Small business owners are busier and more easily distracted today than ever before. Social media, managing employees, crafting website content, running marketing campaigns – there are a million and one things to do, and distractions around every corner.
Time management is imperative for small business owners, but if you aren’t making conscious decisions to strategically manage your time, your business isn’t performing at its optimal capacity. Instead of attempting to wing your way through a flurry of tasks and goals, use these tips to better manage your time.
Rank and Prioritize Tasks
At the beginning of each week, identify everything you need to accomplish before Friday and Saturday roll around. Don’t be too pedantic; remember, it’s impossible to know the future, and some unexpected challenges are going to crop up. Nevertheless, it’s your aim to list out every errand, task, and goal you need to summit before the end of the week.
But only listing them isn’t enough – you also need to prioritize them. If there’s a fire you need to put out or a deadline that mission-critical, make sure you address it first. Prioritizing tasks should be common sense, but some people just try to remember everything they have to do. Computers have a much better memory than human beings, and placing this information in a document will ensure you don’t forget something important.
Identify Your Biggest Wastes of Time
Whether you’re an email addict or can’t put down Twitter, there are portions of your day that are colossal wastes of time. Take time to reflect on your day, and log all of your time. Make your log as granular as possible; instead of listing out your day's activities by the hour, drill down and think about what you did on a 15-minute basis – or better yet, a five-minute basis. Be mindful of your wastes of time and have the discipline to refrain from engaging in those behaviors in the coming week.
Create A Google Sheets Spreadsheet
After you’ve identified your tasks for the week, it’s time to carve out every hour of your day. Make spreadsheets for each day of the week and schedule your time wisely. Again, it isn’t likely you’ll be able to accurately gauge the exact amount of time each task will consume, but you should be able to make a rough estimate.
Having Google Sheets is advantageous because you can access it wherever you are as long as you have a solid phone connection. For optimum efficiency, don’t only plan out your workday. Plan for your morning routine, your meals, your home life, and even a small allotment at the end of each day to decompress. Just planning out your week, however, isn’t enough. You’ve got to motivate yourself to stick to your schedule.
I can already hear the groans of disbelief, but multitasking is actually a time killer. According to the American Psychological Association:
“Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity. ”
It seems that time is lost by decoupling from one task and engaging in another as your brain gets up to speed to handle a new set of challenges. According to one study,
“For all tasks, the participants lost time when they had to switch from one task to another.”
I know it’s tempting to try to get everything done in a busy, chaotic, frenzied whirlwind, but if you really want to manage your time well, focus on one thing at a time. Although it’s counter-intuitive, multitasking should be avoided as much as possible.
Keep Your Workspace Clean
Some people are neat freaks while others inherently messy (like me). But if you want to manage your time better and increase efficiency, keeping your workspace clean is imperative. It may not seem like a big deal, but disorganization leads to massive wastes of time. Not only is it more difficult to find what you’re looking for, it leads to mistakes, oversights, and the likelihood you’ll have to do something twice.
It can also lead to other massive problems. Have you ever spilled a drink on electronics before? It’s a nightmare! When I worked at a computer repair company during college, I even saw one poor unfortunate soul who had the misfortune of spilling candle wax on her laptop keyboard (spoiler alert: the computer couldn’t be repaired). Keep your workspace clean and organized to avoid lost time.
Here are two fantastic books on managing your time more effectively:
Effective managers and leaders know how to properly delegate tasks to members of their team, but watch out: if you hover over your employees, you’re missing out on the efficiency that delegation affords. Micromanaging simple tasks will shred your time management efficacy to ribbons. Sure, it’s necessary to check in on new hires and trainees, but once you have a certain level of trust in your team, let them focus on the tasks you assign them.
Eliminate Pesky Distractions
Does your mind wander too easily? We live in a world of distractions; floods of advertisements on the Internet and interruptions from coworkers and subordinates can derail your train of thought and ruin your ability to focus. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools to encourage self-discipline. Firstly, I would recommend using an ad blocker to eliminate pop-ups that send you down the rabbit hole of Internet memes, articles, news, and other distractions on the Internet.
Additionally, you should install a website blocker in your browser to intentionally bar yourself from accessing social media during work hours. Website blockers typically have scheduling features that prevent you from accessing a website certain periods of the day. And if at all possible, turn your phone off or mute it to increase productivity. I understand that may not be feasible, depending on the industry you’re in. But if you can shut it off, you’ll save time and get more work done.
Digital marketing sucks up a lot of time, and most small business owners can’t commit their individual time to web design, content creation, and social media marketing. To make matters worse, most small businesses don’t have an in-house marketing team.
The good news is that by reaching out for help from an experienced marketing professional with a proven track record of success can help feed and water your business to help it flourish. Don’t waste time learning from the ground up how to adhere to the latest digital marketing trends. Instead, contact a marketing professional today.