Being a small business owner requires you to multi-task. While we commend business owners who try and do it all, it is important to follow business time management strategies.
This will allow you to be a better leader, generate more sales and feel less stressed. In this post, we’ve included insights from published expert, speaker, and trainer Maura Thomas, who runs RegainYourTime.com. The company provides workflow management training and teaches individuals how to organize their work and in turn adopt better habits.
If you’re noticing that you waste time and aren’t as productive as you should be, your small business may suffer. That’s why it is imperative that you devise a time management plan that works for you! Check out these five business productivity tips to get you started:
1. Make realistic to-do lists – You may desire to complete everything on your list in one day, but this probably isn’t the most realistic idea. Thomas suggests thinking small when crafting a to-do list. Sort items by date, and give yourself a few things to do each day.
“Remember, you will do many things in a day, but most of them never even make it onto your list,” Thomas says. “If you can handle everything that comes at you in a given day (meetings, email, impromptu conversations, etc.) plus still make progress on a few items on your task list, that’s a win! Especially since those daily items often only feel urgent, but are unlikely to move your important goals forward.”
2. Don’t commit popular productivity mistakes – You may have heard of common business productivity tips that seem helpful. For instance, many people say that you should estimate how long each task will take to complete. Thomas says this isn’t a best practice, as most people can’t accurately predict the duration of their tasks. It is important to take into consideration other factors that you’ll have to handle during a day, such as meetings, emails, phone calls, unexpected developments and new priorities. It’s realistic to expect that you may only be able to accomplish three to five tasks in a day.
3. Create a time management plan, then incorporate necessary technology – You may think that utilizing technological business time management tools will solve all your problems. Think again! Thomas says that it is more important to focus on your methodology than tools. She uses a sports analogy to explain this point:
Have you ever heard of “Racquet lessons?” “Club lessons?” How about “Stick lessons?” Probably not. But I’m sure you’ve heard of tennis, golf, and hockey lessons. In all cases, learning to use the tool is a by-product. The real goal is to learn to play the game. I don’t play golf, but I understand how to swing a club: I know that I am supposed to hold the grip end and swing the flat end. But this doesn’t mean I’m a great golfer. Continuing the analogy, if Jason Day or Dustin Johnson were forced to play his next tournament with a random used club he bought at a thrift store, he wouldn’t play up to the standards of a PGA pro. Productivity is the same in that having great tools doesn’t automatically ramp up your productivity. What’s necessary is both the skill, and the right set of tools. Once you have a workflow management process (the skill), then you’ll know what you need in the tools.
4. Don’t let technology serve as a distraction – Smartphones and other technological tools can be a blessing and a curse. Although you’re able to easily keep in contact with customers and employees, it can also create the feeling that you’re never truly disconnected. Thomas encourages business owners to take control of their technology usage by following these tips:
- Utilize do not disturb: This phone feature can ensure your phone doesn’t ring during time periods you choose, or allow calls only from certain numbers.
- Put your phone away at bed time: Our collective lack of sleep is a public health crisis, according to the CDC. One of the main culprits is distraction from our electronic devices. So that you won’t be tempted to check email if you wake up in the middle of the night, turn your phone off or put it in airplane mode when you go to bed.
- Turn off notifications and alerts from emails, apps and downloads: Do you need an alert to tell you that you have new email messages? Let me end the suspense for you—you have email! Now you can shut off the notifications. The same goes for apps; these were not designed to serve you; they were designed to keep you coming back to the app. Another setting to turn off is your email downloads on your computer. By working in offline mode you’ll lessen distractions.
5. Aim for a well-rounded work/life balance – Do you feel like work takes over your personal life? Your relationship with technology may be to blame.
“Email often gets in the way of our trying to live a balanced life,” Thomas says. “However, if you’re checking your email on Sunday, work isn’t invading your personal life—you’re inviting it in!”
Another way you may be reducing your work/life balance is checking your email after work hours, in case a partner or customer sends an email. While you may feel pressure to immediately respond to any business-related correspondence, the reality is that most people realize they won’t get an answer during off-hours. The individual simply may be sending you an email so that they don’t forget to tell you whatever it is that they needed. Although it is respectable that you want to ensure you don’t miss anything related to your small business, it is good to take a break and relax! You’ll be more focused when you return to work if you’ve taken time to unplug and unwind.
Becoming well-versed in business time management may seem daunting, but by following Maura Thomas’s instructions, you’ll be more productive in no-time. By running your business in a more efficient manner, you’ll likely see an improvement in your overall operations!