break from completing a task to check email, make a phone call, talk to staff, and more.