As a small business owner, you know that time is your greatest asset. You can lose money and get it back. You can even lose a business and get it back. But time is irretrievable. That’s why you’ve got to protect it like a hawk. Here are my 7 time management tips for small business owners — 7 ways you can do a better job protecting your time now!
1. Start with time logging.
Before you do anything else, you need to complete at least one day of time logging. Grab a sheet of paper or a spreadsheet (depending on your own preferences) and start from the moment you wake up to the moment you hit the sack at night. Your job is to track every single minute of your day, listing the task and the total amount of time spent. You need to track everything (and I really mean everything!) in order for this to be useful. Try not to change your behavior on this day. Just be sure you’re measuring what you would consider a “typical” work day for you.
2. Identify your big time wasters.
Once you complete a time logging day, you’ll quickly see where you’re wasting a lot of time. Take your time log and total up the time of the day you tracked and then try to categorize all of your activities. Then, do some basic calculations to determine the percentage of time you spend on each activity. The goal here is to find the areas where you’re spending way too much time. Categories to consider are: Email, Phone Calls, Meetings, Breaks, Errands, and other nonproductive tasks.
3. Use the pomodoro technique.
The pomodoro technique is a popular time management method that involves setting a timer for 25-minutes while you focus on one specific task, then taking a short 5-minute break before starting the next task. Personally, I use a variation of the pomodoro method that involves measuring my time worked on specific areas of my business in 20-minute segments. Time logging will help you see where you’re spending too much time and too little time. Then, you can start setting weekly and daily goals for the pomodoros you spend in each category. For example, limit yourself to 10 pomodoros per week checking your email. But set a goal of hitting 30 pomodoros working on your marketing systems.
4. Apply the 80/20 rule.
One effective way to determine where you should spend more time is the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule basically says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. So your job in effective time management is to increase the amount of time you spend each day and each week in that 20% category where you’re going to get the greatest results in your business (and less time everywhere else). This is a process, so keep applying it every week until you have a very clear idea of where you can get the most bang for your minutes.
5. Delegate but don’t abdicate.
Obviously, being an effective small business owner means relying on other people to help you get all of the work done. The key thing about delegation is to avoid “abdicating” — that is, you need to avoid giving employees responsibilities without effectively preparing and training them for the task. This is huge. Part of making this work is hiring the right people, but it also requires investing time training them.
6. Avoid your employees.
Speaking of employees, once you’ve got them trained and working effectively, it’s time to avoid them altogether as much as possible. Employees will eat up your time if you’re not careful. The “bad” employees will eat up your time with constant problems (so best to hire the right ones and train them well), but even the “good” employees will waste your time with their well-intentioned attempts to garner your attention (aka teacher’s pet syndrome). If you can at all muster it, I suggest setting up your personal office away from the main areas where your employees work. Remember: your job as a small business owner is very different from the job of your employees.
7. Beware of shiny object syndrome.
Finally, do everything you can to avoid being pulled under by “shiny object syndrome” in your business. Shiny objects will pop up from time-to-time and they will do everything to distract you from what you’re trying to achieve now. New opportunities are good, but be sure they don’t become bad.