If you’re like most small business owners, you work nonstop—but it’s difficult to get through your to-do list. One minute you’re working directly with a customer. The next minute you you’re tackling a spreadsheet. Then immediately after that, you’re negotiating rates with a vendor. Short of adding 12 hours to each day, how can you get more out of the time you actually have? Here are seven time management tips for small business owners to increase productivity:
When it comes to running a business, planning is crucial to both the micro and the macro.
The micro: End each day by making a list of what you want to accomplish tomorrow. Prioritize items so you know which ones absolutely need to get done and which can get pushed to the next day if necessary.
The macro: Build contingencies, train your staff, cultivate a resilient culture, look for advantages through technology, and most importantly, budget!
Small business budgeting is a prerequisite for managing cash flow, hitting financial goals, allocating resources, and staying agile in case of emergency—all of which will save you time, headaches, and money in the long run.
Dozens of different calendars or yellow sticky notes with reminders jotted all over them? No wonder you can’t get a grip on time. Streamline time management by choosing (and using) one online calendar that stores and synchronizes your data in the cloud. Now you can access your schedule wherever you are. If employees or assistants need access to your schedule, share your calendar with them. A mobile-friendly calendar is especially crucial for small business owners who spend much of the day on their feet.
The same mentality goes for small business financial management. There are nearly infinite ways to track revenue, expenses, customer activity, invoices, and all of the other bottom-line activities. However you’re tracking, it may be worth an investment in technology that puts everything into one place. Many small business owners spend more time crunching scattered financial data than they could ever have imagined.
Do you schedule every minute of the day, then wonder why you never get everything done? When every minute is accounted for, you’ve got no wiggle room. It’s important to schedule some unscheduled time every day. That way when a meeting goes long, a client runs late or an urgent situation demands your attention for half an hour, it won’t throw your whole day out of whack.
What are your strengths as a business owner? For most of us, we have passion and expertise in our products and services—not necessarily the financials or the operations. These skills can be crafted over time, but your time may still be better spent on business strategy, relationships, or other unique skills that set you apart.
As your business grows (or if you’re planning to grow), you can’t be everywhere. Focus on the areas you’re strongest, and find people or technology to help you with the rest. This leads us to idea number five…
Wherever possible, automate tasks using tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, social media management software or small business financial management tools to stay on top of customer follow-up, social media outreach, and accounts receivable. By automating the small stuff like sending reminders or posting blogs, you’ll have more time for the big stuff that really matters to your business.
Many small business owners struggle with time management because they’re unwilling to let any task go, no matter how small. For your business to grow without you going crazy, you’ve got to delegate—whether to employees, outside contractors, or in some cases, technology. For instance, it’s time to put away the handwritten budgets, spreadsheets of invoices, and long form math equations to keep your books. Use a free banking tool that can remove the burden of financial management that small business owners often take on themselves.
As far as delegating to staff goes, start small with less important tasks, give directions as to the outcome, and provide feedback without hovering. You’ll be surprised how much more time you have once you share the workload with hungry employees.
It sounds counterintuitive, but one of the most important time management tips for small business owners is that “powering through” is not the best way to get work done. Make time for some form of exercise every day, whether that’s biking to work, doing yoga when you wake up or even just taking a brisk power walk at lunchtime. When you get your blood flowing, you energize your brain as well as your body, giving you the stamina to get through even your busiest days.