Small Business Time Management
If you’re in the process of starting your own business, you may feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. To compound matters, for a small-business owner, every minute that ticks on the clock represent dollars – either earned or wasted.
The reality is that time is easy to waste, and unless you have a pre-set idea of how you’ll spend it, it will go by before you even know it. But don’t despair – here are six tips that every small business owner can use to make the best use of their time
1. Set Step-by-Step Goals
It’s one thing to set a goal, and quite another to set a detailed goal where the steps and increments needed to accomplish it are outlined in advance. Many people set general goals and then never follow through with them. For example, think of your New Year’s Resolutions that are set every year. The problem with these types of goals is that while they’re nice ideas, people just don’t know how to implement them.
In order to make the best use of your time in your business, your day should be made up of a series of goals that have specific milestones. For instance, if your goal is to get five new customers, you should think it through and write down all of the steps that you’ll have to take in order to accomplish it. By breaking larger goals into smaller steps, you will be able to more effectively accomplish your goals since you know exactly what steps must be done along the way. Plus, who doesn’t like a little positive reinforcement? Knowing you’ve completed certain steps towards conquering your goal can be extremely motivating.
You should set goals for before lunch and after lunch, and make sure that the most important ones are slated for before lunch. If you know that you can’t leave to eat until your goals are met, you’ll be more likely to concentrate on getting tasks done and not allow yourself to be sidetracked.
2. Organize Your Time and Space
It’s difficult to work in an organized manner when everything around you is in chaos. The first step to increasing productivity is to clear and then organize your space. Eliminate everything that isn’t necessary, then create a system for the things that are. For example, use a color-coded file folder for the items that are urgent, to be done that day, and another for things that can wait until tomorrow. Or if you’re a techie, make use of your scanner and create files on your PC or Blackberry using the same type of system.
It will be necessary to organize not only your space, but also your time. Many people use a time-increment system, where they allow themselves a certain amount of time to do the things on their to-do list. There’s nothing like racing against the clock to meet a goal for those of us more competitive types.
3. Put It in Writing
There’s something about committing to a plan in writing that somehow solidifies it in your mind. By writing down your plan of action for the day – including your goals and the details of them – you’ll be armed with a plan that should carry you efficiently through the day. You’ll of course still be confronted with distractions, but if you have a clear understanding of what you need to accomplish for the day, you’ll be more likely to get right back to the task at hand, rather than aimlessly drifting from one task to the next.
If possible create this list the night before. That way, you’ll be able to start the next day fully prepared, rather than wasting time deciding how to approach tasks and figuring out what you need to get done.
4. Ignore Your Email
This probably sounds a lot easier than it is as most people tend to check theirs every 5-10 minutes. But if you add up all of the minutes that it takes to continually check your inbox and then reply, it’s easy to see why it’s such a time waster.
Instead of being a slave to your email, make it subject to your time constraints. Set aside two time periods during the day to check and respond to all of your messages. This will take some serious motivation and discipline, but it will allow you to devote more focus and time to other tasks that might otherwise be constantly interrupted by checking email.
If you’re worried that people will get offended by how long it takes you to respond, set up an auto responder that lets people know that you take 10-12 hours to respond, or even 24 hours if that is acceptable for your business type.