One of the most challenging aspects of being a business owner is finding the time to do everything that you need to do, from drafting your business plan and finding investment to paying invoices and chasing payment of your own.
While for many a small business owner, one of the big draws of going it alone is the thought of having complete control over what you spend your time doing, in reality it’s early starts, late finishes and more than the odd weekend spent catching up on everything you couldn’t get around to during the week.
And if that’s the case, you’d best start trying to eke out the most of every hour you have. And that’s where some effective time management tips can help…
What is time management?
Time management is simply the concept of using your time better, effectively getting more bang for your buck out of every hour you have, both at home and at work and it's an absolutely crucial part of being a small business owner.
But it’s not always easily achieved.
When you’re responsible for overseeing every aspect of your business, it can be challenging to get your head above the clouds and see where you may be going wrong.
By implementing some time-management tips of your own, tailored to your own way of working, you should quickly begin to see an uptick in what you can deliver in a day.
Not only will this lead to greater success, but it will also help to reduce some of the pressure that you put on yourself, making a positive impact on both your business and your own wellbeing.
Our favourite time management tips
1. Keep activity logs
While not strictly a time-management tip, an activity log is the best way to understand where you spend your time and how you may use your time more efficiently.
If you’ve never tried this before, you may have a shock when you see just how much of your time you’re wasting on activities that were either unplanned, not a priority or maybe even not your responsibility at all.
It couldn’t be easier to get your own activity log up and running. Simply start by making a quick note of the time when you begin a task and what you are doing. Then follow that up with what time you stopped and any other comments you think may be worth remembering later. For example, was this something you planned to do, or were you interrupted and if so, by what?
Keep this process up for a few weeks and, barring the odd gap (you’re only human), you should have enough built up enough data to reliably analyse where you’ve been spending most of your time.
Use this information to see how you can be more productive, where you may have overexerted yourself and whether you perform some tasks better than others at different times of the day.
2. Focus on the value of your time
Knowing how much time you’ve spent on a task is one thing, making sure that you’re focusing on the tasks that offer the most value to your business is another.
As a small business owner, your time is precious – and, perhaps more importantly, it's finite. Never is this more keenly felt than when we’re trying to do too much. Your to-do list is bulging and the time between achievements has been getting longer and longer.
If this sounds familiar, don’t be disheartened.
Instead, try to focus on the quality of work you’re doing as opposed to the quantity.
Zero-in on those tasks that may result in a big win for your business. Or if a task is important but time consuming, consider getting some extra help from a consultant or freelancer.
You can take this approach one step further by attaching an actual monetary value to your time, helping you further determine which tasks are worth your time and just how much a simple lapse in concentration costs you and your business.
3. Use a daily schedule
On a similar note, once you’ve got a good idea of how to best apply your time, you’ll want to build a schedule that works for you.
Of course, as business owners, we should be proactive and ready to switch focus at a moment's notice – but the importance of sticking to a schedule for your day-to-day activities shouldn’t be underestimated.
In fact, it’s probably one of the big differences between individuals being prepared and productive versus being stressed and always playing catch up, reacting to situations as they unfold instead of being a step ahead.
There are lots of different schools of thought when it comes to this topic, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We’re all different and our businesses require us to be on top of different things.
This is where your activity log can come in handy, as it can show you when you were most effective at completing certain tasks and which times of the day you may not be at your best or more prone to interruptions.
4. Create more time in your day
Sounds ideal right?
No, we’re not talking about magically conjuring up more time out of nowhere but, instead, trying to make the most of the time that you’re not already using. This is known as dead-time, in other words, the time that gets lost in between the other jobs we have to do – whether that’s waiting longer than expected for your train, queuing up at the post office or in the line for your lunch.
On their own, these situations may not amount to much, but taken together and added up over days, weeks and months you’re talking about a significant chunk of your life.
Now, we’re not suggesting that you fill every spare moment you have with outstanding work. But once you recognise these circumstances where your time is going to waste, try to turn these situations to your advantage.
Start listening to that podcast, read that blog or article or, more simply, take care of some personal life admin that will free your mind up to concentrate on some more important stuff later on.
5. Set goals for yourself and your team
In our personal and professional lives, we’re all striving towards something.
Whether you’re saving a deposit for a house or aiming to see your products and services for sale in one of the major high street chains for the first time.
However, without careful planning and consideration, how will you make these dreams come true, and how will you know if you’re getting any closer to your target?
This is where setting goals for yourself and your team can help.
Not only are they an important part of staying motivated but they also help to illustrate what's most important to you and to your business.
Goals and time management go hand in hand; they help you to stay focused and how to best decide how to prioritise your time.
As a small business owner, you know you already have the drive to succeed. But even the best of us can have an off day, particularly if we’ve been hit with a setback at home or at work.
It’s days like these where motivation, or the lack thereof, is one of the biggest hurdles you or your team face. Particularly when confronted with those tasks that you don’t want to do, either because they appear to be too difficult or they just don’t seem important to you right now.
In the case of the former, it’s important that you have the right skills to complete a task. If you don’t, you’ll likely find yourself wasting vast amounts of time and energy trying to accomplish something that a specialist could sort out in half the time.
This harks back to the time as a value concept we mentioned earlier.
While an expert may first appear as a cost you can’t really afford, when weighed up against your time and your own efforts, it may prove more cost effective than you think.
And, for those tasks you don’t think are important right now, remember that unless you can delegate them, they aren’t going anywhere. You’re much better off getting such things squared away now. The longer you allow something to swell up, the more difficult it will be to tackle later.
Here at Farillio, we want to get you doing what you do best, safe in the knowledge that the small print is all present and correct.
So, while not officially a time-management tool, we do want to help you by being a resource for your business and legal needs, giving you the confidence to take big decisions and being a one-stop hub for all your legal needs.
So, if you haven’t already, create your Farillio account so you can stop spending time on the legal stuff and more time on what you love and built your business to do!