As a small business owner, when you lose money you can often gain it back. This is not true for time. Time lost is irretrievable, so make each moment count! Poor time management skills will put a huge dent in your business’ potential. Use good time management skills to make the most of each day and to grow your business effectively. Here is our advice for developing the most effective time management techniques for your small business.
Time Management Techniques for Small Businesses and Makers:
Before you start any of these time management techniques, you should keep a time log for a day or two. Grab a notebook or set up a spreadsheet on your mobile device, and keep track of everything you do for one day. As a home based business owner, you will want to track your activity from the moment you wake up till the time you go to bed at night. List each task you do and how much time was spent on it. I suggest doing this for more than one day so that you can get a better overview of what a typical day looks like for you.
Identify Time Wasters
Once you have a time log, analyze it to see how you are spending your day. What are the most important activities you conduct for your business, and where are you wasting time? I turn off my social media notifications when I am working so I will not be distracted. For many people, time spent on social media or checking e-mails can be time wasters. Instead of checking e-mails multiple times a day, set aside designated blocks of time to address this issue. These items will be part of your time management plan.
Develop a Time Management Plan
The Small Business Administration has an excellent guide online that takes you through the steps of developing a time management plan. The most important benefit of time management is more business, which leads to more income. A time management plan will help you stay focused on key tasks and be more organized. This, in turn, will lead to more free time to spend on hobbies or with your family, which leads to less stress. There’s so much to be gained by being smart about how you use your time.
The SBA explains that the five key elements to a time management plan are:
- clearly defined and written goals
- detailed list of specific tasks
- prioritization of the tasks
- list of important business functions that are ongoing
- built in flexibility
Use the 80/20 Rule
The 80/20 rule is also called the Pareto principle. This idea states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. For example, if your goal is $10,000 in sales, 20% of your effort will result in $8,000 in sales. Prioritize your time so that the 20% category that produces the most results is at the top of your list. It may take several weeks to identify which activities produce the best results, but keep working to prioritize your time on the tasks that produce the best overall result.
Stick to the List
After you have analyzed your time log, eliminated time wasters, and developed a time management plan with specific goals and a list of tasks to accomplish, make sure you stick to that list and don’t stray from it. If you have established a schedule that allows thirty minutes a day for answering e-mails, don’t get in the habit of peeking at your e-mails throughout the day. Stay focused on your list. If a project takes longer than the time allotted, that is fine, since you built flexibility into your plan, but try to stick to these time management techniques as much as possible.
Use the right tools
Technology has made it easier than ever to stay organized. There are several smart online tools to help you manage your tasks and time efficiently. For example, a calendar that interacts with your e-mail makes it easy to add appointments to your schedule. As a Mac user, I use Calendar, Reminders, Contacts, Mail, and Notes to keep all my information easily accessible wherever I am working. Microsoft users have the Outlook Calendar that can sync their devices and mailboxes. QuickBooks is a popular tool among home based business users because it allows them to create and send invoices, run reports, track income and expenses, and much more. Work smarter, not harder, by using the right tools to save time.
Once you have a good time management plan in place you will be better focused and able to complete the most important tasks each day. As your creative or home based business grows, you may need to adjust your goals and your plan accordingly. Now that you’re following these time management techniques effectively, you will have plenty of time to focus on how to grow your business.