Owning and operating a small business is by no means an easy task. There’s the constant pressure of having to win business, in addition to the hassles of managing the business’s day-to-day finances. Unfortunately, it’s the reality that most small business owners face and most, if not all, wouldn’t want it any other way. After all, the rewards of owning a business far outweigh its drawbacks. However, what do you as a business owner when you are suddenly faced with the inability to properly manage your own time? Well, to help answer this question, here are five easily-implemented time management tips for the harried small business owner.
- Log Downtime (Time Logging)
First, long before you start making changes to your schedule, it’s always a good idea to take inventory of how you spend your day. This ultimately involves logging your time and keeping track of what you do and why you do it. If you have a smartphone then you’ll have the benefit of being able to keep this data for future reference. If not, then using a journal will suffice.
Start by dividing up all the days of the week. Next, spend the first week tracking what you spend your time on. Start from early in the morning until you actually finished your work day. Do this every day for a week or two.
- Identify Time Wasters
Completing your first task will make this next step that much easier. After you’ve logged your time over a one to two week period, you’ll immediately begin to notice a trend whereby you’re held captive by lost time, a process where you could have easily saved yourself time if you had planned things in advance.
Isolate these periods of lost time and define their relevance to your day-to-day activities. For instance, are these activities value-added activities that will help you better manage your business or are they best left to someone else? Essentially, would you save yourself time if you delegated these responsibilities to an employee? Finally, what can you do moving forward that will help you avoid this lost time in the future? Answering each of these aforementioned questions is a much simpler process once you’ve mapped out how you spend your time. It will become obvious where you’re stalling and what if anything you need to do to make adjustments.
- Prioritize Core Responsibilities
Now is the time to focus on your core responsibilities. Segregate those activities that are essential to running your business and must be done immediately, versus those things that can wait and be handled at a later date. If needed, use sequential numbers in order to define priorities. Ultimately, you want to segregate your core responsibilities by addressing those items that need to be addressed versus those items that can either be delegated to someone else or pushed back. Again, use a sequential numbering system or grading system in order to define priorities.
- Schedule Time for Schedules
You’ve successfully tracked your lost time, identified your time wasters and have prioritized your core responsibilities. Now you need to schedule time for scheduling. This means spending one half hour to an hour at the beginning of each week mapping out your responsibilities for the week ahead.
You are in essence setting aside scheduling time in order to schedule your week. Consider yourself a doctor using case management software whereby you’re reviewing your patient’s case before making an adjustment. However, don’t rest on your laurels. This isn’t a one-time project. This is a continuous process, one where you get into the habit of constantly reviewing the previous week in order to determine if you respected your schedule, or were caught off guard by lost time.
- Set Aside Free Time
Last, but not least, be sure to set aside some alone time. Owning and operating a business is much more than a full-time job. It can be a tremendous strain on your personal life. As such, you’ll need time to recharge your batteries. You need some alone time in order to review what went well during the week and what didn’t.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the day-to-day responsibilities of owning a small business. However, if you follow these aforementioned five steps, then you’ll find it much easier to manage your time and adhere to your schedule.
This guest post is courtesy of Jennifer Livingston.