In a competitive market, time is everything. For many small-business owners, from the moment they wake up in the morning to the time they go to bed at night, their lives are dedicated to driving business forward and making their companies a success.
While this level of dedication is admirable, it can also result in burnout. Instead of spreading oneself too thin, which can cause inefficiency and exhaustion, small-business owners can try out a few time-management techniques to avoid stress and improve company operations. Below are four time-management tips for small-business owners.
1. Rank Tasks by Importance. Running through a day without a to-do list may work for some, but for busy entrepreneurs, these lists can become lifelines. Whether working as an interior designer or a civil engineer, each day there are likely dozens of things that need to get done. Some things—like calling back a client—may not be a main priority for business and may be more time-consuming than vital tasks such as pursuing licensing for a new project.
To deal with this issue, Inc. Magazine recommends rethinking the traditional to-do list. Rather than simply writing down a list of tasks that need to be completed by the end of a day, owners can manage business operations by ranking tasks in order of importance. An entrepreneur can prioritize events throughout the day by assigning each project a numerical rating of one to ten based on effort required and potential positive results. For example, every business will have a few tricky clients—if each phone call with a specific customer requires thirty minutes of time, but results in few positive outcomes, this task can be assigned a lower priority rating and should be handled after others have been completed.
2. Get Organized. Organization is key to tackling some of the most common small-business challenges. Entrepreneurs can develop their own systems based on their individual needs, but there are a few common organizational goals entrepreneurs need to keep in mind to manage their time well.
Regardless of the type of business, it’s vital to stay financially organized and have an office maintained enough to run operations smoothly. Having a neat and tidy office may not seem like the most important thing to a small-business owner, but wasting a few minutes here and there searching for an invoice or client email can add up to hours wasted each week—hours that could have been spent on more important issues or even at home catching a few extra hours of shut eye each week.
3. Set Aside Email. This may be a tough one for many small-business owners to do, but to improve company operations, it may be time to set aside email—at least for a little while. Being able to check email and social-media accounts on a smartphone has turned some small-business owners into email fiends, constantly stopping to check their inboxes both at work and on the go. This may start off harmlessly enough, but stopping an activity to return every email that comes in actually ends up wasting precious business hours. Instead of spending all day glued to an email account, small-business owners should try setting aside two specific times of day to sort through emails and social-media communications.
A small-business owner can check his or her email account first thing in the morning, taking time to respond to emails and follow up on client issues for the first hour of their day, then refrain from sorting through their inbox again until lunch. At the end of the day, a business owner can go back and check it again if need be. The point is to try not to be constantly attached to email and instead focus on the task at hand. This practice can result in major time savings over the course of a day.
4. Schedule Time to Relax. That’s right—schedule time to relax, not more time to work. Being dedicated to a business doesn’t have to mean being obsessed, and even the best and brightest business owners can crash if they don’t set aside time to relax at night or during the weekends.
With the right organizational skills and time-management techniques, even the busiest entrepreneurs may soon find themselves with time to spare at the end of the day. Instead of cramming in more work, take those extra hours and go home to watch a movie, meet up with friends, or spend time with family. After a night away, a small-business owner can feel refreshed and ready to tackle company operations again.