Time Management Strategies for Small Businesses
Why Time Management Skills are Important
Running a small business is time-consuming work, and as a business owner, your time is precious. Between managing employees, marketing, administration tasks, liaising with clients, and the myriad of other necessary tasks that come with running your own business, you may feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
‘Time management’ is planning how to efficiently use and deliberately control the time you spend to maximize productivity.
In short, get more done in less time.
Without good time management skills, your lengthy to-do list can cause you a lot of stress and make you feel constantly overwhelmed.
Common time management mistakes
Tell-tale signs of bad time management can include poor scheduling, failing to follow a to-do list, ineffective prioritizing, chronic disorganization, and procrastination. In turn, these bad habits can lead to poor performance and feeling overwhelmed, rushed, and disorganized.
This will more than likely cause stress and you may even find yourself worrying about work in your free time. So, as you can see, the consequences of poor time management skills can interfere with your personal life and affect your work-life balance.
What good time management looks like
Good time management involves active planning and prioritizing, setting short and long-term goals, evaluating urgent tasks, and setting realistic deadlines. Delegation and outsourcing where possible, are also healthy time management habits that will help you take back your day.
In this article, we’ll explore techniques you can use to manage your time in a way that will improve work quality, reduce stress, curb procrastination, and create more time to work on strategic or creative projects.
What are Some Time Management Strategies
The SMART in SMART Goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Defining these parameters ensures that your objectives are realistically attainable within the set time frame. Using this approach eliminates guesswork, sets a clear timeline, and makes it easier to track your progress.
For a goal to be effective, it needs to be specific. Outline exactly what needs to be accomplished, who is responsible for it, and what steps need to be taken to achieve it.
Quantify your goal – This will make it easier for you and your team to track progress.
Make sure what you want to achieve is realistic for your business. Achievability can easily be shattered by biting off more than you can chew, so be honest with yourself from the start.
Think about why you’re setting this goal in the first place. What impact does it have on your business?
Be clear about your time parameters so that you and your team can stay on track within a designated time frame and see the finish line ahead. When you’ve incorporated those dates, your SMART Goal is complete.
Techniques to help you stay focused and avoid distractions
It may seem a little obvious but start with a to-do list. Research has shown that creating a daily schedule relieves the burden on the brain. Use time blocks (also known as Timeboxing) for different tasks. Sticking to this will be your key to success. Experiment with adding time buffers, for example, 30 minutes between tasks so that even if you do run over your allotted time, your overall schedule stays intact, and you remain productive.
The Pomodoro Technique
If you’re still struggling to focus, try using the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. It uses a kitchen timer to break work into intervals, typically 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a Pomodoro, from the Italian word for tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Francesco used as a university student.
- Step 1: Set a timer. The most common interval length is 25 minutes, and it’s recommended as a starting point, but you can set more or less, it’s up to you.
- Step 2: Get to work. The aim is to finish the session without taking a break, getting distracted, or switching tasks.
- Step 3: When you complete a Pomodoro, check the task off. The original Pomodoro Technique recommends doing this on paper, but there are plenty of free list apps out there if you prefer to use your phone.
- Step 3: Take a 5-minute break. When you’ve completed a Pomodoro, reward yourself with a short break, then repeat.
- Step 4: Repeat 4 more times to earn yourself a longer break.
Distractions are everywhere, so give tasks your undivided attention.
Self-discipline is a very important factor here. Avoid sneaking onto non-work-related sites, online shopping, or social media (or whatever it is you’re not supposed to be doing) during work hours and close all those extra browser tabs. Turn off your phone notifications and limit your personal communication – personal calls, text messages, and emails – to your free time only.
Remember to schedule yourself a break
It may seem counter-productive at first, but taking a break and stepping away from the task at hand can reset your motivation and improve your productivity, as well as reduce the risk of burnout. Studies have found that taking regular breaks can reduce or prevent stress altogether, helping to maintain performance throughout the day.
Tips for ensuring you take breaks
- Schedule your break time and stick to it
- Set a warning alarm on your phone 5 minutes prior
- Pay attention to the benefits you experience whilst on your break and use them to motivate you to take breaks in the future e.g quiet spaces and fresh air.
- Use post-it notes around your workspace to remind yourself why breaks are important
How to effectively prioritize multiple projects
Prioritize the work that will make the most impact on your business. While it might be tempting to work on the easiest projects first and get them out of the way, it’s better to prioritize based on what will make the largest impact on your company goals.
Designate one place to house all your projects, this will improve visibility and communication for everyone and enable you to plan and manage all your team’s projects in the same place.
If you aren’t already using one, a project management platform is the best kind of tool for the job. Choose one that’s flexible, easy to use, and collaborative.
Time Management Techniques and Tools
Getting started with Project Management Software
Project management software refers to a wide range of programs designed to help people manage their projects. Products range from a simple checklist to help you organize smaller projects to robust tools that let you oversee an entire project. Different platforms have different features, but they’ll typically share the following characteristics: High-level project overview, task management, reporting, and time tracking.
Using Project Management Software to maximize productivity
Managing everything your team does is almost impossible without some kind of tracking system. Project management software will allow you to oversee the project, keep all your tasks organized, and communicate regularly and effectively with your team using messages and notes all within a single platform, thus eliminating the need for emails.
Google Sheets is a free online spreadsheet software and project management tool, and a useful alternative to paid platforms. It works similarly to Microsoft Excel and even has much of the same functionality. Sheets can be a very useful resource for project management, task management, project planning, and tracking. It also includes free project management templates, meaning you can easily create a project timeline, project tracker, and even a time tracker for your team.
Managing multiple projects: The art of delegation
Delegation involves redirecting tasks to other team members. This is especially useful if you’re trying to manage multiple projects with similar deadlines or if the task is more relevant to a specific team member’s skill set.
Delegating work is just as important for your productivity, as it can prevent burnout. It’s important to remember that it isn’t your job to do all of the work. Instead, it’s your responsibility to look at the bigger picture and delegate the right tasks to the right candidates. Not only does this boost productivity, but it also invites other team members to contribute.
Outsourcing work means contracting work out to another company or individual, but before you dive right into the deep end, identify what you’re outsourcing and why.
Outsourcing non-core processes will give you the ability to focus on building your business.
The most outsourced streams of business include:
- Customer service
- Data entry
- Social Media management
- Lead generation
- Website building and maintenance
Companies outsource their business processes for many reasons.
One of the benefits of outsourcing to a third party for a specialist project is that you are utilizing their years of experience and knowledge for the benefit of your company, therefore increasing productivity and efficiency in the process.
There are many ways to maximize your productivity as a small business.
From careful planning and prioritizing, to delegating tasks within your team, or outsourcing them completely, the above techniques will ensure you make the most of your valuable time whilst improving efficiency and productivity.