Finding enough time is a challenge for many small business owners. There is never enough time to get everything done, especially when you're wearing a lot of different hats and taking on many different roles. Not only is it frustrating, but it can be stressful to feel like you're bouncing from task to task and never really crossing things off your list.
There is hope, however. You can develop a method to manage your time by setting goals, planning activities, prioritizing and trusting others to complete tasks. If you can do this, you can increase the amount of time you have during the day.
The foundation of good time management is knowing where you're going and how to get there. Setting goals can help you create a plan to guide your business where you want it to be.
It is difficult to accomplish anything without specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goals. When it comes to time management, productivity, and goal attainment, working to accomplish the small, short-term goals matters the most.
You can start by breaking down your long-term goals into monthly goals, then break them down even further into weekly and daily goals. Your goals for each day will help you set a target and measure when you've hit it successfully.
Plan Your Activities
Plan your month, week, and days based on the goals you have set for yourself, and the work that needs to be done. You might need to make book entries every day, so plan that time. Plan your feedback sessions with employees in advance. Plan time for everything you need to do.
The most effective way to plan your monthly activities is to plan time for your planning. Use this planning time to check your monthly performance indicators, check for employees due for a feedback session, and search for business opportunities you might look into.
If you have set monthly goals for your business, work backward from the date you want the goals accomplished. Plan some checkpoints for the tasks that need to be completed for the goals to be reached.
Prioritize the checkpoints by subtasks that need to be completed—for example, if task A needs task B to be completed, plan the activities needed for task B by the end of the first week so that task A can be finished at the end of the second week. Do this for all your weekly, monthly, and semi-annual goals.
By creating a plan to guide your employees and yourself towards your smaller goals, you create a path towards larger goal achievement. Communicate your plans and goals with your employees. You want them to understand where you want to be. You may even get some feedback from them that could be beneficial to accomplishing your goals.
Pick a System and Commit
There are many time management and productivity systems, including specific software, online apps, and even overall philosophies. It really doesn't matter what system or approach you use, only that it's something that you buy into, understand fully and keep up with.
If you struggle to find an approach to time management that you can commit to fully, try combining the ideas of a few different philosophies to create the perfect time management and productivity tool for you.
All of the tools and planning will not do you any good if you don't stick with your plan. This is the hardest part of managing your time—making yourself do the tasks you planned to do. Some days you might not be able to accomplish something at the planned time.
There are a few ways to ensure you accomplish the tasks that escape and everything else you planned to do. In your plan, set aside time each day to catch-up on tasks that get pushed back. Or, you could stay later than usual and make sure that they get done.
A benefit to planning some catch-up time—if you are all caught up, or no tasks have slipped by, you could take a break or go talk to your employees. A boss that stops by to chit-chat is a great motivator.
If all the tasks you have to accomplish are balls, you are the juggler. You have glass balls (high priority, tasks you cannot drop), and rubber ones (lower priority, tasks you can drop). Drop the wrong ones, and they break. The rubber ones bounce back up and you keep juggling. You may want to prioritize your tasks.
Know Your Priorities
You may not get everything done, every day. Most of us will always have a few items leftover every day that we didn't get completed. You might think about establishing a priority task list, or at least know which ones you can drop.
In order to avoid that dropping a glass ball, take time to clarify what your priorities are and schedule the time to do your most important tasks when you are most productive. Or, as mentioned previously, use the pre-planned time to catch up.
Find Your Productivity Zone
Some people are the most productive first thing in the morning, when their minds are fresh and before everyone else is fully awake. Some people prefer digging into important work mid-day when their momentum is full-throttle, and still, others are night owls who leave the most important work for the end of the day when ideas and concepts have had time to settle.
You can cut down on the time it takes you to complete your work by identifying when you work best, are most productive, and plan your most important work for that time. You can boost your productivity even more if you're able to reduce distractions and interruptions during this focused work time.
Track Your Time
Time tracking with a dedicated time tracking tool can be an excellent way to manage time, even when you don't need to track your time spent on the client or billable work.
Tracking your time throughout the day can help you increase productivity in two ways. First, it can keep you focused on the task you're working on right at that moment.
Second, time tracking can give you a picture of exactly where your time is being spent. If you have never done this before, it is eye-opening and provides valuable insight into how you spend your time.
If you're honest in documenting your time and activities, you'll be able to identify some strengths, weaknesses, and how much time you actually spend working on tasks.
There is nothing wrong with passing the buck to someone else. When you have more on your plate than you can handle, it might be time to delegate. A good way to start delegating is to determine what tasks you can pass on that are not essential for you to do personally.
Then, identify an employee capable of performing the task, and ensure you are briefed on the results.
A Final Thought
It's not always easy to delegate if you are used to juggling everything yourself. However, if you plan your activities, stick to the plan (within reason), and find the right people to delegate tasks to, you'll suddenly have more time.