As a small business owner, you likely wear a number of hats during a given day and feel like you are required to multi-task. However, without proper time-management you are more likely to become overwhelmed and stressed out, and less likely to accomplish important tasks to your optimal level. Here are some time management tips to help you get through each day at peak productivity.
1. Learn to manage your email.
Most emails do not need an immediate reply but some do. Learn to scan your emails for key info such as the sender, the subject, and first few sentences. Create email boxes on your account for: IMPORTANT, PENDING, etc. If you are certain the email requires an immediate response then answer it right away as quickly as possible, so you will not be thinking about it throughout the day. If it does not require an immediate response, then file it under IMPORTANT, if the email needs a response within day or two, or under PENDING for emails you can get to when you have an available moment. But don’t get involved with each and every query and, if possible, get someone else to answer emails that you specifically are not required to do so.
2. As much as you are tempted to, don’t multi-task.
Handle one item at a time and don’t think about the next item while you are doing it. Time management experts conclude that productivity and performance doubles if you are able to focus on one item at a time, while IQ falls by 10% when people try to multi-task. You are also prone to become irritated and stressed when trying to handle multiple tasks at the same time, such as doing work while being distracted by phone calls or email, or going between 2 or more jobs at the same time.
3. Learn to prioritize.
In order not to multi-task you need to prioritize your items. Tasks that bring most immediate benefits are the ones that should be placed at the top. These include jobs that you will get paid for quickest. As such, tasks that will bring you revenue should be done first then you can move on to other items that will not as quickly result in revenue.
4. Learn to delegate.
Are there items on your desk that someone else could do for you? Perhaps you can get your spouse, kids, an intern, or part-timer to do it for you. If spending some money on getting help will allow you to focus on more important tasks then it may very well be a good investment.
Once you have prioritized your tasks and delegated what you can, schedule your tasks based on the best time for you to do optimum work. For example, some people are most alert in the mornings and do their best work then. So they schedule the items that require most concentration for that time of the day. Most feel least productive in the late afternoons, so that might be the best time to answer important emails or do work that does not require so much mental energy. You know your body’s clock and how you feel throughout the day, so create a schedule around times you are most and least alert to get the most productivity out of yourself. Learn to stick to your schedule and quit when it is quitting time.
6. Take the first 30-60 minutes of the day to plan your day.
By having a game plan clearly in focus for each day, you will feel like you are accomplishing something. You can’t do everything on a given day but you need to keep moving forward. Having a plan for the day will eliminate chance of you missing something that needed to be done that day. Be reasonable with what you can accomplish during the day and stick to it.
7. Have a to do list.
Write down all tasks that you need to do, from project deadlines to answering queries from customers or clients. Having a chalkboard or some erasable board will help to keep tasks that need to be done clearly and visibly available to you. If a task can be done quickly, such as handling an after-sale issue or answering an email from a customer or potential customer, do it quickly and move on. This will prevent you getting frustrated down the road because you forgot things and will help you with point 6, planning your day. Also, erasing tasks because they have been done will make you feel like you are accomplishing more (because you are) and will make you more focused on the next task.
8. Don’t let paper pile up on your desk.
We always get papers sent or handed to us. From bills to notes of phone calls and other matters. If you let these pile up, eventually you will find yourself spending half a day to even a full day following up on these papers. It may even result in lost money from late payment fees to lost jobs because a phone call was not returned in time.
9. Be aware of and avoid unnecessary distractions.
Most business owners use the Internet on a daily basis. We can be so easily distracted by Facebook or looking up news in our industry, and other sites that may pop up along the way. By being conscious of the fact that these are time wasters, we will quickly focus on the business at hand. Leave facebooking and satisfying the news junky inside you for after work hours.
10. Use a smartphone.
Smartphones have become a must-have device for business owners. From keeping a contact list of your customers and suppliers, to keeping your schedule. Use the reminder function of the smartphone for important appointments and deadlines. You can also use the smartphone to track how much time you are spending on any given item. Use the smartphone to limit yourself how much time you spend on a project in the day by setting the schedule to warn you when it is time to move to the next assignment.
With these true and tested time management tips you are equipped to maintain high productivity and quality of your small business.