Time management tips for small business
CEO, director, human resources, receptionist… having your own company means doing many jobs at once. If you feel your day is short on hours, try these tips.
Plan the week ahead
Planning the week is a must for managing your time, whether you are a one-man business, working from your home office or creating a startup. Creating a weekly calendar will allow you to plan ahead and distribute your time, and you will be able to prioritize and reorganize your tasks.
Deadlines and rush jobs should determine how you organize tasks during the week. For example, if you have something important to deliver on Thursday, make the previous days productive and leave important but less urgent tasks, such as administrative and accounting tasks, for Friday.
You should also be prepared to rearrange your calendar if priorities suddenly change. Think of it as a “Plan A” or a work in progress, rather than something inflexible.
Group the tasks by project or type
It can also be useful to perform similar, or related, tasks on the same day, so you don’t have to jump from one thing to another and can be more productive with your time.
For example, you can spend a whole day working on marketing tasks, such as social networking or writing your newsletter. Since the tasks are related, you can apply your creative flow to several things at the same time.
This approach also works with practical and methodical work. You can spend an entire afternoon making invoices, which will make you go faster because the same method applies to the creation of all of them.
Make a day-to-day calendar
Proper organization is the cornerstone of a well-planned week, and there are many templates available online that you can download and fill out to break down the days, which can help both individuals and entire teams.
A good template should give equal importance to each day and have enough space to write a brief description of the tasks or objectives, but don’t include too much because it might seem overloaded and unclear.
If you’re a one-man business and not a fan of the software, you can always use a notebook to keep track of your week and make sure you have your calendar handy.
Count on the distractions
Planning productivity for every hour of every day is not realistic, so don’t prepare to fail. It is better to expect possible distractions, interruptions and unexpected opportunities and challenges. When you’re planning your week, count on “interruption time,” a portion of time when you don’t expect to be able to complete tasks.
So even if your office hours are 9-5, with an hour break for lunch, be realistic and subtract an hour from your total. But don’t think of it as wasted time; sometimes inspiration comes in a moment of frustration.
Immerse yourself in the intense work
Intense work is that which you do when you are fully concentrated on a task and do not allow possible distractions to interrupt your concentration. To achieve this, you need to take advantage of that time when you don’t have to compete with other commitments and can fully dedicate yourself to a task, such as updating your accounting or writing a proposal for a client.
Leave time in your weekly calendar for intense work, and keep your intentions by isolating distractions and interruptions during those hours. A “do not disturb” sign and an automatic reply in your email can help you achieve this.
Organize your daily work
What is a typical day’s work like for a small business owner? The most common answer is that a typical day does not exist. Variety and excitement is one of the characteristics of life as an entrepreneur.
Still, this doesn’t mean you can’t organize your time. A daily plan is very valuable, even if it has to be modified, because it will help you keep track of priorities, deadlines and your progress on long-term projects. As with your weekly plan, the trick is to have a flexible schedule that can be changed and adapted to new things, rather than a rigid schedule.
Control your priorities with a to-do list
A classic of time management, a to-do list includes what you want or need done in a day and is organized by priority.
The most urgent and important tasks should be at the top, and the less important ones or those that can be postponed towards the end. Don’t make this list too long because it will seem like a nightmare. Some experts recommend no more than tasks and others no more than 3.
To keep track of your daily progress, use a checklist and check it off as you complete the tasks.
Concentrate on your efforts with the time block
Time blocking is a technique that many small business managers find very useful. It consists of dividing your work into sections of time dedicated to each task, the opposite of multifunctionality, where attention is efficiently distributed over multiple simultaneous jobs. By focusing on one job at a time, you can devote your full attention and energy to finishing it faster and better.
To apply time lock to your day, you must organize the hours you have available and assign them to the items on your to-do list. You don’t necessarily have to do the most important task first; it’s better to assign the most important work to that part of the day when you know you’re most productive. If you’re a morning person, do your homework first thing in the morning, but if you’re a night person, put it off until the afternoon.
If you tend to feel sleepy after a meal, which most of us do, spend that time on tasks that require little effort, such as paperwork or employee time sheets.
Separate daily and weekly calendar
It is important to know the difference between the daily and the weekly calendar, because each one has a different utility for your company. Your daily calendar will include routine tasks, such as answering emails and calls or meetings with your team, among others. You should take them into account because they take time, but you don’t need to include them in your weekly calendar.
Your weekly calendar gives you a broader view of your workload and allows you to reorganize tasks throughout the week. What happens on your daily calendar can impact your weekly calendar, for example, if you have to change a task from one day to the next because something took longer than originally planned.