There is one thing that almost every small business owner has in common. No matter what the field, business structure or otherwise. That common item is time. Or rather the lack thereof. Most small business owners will admit that there is never enough time in the day.
With so many projects all wanting attention, there are better ways to manage time. Interruptions to your workflow will cost you huge amounts of time. They will also leave you feeling unaccomplished or worse overwhelmed. Check out these simple tips to manage your daily schedule and feel more relaxed.
Schedule Your Work
If one thing is going to solve time issues, it is having a plan. Pick out specific time frames and assign individual tasks to them. I am not saying pick things down to hour by hour. But create a full list and a time in which to complete the task.
As an example, I like to create a task list in Outlook with all the important things I need to do. I set a time/day to have the task complete. If it is a large enough job, I will set milestones. The key is no matter what you must keep looking and working off the list.
Plan for interruptions and add them to the list. Shuffle as needed, but keep everything on the list. This will not only help keep you more organized, but it will give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.
Now that you have this schedule, organize the tasks. Decide which are the most important, and what can get done later. It can help to assign them categories or numbers. Adjust the schedule to match the new ranking. Try to group tasks by time and similarity. This will make tasks go faster.
When a new request comes across your desk, assign a rank to it. Do not add it to the schedule without evaluating and then giving a real rank to it. Remember not everything must is due right now. Some things may be better pushed off until later when you can devote full attention to it.
You may think you are the world’s greatest multi-tasker. But you will never be as productive as you can be when you try to do everything at once. And most likely the ending work will not live up to your full potential.
By dedicating your attention 100% to a single task, you will be able to complete that task faster. And the result will be leaps and bounds better than anything you do while multitasking. Doing one thing at a time will end up saving time as well. You will have to correct fewer errors, and your focus will wonder less. This means fewer gear changes and more metal relaxation.
Organize your environment
Nothing is a worse time suck than a mess working area. You will spend way more time find something that is out of place or buried than the task may have taken. The difference can be night and day. Going through your day to day tasks and not digging for the paperwork you needed will be more enjoyable as well.
As a real-world example, I prefer a super clean and well-organized space. I keep my desk as clear as possible. If I can file it away or put it somewhere else, I do. But that place needs to be its proper spot. Do not forget, if you place things in random places you will end up more stressed trying to find it.
My wife is the opposite. Her office generally looks like a bomb went off. I have gone even as far as cleaning it for her. Of course, this drives her nuts since I have now moved everything from her. But it works for her. The key is to have a plan and stick to it, knowing where everything is.
The 80 / 20 rule
This rule, if you have not heard it before, is “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”. This rule will generally apply to anything you do. What you need to take from this is to focus on the 20%. That section of your life is where almost all your productivity comes from.
Look at every task and weigh its long-term benefits. Focus on the 20% critical and important items. And set aside 20% of your time to whip through the tasks. This applies to clients as well. Focus on the 20% most profitable / least problematic. They will make you the happiest.
Automate everything you can
Some tasks are easier when done with automation. Social media is a big one here. There are tools you can set up to automate posts, link accounts and help with responses. For example, we recommend using Buffer to create a queue of media posts. You can pick a specific day and add content. Then this content will ‘drip’ out on the schedule that you chose.
Emails are another thing that works for a schedule. Our marketing email campaigns get planned and schedule in advance. I also sync my appointments and contacts between my devices. This saves me time in having to look up information on a single PC or phone. I can pick up any device and see what I need to do or a client’s contact information.
Take it one day at a time
Not every task on the list will get completed every day. Don’t get discouraged. Roll those tasks into tomorrow. Make sure to resort and rank these leftovers into tomorrow list.
It takes on average 6 months to start a regular routine. Some days you won’t get your list done. Push on and work on the next day, keep at it and it will become easier. After enough time, a good habit forms and creates structure.
Time management will not come overnight. But with these simple tips, you can free up time in your day and leave stress behind. Now it’s your turn. What do you find helpful when dealing with time management?